North Coast Lamb Co-op: Using Carcass Scanning for Producer Production Criteria

2015 Annual Report for FNC15-987

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2015: $20,526.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2017
Grant Recipient: The Spicy Lamb Farm
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Laura DeYoung
The Spicy Lamb Farm

North Coast Lamb Co-op: Using Carcass Scanning for Producer Production Criteria



We conducted a literature review to be used in our workshops and as part of our deliverables. We began collecting resources to include in our CD/handbook.

We began shooting interviews and B-roll footage for our video that will be one of our deliverables.

We purchased an ultrasound scanner and scanned fall lambs at The Spicy Lamb Farm. We also set up demonstrations at the Miller Farm and the Foundry.

We formed the Northcoast Lamb Co-Op LLC.

We worked with Tom Synder of OSU and Eric Pawlowski of OEFFA on the setup of a co-op.

We created a sell sheet for the Northcoast Lamb Co-Op.

We created a logo for the Co-Op.

We began working on marketing Co-Op lamb as “The Healthy Red Meat”. A draft sell sheet is in production.

We began setting up a web page for the Northcoast Lamb Co-Op under the Urban Shepherds website as our market research felt that it would drive more traffic. Both The Spicy Lamb Farm and The Foundry Project direct visitors to the site. We created social media sites for the Co-Op page and are promoting the Co-Op project through The Spicy Lamb Farm, The Foundry Project/Northcoast Sheep Farm, and Urban Shepherds.

We created an ultrasound scanning checklist for producers to prepare for scanning.



  • We held a workshop in Cleveland on April 17.
  • We held a workshop at The Spicy Lamb Farm on May 16.
  • We exhibited at Ohio Sheep Day on July 11
  • We held a workshop and demonstration for an Ohio Sheep Improvement Association group tour on October 31st.
  • We exhibited at the Buckeye Shepherds Symposium on December 12th.


  • We exhibited at the American Sheep Industry conference on January 28-29.
  • We presented on the SARE project at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association conference on February 13.




The goal of this project will be to implement value-based lamb recommendations, emphasizing higher production criteria which are expected to lead to wider product acceptance. The Co-op will work with a group of urban and rural farmers whose propose is, to not only distribute and market lamb at a profit, but to assist members in producing the required high quality, consistent lamb demanded by a more discriminating marketplace.

The Co-op will conduct carcass ultrasound of lamb crops for acceptance (as well as for NSIP EBVs). The expected outcome will be better meat quality and marketing, leading to increased profitability and competitiveness for Ohio regional producers. The success of the project will be the use of the scanning-based criteria to reduce the slaughter rate on non-conforming animals for the co-op, using the selective breeding tool to market quality lamb, and establishing the co-op as a quality source

Literature Review

Carcass Scanning for seedstock producers is common in UK, AUS, and NZ. And, Sheep Ireland is even providing a subsidized Ultrasound Scanning service as part of their LambPlus breeders program. Carcass scanning in the USA is used as an optional part of the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP), and not all participants conduct carcass scanning. The low number of NSIP participants, costs of ultrasound, and the availability of NSIP certified scanners all seem to be factors.

Carcass ultrasound scanning is used as an Equivalent Breeding Value (EBV) to improve your accuracy of selection for economically important traits. It is typically used when purchasing breeding stock, especially rams, with above average EBVs or indexes, to establish values for breeding stock, and to measure the quality of lamb.

Ultrasound images can be collected and read for rib-eye area (REA), rib fat thickness (Fat), and percent intramuscular fat (% IMF) which relates to marbling levels. The EBV describes the value of an animal’s genes for fat depth at a constant weight – a negative EBV means a genetically leaner animal. EBVs describe the value of animals’ genes for eye muscle depth at a constant weight – a positive EBV means a genetically thicker-muscled animal, and one that will have slightly more of its lean tissue in the higher-priced cuts.

