local retail outlets). Organic or specialty products may also be marketed via the Internet or other direct mail-order approaches that meet demand in a broader market. Individual producers have cultivated retail and restaurant outlets for their lamb. Although the alternative and emerging markets are small relative to the traditional industry, they are sectors that are experiencing growth and are creating new markets for lamb.


U.S. lamb consumption has remained steady at about 0.5 kilograms per capita since the mid-1990s, falling from about 3.0 kilograms per capita since the mid-1940s to its present level. However, the average per capita consumption conceals considerable variation by region of the country. For much of the central United States, lamb is rarely considered in the red meat purchase decisions for home consumption and infrequently found in restaurants. The largest U.S. markets for lamb appear to be the East and West coasts, both as household consumption and as food away from home (see Chapter 4). Even in those regions, however, the consumption of lamb is skewed toward religious and ethnic groups in society and away from that part of the population with origins in northern Europe.

For the U.S. population of North European descent, lamb has declined in popularity since World War II (see Chapters 1 and 4). Regaining interest in lamb as an integral part of the diet among this population has proven difficult. Certainly, lamb is slowly entering the restaurant trade, particularly higher-end restaurants. In consumer surveys, restaurants are the primary exposure to lamb for much of this population (ALB, 2007). Nonetheless, the ethnically and culturally diverse character of the East and West coasts appears to be ahead of the American heartland in breaking down this long standing barrier to lamb consumption.

For some religious groups, lamb is a major consumption item on a regular basis and for several significant holidays or holy days. In the Jewish faith, lamb (kosher) is a regular item in the diet. Similarly, lamb is a regular dietary item for Greek and Eastern Orthodox groups and the preferred meat for the celebration of Easter, with the Orthodox Easter occurring at the same time as the Jewish Passover. In the Muslim faith, lamb (halal) is the preferred meat during Ramadan and the Eidu al-fitr holiday at the end of Ramadan. As well, lamb is a preferred meat for the Eidu al-adha holiday. Several ethnic groups within the United States regularly consume lamb, particularly those of Middle Eastern, North African, Caribbean, southern European, and South Asian origins. Within these groups, lamb consumption on a regular basis seems to persist from generation to generation, following the first-generation immigration to the United States (see, e.g., Larson and Thompson, Undated; USDA, 2006a). Hair sheep lambs are well suited to

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement