140 years of frozen lamb

Celebration events were held in London and Oamaru on May 24 to mark National Lamb Day, the 140th anniversary of the first shipment of frozen New Zealand lamb arriving in the UK in 1882 and the centenary of the New Zealand Meat Board (NZMB).

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and NZMB chairman Andrew Morrison and New Zealand High Commissioner to the UK Bede Corry spoke at the celebration at Butcher’s Hall, home of the Worshipful Company of Butchers in London.

The event was attended by representatives of major UK lamb customers and featured a welcome and performance by Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club, and a New Zealand lamb barbecue.

Meanwhile, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd marked the anniversaries with a dinner at Oamaru’s Loan and Mercantile Building.

Speakers included George Berry, former owner of Totara Estate, south of Oamaru, where the original shipment of lamb was processed before it left Port Chalmers for London aboard the vessel Dunedin on February 15, 1882.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, and Nicky Hyslop, NZMB director and B+LNZ Central South Island Farmer Director also gave speeches.

Morrison says the National Lamb Day anniversary is particularly momentous, given the NZMB is also celebrating its centenary this year.

The Board’s role as a foundation stone of the successful export industry is being recognised with the publication of Meeting Change, a new book outlining the organisation’s history.

“The Meat Board was established in 1922 and while its role has evolved, the Board now oversees $2.3 billion of red meat exports to the quota markets of the European Union, United Kingdom and United States, financial reserves on behalf of the red meat sector and drives investment in industry good activities such as genetics.”

Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ Ltd and the NZMB, says the event in the UK is a great opportunity to highlight the innovation and successes of the red meat sector.

“New Zealand farmers are today as rightly proud of the high quality of their naturally raised lamb as their predecessors were in 1882. That first shipment was the genesis of New Zealand’s world-renowned lamb industry.

“During 2020-21, New Zealand exported over 406,000 tonnes of sheep meat, valued at $3.86 billion, to a total of 87 countries. The sector has also made exceptional productivity gains since the 1990s. Sheep numbers have dropped but lamb export volumes have increased, and greenhouse gas emissions reduced by over 30%.”

At the Oamaru event, Berry, who with his wife Carol, owned the Totara Estate home farm for 50 years, outlined the story of the beginnings of the meat export trade, including the pioneering role of Thomas Brydone, Superintendent of the New Zealand and Australia Land Co.

Totara Estate is now owned by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and is a Tohu Whenua heritage site – a location that has shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Heritage New Zealand is offering a complimentary voucher for free entry to the estate for every person attending the National Lamb Day event in Oamaru.


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