These ultrasound scans are phenotypic records, just like weight records. They can be influenced by age, sex, diet, health and a variety of other factors.  An EBV quantifies the genetic merit of an animal. It is a mathematical, computer-generated prediction of an animal for economically-important traits.

A trained technician can capture an ultrasound image in about 30 seconds with reasonable accuracy. Scientists can use the images to estimate traits that influence the carcass value of market lambs—such as loin muscle area, loin muscle depth, and back-fat thickness.

Lambs should be scanned at around 5 months of age and be around 90 lbs. This is to ensure that there is good variation in the lamb’s measurements, especially the fat depth which is often difficult to measure in the more lean breeds. The date of births should already be entered on the database and the breed recorded when the lambs will be ready to be recorded. When using a random sample, breeders present all their lambs for scanning even if they do not plan on scanning all their lambs as the lambs must be selected at random by the technician, both males and females. The technician will exclude any late born lambs or any lambs that are thriving very poorly due to some medical or nutritional problem. Producers must have an accurate weighing crate there on the day and the technician will verify the scales with a measured weight. All lambs must have their ID tags recorded on the database before scanning can occur. Breeders should have their lambing notebooks present on the day in order to clear up any issues that may arise on the day. Ideally lambs should be housed at least an hour before the technician starts to scan to ensure lambs are under as little stress as possible at the time of scanning. Once scanning is complete, producers receive the evaluation of the scanning.

The American sheep industry is under crisis. The American Sheep Industry (ASI) may be the oldest livestock organization in the county, however, the average American eats less than one pound of lamb per year, and half is consumed by the non-traditional ethic market. Of all the lamb consumed in the states, 50 to 70% is imported from Australia and New Zealand. And, County of Origin Labeling is an issue.

The Tri-Lamb Group, a collaborative initiative between American, Australian, and New Zealand producer organizations, conducted a 2013 study on American lamb consumption and found that:

  • New consumers were under 40.
  • They had children of all ages.
  • Gender made no difference.
  • They average household income was $70,000.
  • Their activities included personally grill meat; walking/hiking/running; active online; and entertaining at home.
  • They eat and prepare chicken, fish, beef, alternative meat products, lamb, duck, venison, bison, and duck.
  • Their sources of nutrition information came from online, magazines, and friends and family.

Factors that were important in choosing lamb included lamb being:

  • An excellent source of protein
  • Raised without synthetic hormones
  • Nutrient rich
  • Lean
  • Contains good fat
  • Raised with care
  • Sustainably raised
  • Grass fed
  • Contains omega-3 fats
  • Organic
  • Contains monounsaturated fats

According to Lean on Lamb, a 3 oz. serving of lamb provides nearly five times the amount of the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), compared to a 3 oz. serving of beef. 92% of nutrition/sustainability conscious lamb users said they would be very or extremely motivated to buy lamb compared to another protein based on the statement above.

Health and nutrition are significant drivers. A consumer taste study found that lamb is more tender, flavor, and juicy than any other meats.

An American Lamb Attitude & Usage Study in 2011 found that:

  • The average age is 45.
  • 68% are female.
  • The average household size is 2.8
  • 85% are white.
  • One in five households (20%) has prepared lamb within the past year.
  • One in six households (16%) eats lamb, but do not prepare lamb in their household.

Customers want:

  • Easy to follow recipes
  • Better understanding of the various cuts of lamb
  • Instruction on cooking/demonstrations

Additional reasons to purchase lamb more often for preparation at home include:

  • Learning how to cook lamb
  • Knowing it is a healthy choice
  • Making it easier or quicker to cook
  • Consistent availability of cuts
  • Confidence that family/friends like it
  • Price

Liking that it is unique, that they like the flavor and that the meat is tender are the most mentioned likes about lamb. Being too expensive and being difficult to cook are the most mentioned dislikes.

