Omega Lamb Project update in third year

The team behind the Omega Lamb Project
The team behind the Omega Lamb Project are (from left): Mike Tate (previous programme manager for The Omega Lamb Project), Aimee Charteris (geneticist), Peter Russell (Alliance general manager marketing), and Tony Nowell (chair of the Programme Steering Group for The Omega Lamb Project).

The Omega Lamb Project is now in its third year and well over 100 restaurants in New Zealand and Hong Kong have had Te Mana Lamb on their menus.

The project builds on a decade-long scientific programme and breakthrough research. It found that the right combination of genetics, management and feeding can alter the fat profile of lamb and produce animals that are healthy, while delivering a tastier and healthier product.

Te Mana Lamb is higher in Omega-3 than other lamb available on the market.

Mark Williamson, general manager of the Omega Lamb Project, a collaboration between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) under the Primary Growth Partnership, the farmer-owned Headwaters and leading food company Alliance Group, said Te Mana Lamb is being praised by chefs for its flavour and consistent eating quality.

Te Mana Lamb won the Innovation in Food and Beverage category at the New Zealand Innovation Awards in October 2017 and since then has continued to turn heads,” he said. The programme is expected to achieve 49,500 lambs going to processing this year – 17,500 more than in 2016-17.

Williamson said that, although numbers had to be readjusted from the target of 60,000 lambs processed, due to the extreme dry conditions, it was a pleasing result.

“This was certainly a learning year. The grazing management system we used this year can be improved on and we’ll take these learnings and refine things over winter for next season, when our system of finishing the lambs on chicory is expected to become more commercial.”

The project’s first second-generation lambs were born this year – to Headwaters Omega rams and 50 percent Omega ewes. 2,000 of these have been processed and meat is being analysed to see what the differences are to the first cross.

Following the successful launch of Te Mana Lamb into the foodservice sector, The Omega Lamb Project team is currently working on growing these markets and developing processed Te Mana Lamb products such as bacon, stocks and prosciutto.

“A lot of marketing development is still required and exporting processed products poses additional challenges, due to factors like licensing and labelling requirements,” said Williamson.

“As we move forward, we need to return to a healthy meat, retail focus and ensure we leverage the reputation Te Mana Lamb has achieved in the foodservice market. While taste has been the key factor in our promotion to date, a key part of branding for retail will also be around the health message for the products.

“We will also be looking at the opportunities for health products. There are tight restrictions on making health claims – but the scientific rigour underpinning the health elements for this natural product provides an exciting market opportunity.”

The project has featured prominently in the New Zealand media in recent months, including on Country Calendar in June. Simon and Annabel Saunders from Stag Valley talked about their involvement in The Omega Lamb Project and why they are so excited about the product.

In May, Te Mana Lamb was the subject of a 10-page spread in Cuisine magazine’s special New Zealand issue.

Cuisine editor Kelli Brett outlined the project’s journey and the science which lies behind the product. She also visited farmers Tim Burdon, of Mt Burke Station, in Otago’s Maungawera Valley, and Steve Rome and his wife Helen and son Scott, who finish Burdon’s lambs on chicory at their Waifield farm in Southland.

Te Mana Lamb also starrred in Alliance Group’s Antipocurean Series, a marketing initiative which saw a host of international chefs and food writers and bloggers visit a series of farms and premium restaurants in May.

Peter Russell, Alliance general manager marketing, said: “The aim was to improve awareness and understanding of New Zealand as a supplier of premium fare and showcase to international media and the food service sector the passion of New Zealand’s farmers and quality of our red meat.” The group travelled across the South Island, touring farms included Wanaka’s Minaret Station, which produces Te Mana Lamb.

Te Mana Lamb was on the menu for the Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year awards in Auckland on 30 April.

  • The independent review of all of the Primary Growth Partnership programmes announced late last year by Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is underway. This focuses on areas such as outcomes and economic benefits to date from PGP programmes and seeks to identify improvements to the PGP. Now the assessment stage of the review has been completed, the Government is now reviewing its findings and will agree any subsequent changes to the PGP as a result. Any subsequent changes to the PGP will published on the MPI website.

This material appeared in Agri-Gate newsletter, June 2018, and is reproduced here with permission.

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