Cheap sheep attracts processing
Mutton pricing remains in the doldrums, but the relatively cheaper sheep meat option seems to be attracting processor interest. Since last November the east coast mutton price has eased by about 35%, down from around 530c/kg to 350c/kg cwt in recent times. In contrast the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) has dropped by just 10%, from around 820c/kg cwt to 740c/kg.
Relatively cheaper mutton appears to have encouraged increased sheep volumes being processed. Since early February east coast sheep slaughter volumes have pushed beyond the five-year seasonal trend with average weekly processing levels sitting at around 140,000 head of sheep, which is around 19% higher than the five-year average trend and 65% higher than the processing levels seen during this time frame in 2022.
NSW based processors seem to be making the most of the pricing opportunity with sheep slaughter volumes in NSW running 35% above the five-year trend over the past four weeks. In contrast, Victorian meat works are putting sheep volumes through that are just 6% ahead of the five-year average pattern.