Important factors in choosing lamb included:

  • Respondents rated humanely raised as most important factor and being locally grown as least important.
  • Other important factors included: grass fed, food safety, eating satisfaction, how and where lambs were raised, visual checks, weight and size, lean with less fat, and sheep genetics.

Lamb cuts were a factor in choosing lamb:

  • Respondents were most aware of leg of lamb, rack of lamb, and loin chops which are the favorite cuts of lamb prepared at home.

According to an American Lamb Consumer Taste Test Report in 2013:

  • About half the consumers tested prefer the grass-fed lamb, while another 45% preferred the grain-finished lamb. 7% reported they had no preference.
  • When asked about the proteins beef, chicken, seafood, pork and lamb, lamb was rated the highest by these consumers in flavor, quality, tenderness, sustainability and of being humanely raised.
  • Lamb was rated the lowest (along with Seafood) in being easy to cook and affordability.
  • Roasting and grilling are the most popular ways to prepare lamb at home. Ground lamb, loin chops, stew meat and leg roasts are cuts cooked the most at home.
  • Concerning lamb, fresh and flavorful were the most important attributes to these consumers, while healthy/nutritious and grass-fed were the least important.
  • About 77% of those tested reported they could find lamb in their local stores year-round. 71% would prefer to buy American lamb in their stores, yet only 47% would be willing to pay 20% more for lamb from the U.S.
  • If these consumers were to purchase lamb, the primary reasons would be that a recipe called for it (36%) or that they wanted it for a special occasion (28%).
  • 57% reported the high price of lamb keeps them from using it more often. Sale pricing would increase the use of lamb at home by over 50% of the consumers tested.
  • Most of these consumers are getting information and recipes from websites, cookbooks, and friends and family.

In an American Lamb Board grilling study, lamb users who personally grill meat are more likely to be More Nutrition/Sustainability Conscious than those who do not personally grill meat.

  • Grilling lamb is more likely among those who are More Nutrition/ Sustainability Conscious
  • Loin Chops (41%) is the cut of lamb grilled most often by Lamb Users
  • 71% of Lamb Users who grilled meat this past summer are “Extremely or Very Likely” to grill lamb next year.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of Lamb Users who are less than “Very Likely” to grill lamb next year indicate they are “Extremely or Very Willing” to learn to grill lamb.

To address lamb consumption in restaurants, the American Lamb Board had MenuTrends DIRECT (MTD) conduct a Lamb Overview of lamb distribution in restaurants based on segment, cuisine type, and geography. The key findings included:

  • Lamb remains a core protein at white table cloth restaurants.
  • Lamb is menued most often as a stand-alone entrée item due to its hearty, bold flavor. Braising has grown in popularity with lamb and center of plate entrées overall. Lamb continues to increase in usage as an appetizer at fine dining and US chains and independents.  
  • American cuisine accounts for the largest share of entrée lamb menued. A quarter, or 25%, of all entrée lamb menu mentions are at American restaurants. French cuisine follows with an 18% share of all entrée lamb dishes. Italian cuisine, mixed ethnicity and steakhouses all hold a 10% share, or greater, of entrée lamb.
  • Rack of lamb continues to be the most popular cut of lamb on entrée menus. Of fine dining restaurants with lamb entrées, over 1/3 offer rack of lamb. Lamb chops are a close second, with just 25% penetration. Other popular cuts of lamb include lamb shank and lamb loin.
  • Indian cuisine accounts for the lion’s share of entrée lamb dishes. A strong 44% of all lamb dishes are found at Indian restaurants among US Chain and Independents. Mediterranean restaurants also maintain a strong 18% share of lamb dishes. About 19% of lamb entrées are found at non-ethnic restaurants, most notably America, Italian, Pizza, Sandwich and Steakhouses.
  • Lamb maintains a high average price across all segments. At QSR, lamb drops to the 6th highest priced protein, as it is more frequently as a protein in typically lower priced kabob, curry and gyro entrée dishes.

