A Message to the American Sheep Industry Gwen Kitzan, ALB Chair
As we all strive to make the best of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult to find words to describe the devastating impact of this crisis on our industry, families, friends and communities.
On our farms and ranches, it’s lambing season on top of everything else. Our partners up the marketing chain are also facing unprecedented times, especially losing critical foodservice sales from the restaurants who are forced to close on-premise dining and must turn away food deliveries. The good news is that according to IRI Retail Data, retail sales are booming, with all fresh lamb sales up 54% for the week ending March 15. Furthermore, all lamb sales were up 14% during the 4-week period also ending on March 15.
Consumers are not only stockpiling toilet paper and sanitizer, but fresh meat they can put in their freezer. As more and more meals will be cooked at home and people have time to experiment with new products like lamb, consumers are going to be hungry for more recipes and cooking information – an opportunity for our industry.
I want to assure you that your American Lamb Board (ALB) is keeping in daily contact with processors, suppliers, allied organizations, food influencers, retailers and restaurants, especially with the Easter season coming quickly. We are partnering with chefs on take-out Easter meals, rallying our blogger partners to share spring holiday recipes and stress the importance of sourcing AMERICAN lamb with their followers, and working to ensure consumers maintain their lamb holiday traditions despite the circumstances.
We are all in this together and we will get through it. We appreciate everything that the American Sheep Industry Association and National Lamb Feeders Association are doing to address this crisis from a regulatory and legislative standpoint and value their open communication. The lamb industry will inevitably have to adjust our strategies and new opportunities will emerge. Your lamb checkoff is working to adapt plans and programs, and serve as a resource for consumers, chefs and our industry partners during this terrifying time.
I’m confident America and our lamb industry will survive this crisis, as we have with previous challenges our country has faced. In the meantime, we welcome your questions and feedback. You can reach the American Lamb Board by phone, 303-759-3001 ext. 2, or by email: info@AmericanLamb.com.