​Media Release

Giving lamb definition some teeth​

21 November 2018

  • Definition of lamb to be changed in export legislation
  • Definition will now be in line with New Zealand's definition
  • Will also be consistent with the AUS-MEAT definitions​

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud will change the definition of lamb for export purposes, matching the New Zealand definition and removing the unfair advantage NZ producers had over our farmers.

Lamb had previously been considered to have grown into the less lucrative "hogget" or mutton as soon as incisor teeth were visible – but in NZ, lamb were still considered lamb after two teeth had popped through. The issue of the Australian definition had been debated for decades.

"Lamb will continue to be called lamb when the animal has two permanent incisor teeth, so long as those teeth are new and have not begun to wear," Minister Littleproud said.

"Our export definition will now match New Zealand's definition and our own new AUS-MEAT definition.

"After decades of discussion, the time for talk was over. This is a simple common-sense change.

"This will mean our growers can sell more lambs towards the end of the growing season and expand their lamb export opportunities.

"It will be easy for growers to see when a lamb becomes a sheep – when there is visible wear on the incisors."

The change will require amendment to the Export Control (Meat and Meat Products) Orders 2005, to change the definition of what constitutes lamb.

Research by Meat and Livestock Australia found no discernible difference in eating quality between lambs immediately prior to incisor teeth and immediately afterwards.

Fast facts

  • Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards Committee endorsed the changed to the lamb and ovine definitions in the AUS-MEAT Language.  
  • Current members of the committee include the Department of Agriculture, Australian Meat Industries Council, Sheep Producers Australia, Cattle Council of Australia, Australian Lot Feeders' Association, Australian Pork Limited and Australian Supermarkets / Independent Retailers.
  • Lamb and mutton exports were worth more than $2.6 billion to the Australian economy in 2016–17, with lamb alone worth more than $1.9 billion.