With the need to expand the market to appeal to more lamb consumers, having 50-70% of all the lamb consumed in this county being imported from Australia and New Zealand shows that there is plenty of room for improvement.


Using The Spicy Lamb Farm as a direct marketing lamb example using the literature review data, these data from the literature review were used to see how many local lamb customers there are for the farm.  As a small sustainable farm, the marketing options include selling directly to customers, selling at the local farmer’s market, and selling directly to restaurants and grocery stores via the North Coast Lamb Co Op.

Within 15 minute drive of  The Spicy Lamb Farm, there are 19,234 households with an average household income of $97,356; within 30 minute drive time there are 548,473 households with and average household income of $77, 563; within a 60 minute drive there are 1,664, 575 households with an average household income of $73,195. (Source: ESRI)  If one in five households have prepared lamb with in the past year, of which 20% buy from the farmers markets and 10% buy directly from the farmer, the following represents market share from which the farm could draw customers:

Table 1: Drive Time and Potential Market Share


Drive Time to The Spicy Lamb Farm

Number of Households

Average Household Income

Percent (20%) Buying Lamb

Percent (20%) of buying at Farmers Market

Percent (10%) Buying Direct from Farmer

15 minutes






30 minutes






60 minutes







The sustainable/organic food sector is growing rapidly. NE Ohio has a high demand for fresh produce and agricultural products.  Locally produced goods are viewed as far superior to those imported from long distances. Many consumers are getting more suspicious of chemically and genetically generated food. Taste is coming back into fashion and the consumer is prepared to pay more for something that has been grown the natural way. Local food production is not just about selling a product but selling an experience as well. Local customers are the largest and easiest market to serve. Research shows that over 60% of customers come from within a 10-mile radius of the farm at which they shop. We also know that the target clientele is primarily women. They tend to be the key decision makers and buyers. They tend to be more educated and environmentally aware and from the generations between 35 and 65 year olds. They are interested in the origin of meat and produce, the nutritional and health benefits, and the best way to store, prepare, and cook the meats and produce.

In Ohio, the largest sheep producing state east of the Mississippi, the average flock is only 40 ewes. If we assume a lambing rate of 160% and up to 20% being kept back as replacements, then the average farm only yields @50 lambs for market. For the producer, these finished lambs need to be sold for highest net price. And, while direct marketing will increase profitability, most lambs are sold at auction. Auction lambs are shipped to packers out of state, so the local economy does not benefit from the $3 local food multiplier that can generate economic development.

According to the ASI Roadmap 2014, Lamb has the characteristics to be widely accepted as the “premier meat” — very desirable flavor and an extremely positive nutritional profile. Lamb can strength its position if promotes its attributes and delivers high quality product on every eating occasion.

The industry acknowledges that excess fat and inconsistency are the biggest detractions from its premier status. Buying slaughter animals on weight provides incentive to overfeed lambs under certain market conditions — resulting in fat. Buying on weight and yield provides no economic incentive to produce high quality lamb. The industry needs to reduce the excess fat and inconsistent quality which can damage the quality of the brand. Individual quality attributes of the lamb carcass and its parts provides a higher quality consistent product to the consumer.

Workshop & Exhibiting Feedback

Producers will be sold on value-based lamb direct marketing through a co-op only if the profits exceed those of live auction sales.

Commercial flocks questioned our choice of using only one breed in our study, and suggested the addition of other breeds and cross-breeds.

Commercial producers that currently direct market are interested in the co-op as an opportunity to sell less popular cuts such as ground lamb.

There is a demand for an ethic slaughtering facility in Cleveland.

Producers were interested in marketing butcher scraps as dog treats and skins. 

Some producers were interested in marketing lamb as organically certified.


Lessons Learned from Scanning

A good handling system is key to success.

Given the average size of a flock in our Ohio study area, using a random sample is not necessary.

Our technician should practice on hair sheep.          

