Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - 33

With roots as an Australian meat processing company,
vertically integrated Thomas Foods International, USA
whets the appetites of Americans for lamb
BY K I M B E R L I E C LYM A | kc l y m a @ s o s l a n d.c o m

Photos: Thomas Foods International, USA

I

n Australia, lamb is king.
Australians consume more than 15 times
as much lamb and mutton as Americans
consume annually. In 2018, the US Department
of Agriculture's Economic Research Service
reported lamb and mutton consumption in
the United States was 1.1 lbs per capita. In
the same time frame, Australians ate 16 lbs
of lamb per person, according to Meat &
Livestock Australia.
Australia is the second-largest producer
of sheep meat and the largest exporter of the
proteins - 66% of its total lamb production was
exported in 2018-19, 21.8% of which went to
the United States.
But US consumers have yet to truly
embrace lamb as a top protein choice.
" Lamb consumption has been flat
in this country, " said Michael Forrest,
chief executive officer of Thomas Foods
International, USA. " But, its penetration into
the market is growing, which will lead to
increased consumption.
" Historically, lamb has been a foodservice
item - I think because US consumers are
unfamiliar with the protein...With COVID,
and more home cooking and home meal
subscriptions, more people are getting exposed
to lamb than they have been historically...they
are feeling more comfortable with it than they
have previously. "
As a vertically integrated importer,
processor and distributor of Australian lamb
and other proteins, Swedesboro, NJ-based
Thomas Foods International, USA is doing
its part to increase lamb consumption in the
United States.
" We work with our retailers to try and
promote lamb and make it more user friendly
to the consumer. For example, we recently
developed a series of recipes featuring ground
lamb, chops and racks that can be prepared in

under 40 minutes, showcasing how lamb is just
as versatile and easy to prepare as beef. "

AUSSIE ROOTS
Thomas Foods International, USA's American
roots can be traced back to 2010, when the
company started doing business in South Jersey,
importing meat from Australia. But its parent
company, Thomas Foods International, has its
origins back in Australia starting in 1988.
Chris Thomas, a self-described " jackaroo "
- an Australian cowboy - spent his early years
trading cattle. In 1988, Thomas joined forces
with a partner, Bob Rowe, to form a business,
initially called T and R Pastoral, to buy and
sell livestock. The company did contract
slaughtering at different facilities in New South
Wales, Victoria and South Australia for years
until it purchased an abattoir in Murray Bridge,
South Australia, in 1999.
The company further expanded with the
acquisition of additional abattoirs around
Australia. By 2008, the Thomas family took
over control of the business - it was renamed
Thomas Foods International in 2013. At that
time, the company was Australia's largest
family-owned meat processing business,
slaughtering 5,000 cattle and 120,000 lambs
weekly at its four facilities around Australia.
Chris' son, Darren, took the reins to lead
the company as CEO in 1993.
As part of Thomas Foods' further
expansion, the company worked to grow
its exporting business. Seventy percent
of the Thomas Foods meat production is
exported. Today, the company exports to 82
different global destinations, including the
United States.
" In exporting, the US was always a
strong market, " Forrest said. " 2010 was
the year we had boots on the ground in the
US marketplace. "
www.meatpoultry.com | 01.21 | MEAT+ POULTRY

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Meat+Poultry - January 2021

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