Silver Fern Farms releases findings into lamb eating quality

Silver Fern Farms has released a report covering its recent research into lamb eating quality, conducted as part of the FarmIQ Primary Growth Partnership Programme (PGP).

Based on over 3,200 consumer taste tests in New Zealand and the US conducted during 2016, the results confirmed earlier research that consumers view New Zealand lamb as a consistently high-quality eating product.

Dean Hamilton, silver Fern Farms.

“The research confirmed what we’ve believed for some time, and what consumers have been telling us – it is a good product,” says Dean Hamilton, chief executive of Silver Fern Farms.

The report, Lamb Eating Quality: The commercial application of findings from Silver Fern Farms’ consumer and on-farm research into the eating quality of lamb, covers the findings of New Zealand’s largest scale research programme into the eating quality of New Zealand lamb.

“The findings were informative as to what makes a significant contribution to the eating quality of lamb, but equally what factors do not make a significant and/or consistent impact.”

The research has been carried out as part of the FarmIQ PGP programme, a partnership between Silver Fern Farms, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Landcorp. Research partners include AgResearch, Texas Tech University, the University of Otago and a number of international meat quality experts.

Key factors that the research showed to have a significant and consistent positive impact on lamb eating quality were:

  1. Selecting the right cut
  2. Correctly ageing the meat
  3. Correctly matching the cut to the cooking method

Earlier research also highlighted that consumer perceptions of eating quality are enhanced through creating an appetite appeal effect via the influence of a consumer brand story.

Grant Howie.

Overseeing the research was Grant Howie, general manager sales at Silver Fern Farms.

“When lamb is selected by consumers for the right cut and cooking style (method), and when that lamb has been aged correctly when processed, and is backed with a brand story that creates an appetite appeal effect, we know consumers will have a higher perception of eating quality. These factors have the most significant effect on lamb eating quality,” he explains.

“The research did not find a significant or consistent impact on lamb eating quality from such factors as breed, lamb gender, pasture, growth rates, fat cover and marbling, butt conformation, or locality. A number of these individual factors had minor impacts, but all were outweighed by the right cut and correct ageing.”

He says breeders should ideally factor eating quality traits into their selection programmes to maintain the high eating quality standards.

“This can be achieved with technology such as SNP chips. It is in everyone’s interest that the current high eating quality is maintained as breeders also look for other genetic improvement traits such as growth rates, disease resistance and yield.”

Noting that Silver Fern Farms’ research into eating quality over the last eight years has covered lamb and beef, Hamilton says, “The consumer research on beef highlighted a much greater variability in beef eating quality and led us to develop a Beef EQ grading system.

“We are using this research into the eating quality of both lamb and beef to create new consumer value through product differentiation by selecting and marketing beef and lamb products that have consistently superior eating quality. It is a critical part of our Plate to Pasture strategy.

“It is very positive that consumers believe the eating quality of New Zealand lamb is of a consistently high quality. Understanding better the drivers of these perceptions is critical to adding value,” he says.

“We need our farmer partners to continue to supply quality in-spec lambs year round and we need to maximise the returns through delivering product to consumers which has consistently high eating quality, in packaging with a brand story that is appealing. We have grown our aged chilled sales to over 25 percent of total lamb sales and see further opportunity for growth. We are also trialling an aged frozen retail offering in Germany.”

Silver Fern Farms will continue to leverage the findings of its eating quality research to grow its premium ranges so it can share further in-market gains with suppliers.

View the full report at

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