Sustaining responsible menu options

From Meat & Livestock Australia.

Farm-to-table, going green, sourcing locally. As topics like these continue to generate interest among operators, it’s clear that the buzz around sustainability is here to stay. In fact, it’s more important than ever—53 percent of operators report that implementing sustainable initiatives is crucial to staying competitive in today’s marketplace, according to Technomic.

Sustainability can be built into almost all areas of an operation, but one of the easiest places for operators to start is by menuing a wide variety of sustainably-sourced produce, whole grains and alternative proteins. These alternative proteins, such as Australian lamb, offer guests a sustainable choice as well as one that appeals to the socially responsible desires of a growing number of consumers.

Most types of red meat are typically considered environmentally questionable; however, Australian lamb is not produced like most red meat. In a process that is unique to Australia, animals freely graze on large swaths of pastures in the semi-arid and arid rangelands—areas that are largely unsuitable for other types of food production.

Australian producers understand the importance of farming to a set of sustainability principles aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water use as well as responsibly managing land, such as maintaining biodiversity and reducing brushfires. In fact, a life-cycle assessment on Australian lamb production systems showed that Australia has one of the lowest carbon emission profiles of any major meat-producing country.1

These unique methods of production, combined with sustainability best practices, work together to produce high-quality, nutritious meat with minimal additives. In addition, it’s a process that respects the environment while delivering the best care and management of grazing animals.

Moreover, lamb isn’t just a sustainable choice for operators, it’s also a profitable one. Although sustainably-sourced items are often perceived as more expensive, for lamb, it’s the opposite. Rising commodity prices are making traditional proteins extraordinarily expensive, and offering alternative proteins is a way for operators to offset these rising costs. For example, in February 2014, lamb cost $0.67 less per pound than beef, and according to Technomic, that cost gap is expected to continue to widen.1

By offering Australian lamb and other responsibly sourced choices, operators are tapping into a trend driven by environmentally conscious consumers, especially millennials and other younger patrons. Lamb in general, and Australian lamb in particular, not only offers an environmentally responsible choice, but it also benefits from a health halo—something that’s a priority for today’s consumers, according to Technomic.2

Lamb also pairs perfectly with the drive toward overall wellness and social responsibility. Consumers look for labels such as “grass-fed,” “free-range” and “sustainable” on menus because these attributes “tick the box” for freshness, quality and responsible purchasing, and operators have responded in kind—these terms have risen significantly on U.S. menus since 2010, with mentions of “grass-fed” nearly tripling in that time.3

David Pietsch, Meat & Livestock Australia’s regional manager for North America, concurred, saying that over the past year, MLA has received many inquiries about grass-fed product from Australia, and that it’s a trend that has escalated further in recent months.

“The universities and colleges sector are very conscious about the ethics of food production, its health, safety and environmental credentials – all qualities that are inherently natural to Australian lamb,” Mr. Pietsch says. “We are committed to supporting their quest for ethically produced food and are available to provide further insights into the integrity of Australia’s production systems.” 


  1. Red Meat Production in Australia: Life Cycle Assessment and Comparison with Overseas Studies, UNSW Water Research Centre, The University of New South Wales, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, and FSA Consulting, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010.
  2. Beyond Haute Chops, Technomic, 2013.
  3. Beyond Haute Chops, Technomic, 2013.