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MLA and CSIRO partner to deliver lamb to more quick service restaurants

15 March 2024

As the 2024 AFL Premiership season begins, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and its marketing subsidiary Australian Lamb are proud to announce the return of the Lamb Paddock, an innovative outlet featuring concept lamb products at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) with Delaware North.

The return of the Lamb Paddock follows a project between MLA and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, centred around increasing the number of value-added lamb products suitable for quick service restaurants (QSR).

According to MLA’s Product & Business Development Manager and Corporate Chef, Sam Burke, MLA wanted to elevate lamb from a “limited offer” product to a regular menu item in QSRs nationwide.

“MLA worked with CSIRO to understand the barriers that QSRs and full-service restaurants (FSRs) had in featuring lamb products on their menus. The aim of the project was to identify and address these barriers, to drive the demand for Australian lamb products in this sector,” Mr Burke.

“To resolve this, we worked with over twenty fast food and quick service outlets to discuss how to overcome these barriers and increase the likelihood of lamb products in QSRs.”

For Dr Aarti Tobin, who leads animal protein research at CSIRO, the interviews with key QSR stakeholders provided significant insight into understanding the role of lamb within fast food restaurants and hospitality venues.

“The interviews showed that lamb was traditionally eaten as part of a meal, as roasts and chops, hence is not considered a fast food,” Dr Tobin said.

“According to the outlets interviewed, there are several challenges with featuring lamb on the menu. The main barriers that these companies identified were ensuring consistent product quality, reliability of supply and costs compared to other proteins.”

Following the interviews, Mr Burke and CSIRO developed and tested two lamb products for these menus, a high-quality lamb burger patty which included minced lamb with a Middle Eastern spice blend.

“Similarly, a pulled lamb product was developed, where the lamb shoulder was covered with a rub, consisting of Middle Eastern spice blend and thickeners, vacuum packed, cooked at 75°C for 12 hours and then shredded into pulled meat texture.

“A 28-day frozen storage trial showed that both products maintained their sensory quality after cooking and reheating. These two lamb products will provide the industry with a great opportunity to value add to lower value lamb cuts and trim, as well as address an unmet need of the QSR market,” Mr Burke said.

Chef Markus Werner, Culinary Director at Delaware North, Australia and New Zealand, who was one of the chefs interviewed, noted that industry should continue to consider the findings from the interviews and address the challenges.

“When the issues around product quality, consistency, reliability of supply, and costs are addressed, lamb can feature on the QSR/FSR menu all year round, rather than as a special occasion meat,” Mr Werner said.

MLA will continue to work with food retailers around the country and share the findings of the research and its practical application.

CSIRO will collaborate with the stakeholders on product development, product expansion and technology transfer strategies, based on their needs.