Changes in eating patterns for reasons of cost, health or convenience, have resulted in reduced consumption of lamb. Carcass meat is being replaced by more processed, added value meat in the home, but novel lamb products have been difficult to develop due to small muscle size, hard fat and strong flavours. If value is to be added to lamb, texture and flavour of lamb and lamb products must be optimized. Whilst the use of electrical stimulation for beef carcasses, to avoid potential cold-induced toughening in modern chilling systems, is standard practice, little British lamb is stimulated in this way.
Restructuring can upgrade smaller or tougher and/or fatter parts of the carcass. It allows for regular portions of standard shape, size and composition, as in reformed hams, burgers, grillsteaks or sausages. The small size of the lamb carcass makes it expensive to bone and trim fat and connective tissue for the production of such products. This could be an increasing disadvantage if high quality, reformed, fresh products, using new binding technologies such as alginate or enzyme systems, gain a significant market share.
The ready meals market is expanding rapidly and although meat may not be the major component, it is usually the most expensive. These products may be fully sterile shelf-stable, cooked and frozen, or, more commonly, cooked and chilled with a shelf-life of a few days with carefully controlled refrigeration. Packaging has been highly developed for marketing these products. Unfortunately, traditional lamb products, such as moussaka and shepherds pie, are often now made from cheaper beef.
Larger lamb carcasses with lower fat, the use of mechanical bone removal or robotic butchery systems, innovative product or recipe design and the use of good packaging and presentation, would all aid in the development of lamb meat and meat product sales.