The demand for Ontariogrown lamb is so keen that packers can’t fill all the orders from retailers.
Tony Faccioli, owner and general manager of Holly Park Meat Packers in Toronto and president of the Ontario Independent Meat Packers and Processors Association, says he’s turning away retail customers because he needs the lambs to meet his contract commitments with the Longo’s supermarket chain in the Toronto area.
That alliance developed about 10 years ago out of an initiative by the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency when Cathy Lennon was the general manager and Fred Baker the chairman.
Holly Park contracted with producers at a year-long steady price. Producers had to deliver a steady and minimum volume of good-quality lambs.
On the other side, Holly Park contracted with Longo’s to provide a steady and minimum supply, also at a contracted price.
“The lamb isn’t cheap,” in the supermarket, but shoppers have proven willing to pay the price, Faccioli said.
The Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency is no longer involved in the program, but Longo’s, Holly Park and producers have continued.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency, Foccioli advised the farmers to aim for consistency – for volume and quality – because that helps packers.
Dependability of supply and quality builds consumer confidence, Foccioli said.
He said traceability is going to become more important and said his company will soon begin using bar codes to link retail-ready lamb to specific farms and animals.