May 16

The latest word on red meat supply chains

If it feels like you’ve been living with all manner of turbulence in the red meat supply chains for way too long – you’re not dreaming, mate! With inflation, out-of-stocks and shortages lurking around all sorts of corners (looking at you, chicken wings) it can be hard to predict what’s next and what to do about it. As the #1 imported supplier of lamb and grassfed beef into the US market, your mates at True Aussie Beef & Lamb are here to give you some answers.  

Q: What’s going on with grassfed beef and lamb supply chains?  

A: On the beef side, 2021 and early 2022 has seen less product coming into North America from Australia, as farmers are rebuilding their herds coming out of an extended drought period. Aussie Lamb volume hit record highs into the market in 2021, and 2022 is shaping up to be strong as well; Australia continues to be the premium source of quality lamb in the US. The labor shortage causing bottlenecks at ports and in transport is starting to show signs of improvement, but is definitely still with us.  

Q: So what’s an operator to do?  

A: If you’re finding favorite cuts like lamb racks hard to find or too volatile in price, our advice is to reach for alternative cuts — loin chops, leg, rump, ground, or shoulder. With so much lamb supply finding buyers on the retail market, the increased familiarity and demand for lamb makes these offerings much more viable on the menu. Australian lamb still carries a premium to the guest, no matter the cut! 

On the grassfed beef side, ground is still the dominant cut in supply, but flanks (great recipe inspo here), rounds, ribeye and striploins are all steadily increasing in availability here. Check with your supplier to see what’s available today, and take your pick!  

We’re seeing a lot of exporters and operators use the frozen (vs chilled) market to help work around bottlenecks and smooth out supply chains to good effect.  

Q: When will some sort of “normal” come back? 

A: Australia is already well underway with 2-year stock rebuilding cycle on beef. You should start seeing better availability in North America in the second half of 2022, with much better volumes in ‘23 and ’24.  For lamb, this may be a fairly typical pattern, with high volumes of both imported product from Australia and demand here in North America. Labor for ports and transportation are the weak links – if you’ve got guesses for when that improves, we’re all ears!  

 

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