Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is Bigger Better?

The other day we were breaking down and frenching racks of lamb. We had a carcass that weighed about 75 lbs and the full hotel rack weighed a little over 8 lbs. It was a local product that was finished on some grain. It wasn't overly fatty and the yield grade would have been about a 2. Then we took some prefabricated split and chined racks out of the bag. Some weighed over 9 lbs! These are 8 bone racks ( 16 bones total) costing over $ 9.25 per lb. 9lbs x $9.25 = $83.25. Divide that by the 16 chops and you get a single chop that costs $5.20!! Wow thats a lot. So whats going on? Average weights of both lamb and beef are going up. This is a result of better genetic selection, feeding techniques and the desire for meat processors to sell more product without selling "more" product. Does that make sense? Its not like the processors are sending older mutton that have matured and become larger, these are just bigger lamb.

I recently was looking at carcass weights in the NAMP buyer's guide and the largest category is "D" 75lbs. and over. It seems today the largest amount of graded lamb is falling into this category.

Here are the last week's USDA slaughter numbers.
CHOICE AND PRIME, YG 1-4 Head 7,332
Weight Head
45-DN 375
45-55# 388
55-65# 723
65-75# 1,366
75-85# 1,902

So larger lamb is definitely out there but there is also a fair amount of smaller stuff too. My point here is when ordering lamb be sure to let the purveyor know what size range you want.

Another way to beat the big problem is to create multiple protein plates. Use that monster chop but instead of putting two or three on the plate, put just one and some other lamb items such as a bit of braised pulled lamb shoulder, grilled lamb riblets, lamb sausage, a small osso buco.

New Zealand and Australian products will be much smaller and less expensive per lb. The flavor profile of those is different but if you need to serve that large 4 bone rack roast these may work for you.

The price of lamb is high and the product has gotten larger and it seems to be staying that way for the long haul. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider putting it on the menu, it just means you may need to rethink your price or amount served.