Prime lamb producers are relishing in the announcement of a New South Wales processor’s bid to pay a bonus for lambs that grade higher in eating quality, but WA Meat Marketing Co-operative chief executive Coll MacRury is not convinced. Mr MacRury’s cautious approach to the new intramuscular measuring technology used by Gundagai Meat Processors, to reward its lamb suppliers, comes with a different focus, based on WAMMCO’s business approach as a large international lamb supplier — processing about 1.6 million lambs annually between its two abattoirs at Katanning and Goulburn. This compares to GMP’s lamb processing of about 1m lambs annually. Gundagai Meat Processors launched its new lamb brand Gundagai Lamb in January 2021 and has been grading carcases based on its proprietary grading system, the GLQ Score, since inception. The brand will launch a world’s first bonus scheme on September 12 that will pay an extra 50 cents per kilogram for lambs graded as GLQ5+. Established in 1974, GMP claims to be one of Australia’s most innovative lamb processors and was one of the first to use the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) — installed in 2019 to provide data on lean meat, fat and bone percentages. GMP chief executive officer Will Barton said the processor’s IMF technology, using the AUS-Meat certified MEQ Probe, would encourage production of above-average marbling while the DEXA system was used to discourage over-fattening of lambs as a way to boost IMF. He said the aim of the GLQ Scoring system was to reward producers who supplied lambs with above-average marbling while maintaining high meat yields and free of animal health conditions and carcase defects. “Our GLQ5+ lamb is being served at fine dining restaurants, including the Park Hyatt in Sydney,” Mr Barton said. He said the GLQ Score algorithm, an in-house scoring system, primarily focused on IMF but would also include an animal health score. Mr MacRury said WAMMCO’s concentration was firstly on supporting its off-shore investment in North America by supplying pasture-raised lambs that were antibiotic-free. “This is first on the minds of consumers in our premium North America lamb market,” he said. “While I see potential for the improvement in the improved eating quality of lamb, our international customers are very focused on the beneficial health outcomes of eating pasture-raised lambs.” Mr Barton said GMP had processed 80,000 lambs that more than 170 producers supplied during Gundagai Lamb’s start-up year. “Interest in our brand is greater than what we can supply,” he said. “This includes international markets, including the US, Singapore and the Middle East. “In my opinion, Australian lamb processors will find it increasingly difficult to sell lamb at record high prices, compared to alternative meat proteins, without being able to guarantee that they are offering a premium product.” Mr MacRury did not rule out the use of IMF technology. “We are about to undertake our own in-house IMF testing trials,” he said. “Until WAMMCO completed these trials and discussed the upside with its current customer base, we won’t be changing our lamb schedules to follow what GMP is doing.” He said WAMMCO’s concentration in technology had been steadfast with the installation of the DEXA in 2021 to determine carcase composition and future plans were in place to bring Katanning up to date with robotic technology. WAMMCO paid out a record $8.4 million in rebates to its farmers this year. Katanning-based Moojepin Merinos stud breeder David Thompson said DEXA and IMF technologies were part of moving lamb meat forward. “While eating quality traits were lesser-known currently, we believe they will provide a premium value for a higher eating quality experience,” he said. “The premium price for producers is not as essential as gaining more market share against other competitive protein sources.” Mr Barton said pure Merino lambs had performed well on the grid and those Merino lambs which graded GLQ5+ and had an above-average eye muscle area would continue to be sought after by Gundagai Lamb.