One Question Quiz

PartnersFebruary 15, 2024

What is National Lamb Day and how should we celebrate it?


National Lamb day is all about celebrating one of New Zealand’s most revered products, and the people who make it.

This month, New Zealand celebrates its tenth National Lamb Day. While we don’t get a public holiday for this celebration (yet), the day, and what it represents, is worth getting behind, says Kit Arkwright, CEO of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. So we asked him to tell us all about it.

First, when is National Lamb Day?

National Lamb Day is celebrated on the 15th of February.

What relevance does this date have to lamb?

On February 15 1882, a ship called the Dunedin embarked on a groundbreaking journey from Port Chalmers to London, carrying the first exported shipment of frozen lamb. This voyage demonstrated the feasibility of long-distance refrigerated shipping and marked the beginning of New Zealand’s journey as a global leader in food production.

“The Dunedin’s voyage wasn’t just a trip across the seas; it was a game-changer, the equivalent of sending a rocket to Mars today. It proved that our lamb could travel the world, opening the door to global markets. It wasn’t just a boat trip; it was New Zealand stepping onto the world stage,” says Arkwright.

Why does the world love our lamb so much?

A report from 2022 also showed that New Zealand lamb has among the lowest carbon footprint of any lamb in the world. With global consumers demanding more transparency around the impact of their purchases, our lamb is setting the standard.

“Our pioneering approach to lamb production was a giant leap of faith that paid off big time. It’s all about the pristine, free-range farming, lush pastures, and high animal welfare standards – leaps and bounds ahead of others. This lamb is tender, flavourful, and as natural as the land it was raised on,” says Arkwright. 

Since that 1882 voyage, how important has lamb been to Aotearoa, locally and globally?

“It’s been a cornerstone of our economy, a lifeline for rural communities, and a calling card for Kiwi ingenuity. Our lamb isn’t just another meat; it’s a story of quality, tradition, and the green, green grass of home,” says Arkwright.

The Meat Industry Association says lamb and mutton exports in 2023 totalled over 384,000 tonnes, totalling $3.7 billion.

So what should I do to get behind National Lamb Day? 

There’s many ways that we can support New Zealand’s thriving lamb industry every day, but Arkwright says National Lamb Day is the perfect time to indulge in our world-class lamb, and to honour the hard work of all our sheep farmers around the country.

“Fire up the barbie, visit your butcher, or book a table at your favourite restaurant… Share stories over a lamb roast, and perhaps even don a woolly jumper in solidarity if you can bear the heat,” he says.

Where can I learn more? 

For more info, as well as recipes and resources, check out the Beef + Lamb NZ website. There’s still heaps of time to head to your local butcher and pick your favourite cut to celebrate over. Happy National Lamb Day!

Keep going!