Meat Tray
Meat Tray

The big problem with modern meat trays

MEAT trays have long been a fundraising favourite for sporting and community groups. But there's one big change that the butchers putting them together have had to make.

Increasing costs of wholesale lambs have forced butchers to up their prices as high as $70/kg for lamb cutlets and $36/kg for lamb chops.

Desperate butchers are reducing the amount of lamb on meat trays and choosing cheaper cuts to compensate for the high prices.

Robbie Melrose from Rock n Roll Butcher in Greenslopes said he has resorted to using cheaper lamb cuts on meat trays.

"It does come down to cost. We are not going to put the same amount of lamb as before," he said.

"We can put a cheaper cut of lamb like quarter chops and barbecue lamb chops instead of loin chops and cutlets."

Butcher Adrian Floyd from Rode Meats has also integrated cheaper lamb cuts and used more pork and beef for meat tray raffles.

"We put a few chops. We don't put roasts anymore," he said.

Meat at Billy's Butcher Billy Gibney said he has seen lamb sales drop as people were choosing to buy cheaper protein options like pork and beef.

Mr Gibney said more customers are choosing to buy lamb on 'special occasions' rather than for the family dinner table.

Butcher Billy Gibney and farmer Tim Somes. Picture: Annette Dew
Butcher Billy Gibney and farmer Tim Somes. Picture: Annette Dew

"The price point is a little bit too expensive to eat lamb as an everyday thing. It's become a more special occasion meat," he said.

The butcher who has stores in Ashgrove and Rosalie said lamb cutlets cost more than $60/kg and he's worried about the decreased sales on his business.

"It will be close to a year now that we've seen lamb be really expensive. I don't think it could go up any more. If it does I think we would be in a lot of trouble," he said.

The drought and increased demand for lamb exports are to blame for rising prices.

Farmer Tim Somes, who buys small lambs and fattens them up on his property west of Allora before selling them to Brisbane butchers, said a "perfect storm" of Australia's drought and increased Chinese exports are to blame for the price hike.

Mr Somes supplies his lamb to Meat at Billy's said the drought had meant butchers were forced to pay a lot more.

"The underlying reasons is the dry weather. As a result, there has been a lot of ewes who would usually breed lambs were sold about 12-18 months ago. So the number of lambs are significantly lower," he said.

Meat Livestock Australia chief communications officer Lisa Sharp said the extreme drought was the overriding reason for the increase lamb prices.

"The drought that is occurring across many regions of Australia has meant many producers do not have enough feed on the ground and the cost of buying the feed has risen dramatically.

"This has forced many producers to turn-off stock, which has a flow on effect of reducing the breeding flock and when combined with lower than average lambing rates has led to less number of lambs available."

She said strong international demand is also responsible for the lift in lamb prices.