Meat & Livestock News

New Zealand’s Red Meat Finds Favour in the US


  • New Zealand sees growing opportunities in the US for its sheepmeat and high-quality chilled beef exports, with significant market growth and consumer interest in grass-fed, high-welfare products.
  • Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ) actively engages with US counterparts to enhance trade relations, amidst challenges including trade actions aimed at restricting NZ lamb imports, which have seen mixed developments.

New Zealand’s red meat industry is capturing the attention of American consumers, particularly with its sheepmeat and premium chilled beef. Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ), a key player in the trade policy arena, reports a promising uptick in interest from the United States, marking a boon for local farmers.

The United States stands as a crucial market for New Zealand, purchasing 36% of its beef exports and 15% of sheep meat in 2023. New Zealand’s beef primarily reaches the US in frozen form, destined for hamburger meat, while its high-quality chilled beef carves out a niche among Americans eager for grass-fed, ethically raised options. This segment has seen a rise from NZ$52 million in sales in 2019 to $133 million in 2023.

Dave Harrison, BLNZ’s general manager of policy and advocacy, notes the steady demand for dairy-origin lean beef in the US. Meanwhile, sheepmeat, though less consumed per capita, is rapidly gaining ground, presenting ample growth opportunities.

In 2023, New Zealand shipped 27,500 tonnes of sheepmeat to the US, valued at NZ$544 million, slightly less than the previous year’s record but still highlighting the US as one of New Zealand’s most lucrative markets.

BLNZ’s commitment to fostering US relations is evident in its direct engagement with American industry counterparts. Notably, BLNZ representatives shared insights on sustainability at the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) convention in Colorado, emphasising the shared challenges and opportunities in the sector.

Recent trade actions by US producer organisations aimed at limiting New Zealand lamb imports have seen varied outcomes. One such action by the ASI has been withdrawn, recognizing the disproportionate costs to potential benefits.

However, another action by R-CALF, calling for an investigation into New Zealand and Australian imports, awaits a decision from the US Trade Representative.

Despite these challenges, Harrison remains optimistic, advocating for collaboration to tackle common issues like rising costs and competition for land. He believes there is ample opportunity for both imported and domestic lamb in the US market, underscoring the importance of mutual efforts to expand lamb consumption.

BLNZ’s trade policy team continues to monitor these developments closely, aiming to strengthen cooperation with US sheep producers and ensure a stable and growing market for New Zealand’s red meat exports.