WASHINGTON — The American Sheep Industry Association submitted comments this week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Investments and Opportunities for Meat and Poultry Processing Infrastructure as requested by the Biden Administration back in July.
“The lamb processing sector is highly concentrated with two to three firms influencing the majority of market sales. Imported lamb is also very concentrated in the marketplace and influencing the other half of lamb meat sales in the United States,” read the letter to USDA Supply Chain Resilience Coordinator Sarah J. Helming. “This concentration was highlighted during the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the sudden loss of restaurant and foodservice sales forced the bankruptcy proceedings of our second largest lamb packing facility, Mountain States Rosen, owned by the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative. The loss of this lamb packer at the height of what is traditionally the lamb industry’s busiest marketing season, the Easter/Passover holiday, exposed serious deficiencies in the industry’s supply chain, namely the lack of adequate packing and fabrication capacity in the event of a market disruption.
“Fortunately, at the time of this loss, a new packing facility was close to completion and due to the sudden lack of processing, a second slaughter facility was re-opened. But it was several months before these new packing facilities came online. During that lag time, lamb producers and lamb feeders struggled to find packing capacity and were forced to either sell at any price taking a significant loss on their investment, delay processing incurring additional production costs and negatively impacting consumer product quality, or ship lambs long distance to multiple small state and regional facilities to piecemeal the needed capacity.
“Even a year later, these new small to mid-sized packers lack adequate fabrication facilities and labor to fully participate in the food supply chain and therefore lack the ability to fully realize the potential of their investment. Many local and regional processing facilities utilized by small to mid-size sheep and lamb producers lack the resources to invest in infrastructure and face labor constraints to meet the growing demand for processing lamb at a local level. This was further evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of processing capacity at the local level.”
The comments go on to specifically address a number of aspects of lamb processing as requested by USDA in the Federal Register.
Click Here to read the full comments.
–American Sheep Industry Association
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