We should hold a workshop demonstration in Middlefield/Mesopotamia area, another large Amish population that is not near an auction.



We will continue our literature review to be used in our workshops and as part of our deliverables.

We will continue shooting interviews and B-roll footage for our video and will be editing the video once the scope of our project is complete.

We will be working on our campaign to market lamb as “The Healthy Red Meat”.

We will continue to recruit for the Co-Op.

We will develop specific Co-Op muscle eye criteria based on results.

We will develop pricing for scanning in the future for Co-Op and NSIP producers.

We will find look for hair sheep and cross breeds to scan.

We will continue our work on the web page and social media.

October, January, and April lambs will be scanned at 2 months and at 5 months. January lambs will be scanned in March.

  • On March 5th, we will hold a workshop sponsored by Urban Shepherds.
  • In April, we will have our chef tasting at The Foundry Project as a media event as part of their aquaculture ground breaking.
  • On May 14th, we will have a workshop as part of the Countryside Conservancy education program at The Spicy Lamb Farm.
  • On May 21st, we will provide a demonstration at the FAMACHA School at the Mount Hope Auction.
  • On June 11th, we will hold a workshop sponsored by OEFFA at The Spicy Lamb Farm.
  • On July 9th, we will exhibit at the Ohio Sheep Day.
  • In September, we will hold fall workshops/demonstrations at Miller Farm and in Middlefield/Mesopotamia.
  • On September 24th, we will hold a field day in conjunction with a fall festival at The Spicy Lamb Farm.
  • On December 10th, we will exhibit at the Buckeye Shepherds Symposium.
  • On January 26th/27th, we will exhibit at the American Sheep Industry conference.

We will work on our deliverables:

  • A final report
  • A video
  • Slides
  • CD/Handbook
  • Factsheets
  • Demonstration at FAMACHA school training day at Mount Hope
  • We exhibited at Ohio Sheep Day on July 11
  • We held a workshop and demonstration for an Ohio Sheep Improvement Association group tour on October 31st.
  • We exhibited at the Buckeye Shepherds Symposium on December 12th.
  • We exhibited at the American Sheep Industry conference on January 28-29.
  • We presented on the SARE project at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association conference on February 13.


2015 and early 2016:

  • April 17 workshop in Cleveland – 12 attended from Detroit, Toledo, and Northeast Ohio
  • May 16 workshop at The Spicy Lamb Farm – 20 attended from across north Ohio
  • July 11 exhibit at Ohio Sheep Day – 50 flyers on the Co-Op and scanning checklists distributed
  • October 31st OSIA Tour and Demonstration – 20 attended
  • December 12 Buckeye Shepherds Symposium – 50 flyers on the Co-Op and scanning checklists distributed
  • January 28-29 American Sheep Industry Conference in AZ – 100 flyers on the Co-Op distributed
  • February 13 – OEFFA


2016 and early 2017:

  • March 5th, Urban Shepherds workshop
  • April chef tasting at The Foundry Project
  • May 14th Countryside Conservancy education program workshop at The Spicy Lamb Farm.
  • June 11th workshop sponsored by OEFFA at The Spicy Lamb Farm.
  • July 9th exhibit at the Ohio Sheep Day.
  • September fall workshops/demonstrations at Miller Farm and in Middlefield/Mesopotamia.
  • September 24th field day at The Spicy Lamb Farm.
  • December 10th exhibit at the Buckeye Shepherds Symposium.
  • January 26th/27th American Sheep Industry conference in Denver.




J Shorey

[email protected]
Urban Farmer
The Foundry Project
2952 Fairmount Blvd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
Office Phone: 2169061300
Laura Deyoung

[email protected]
The Spicy Lamb Farm
6560 Akron Peninsula Road
(Off Boston Mills Road)
Peninsula, OH 44264
Office Phone: 3308054868
Wayne Miller

[email protected]
8894 County Road 77
Fredricksburg, OH 44627
Office Phone: 3307156894