2020 was a year of ups-and-downs in the United States, and the sheep industry was no exception. COVID-19, major changes in processing, and changes in consumer behavior led to challenges for the U.S. sheep industry. However, there were also positives outlined in the 2020 Sheep Industry Review, a checkoff-funded report commissioned by the American Lamb Board and the American Sheep Industry Association.
“COVID-19 made changes to the way U.S. consumers bought and consumed lamb last year,” says ALB Chair Gwen Kitzan. Commercial slaughter was down four percent last year when compared with 2019. Total sheep and lamb inventory decreased one percent to 5.2 million head. Leg, loin, and shoulder sales outpaced ribs. Weekly feeder lamb prices started off the year above 2019 ls but quickly dropped and stayed low through the summer before they rebounded in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, the report estimates commercial lamb production will increase by three percent, and the year will bring a two percent increase in the commercial slaughter of American lamb. Imports will potentially drop as much as ten percent. Steady production, lower imports, and the lowest available supply since 2017 may set the stage for solid prices in 2021.