Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles named February as Lamb Month in Kentucky during a proclamation signing Monday at Stella's Kentucky Deli in Lexington. Joining Commissioner Quarles, who is seated, for the proclamation signing was from left, Kentucky Department of Agriculture employees John Chism and Jason Wachter, Kelley Yates from the Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office, Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers Association president Richard Popham, and Lester Miller, owner of Stella's. The deli has offered locally sourced lamb burgers on its menu since 2007. For more photos from the event, click here.
Kentucky Department of Agriculture
Commissioner Quarles celebrates February as Lamb Month in Kentucky
Celebrate the diversity sheep, lamb offer
LEXINGTON (Feb. 6, 2023) – Kentucky sheep and lamb producers joined Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles in Lexington today to commemorate February as Lamb Month in Kentucky.
“Sheep are an excellent livestock option for many Kentucky farms and add to our state’s agricultural diversity,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Packed with protein, lamb is the perfect lean meat for the dinner table. But it provides more than meat, sheep are an excellent source of milk and fiber as well. Every day, but this month in particular, we salute the value sheep and lamb add to our farms.”
About 5 million sheep are raised by roughly 80,000 farmers and ranchers across the United States. With more than 12 million acres of agriculture land in Kentucky, the commonwealth is home to 58,000 head of sheep and lamb, ranking it 25th nationally for sheep inventory. Those 58,000 sheep are spread over more than 4,000 sheep producers who are dedicated to producing high quality products for consumers.
“We are very excited to once again celebrate Kentucky’s lamb and sheep industry again this year for Kentucky Lamb Month,” said Richard Popham, a sheep producer out of Brandenburg and president of the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers Association. “Each year our industry grows and continues to provide quality, fresh lamb and wool products to thousands of people.We are proud to produce an animal that is versatile, economic, and good for our environment. We encourage anyone to try something different tonight with a delicious lamb dinner!”
Kentucky has a strong tradition of sheep production in the U.S. with the number of head reaching as high as over a million in the mid to late 1940s. Kentucky’s sheep industry’s numbers declined in the last 40 years, but with the help of the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers Association and the American Sheep Industry Association, those numbers are on the rebound. Sheep numbers experienced a 51 percent increase over the past five years. Many producers are retaining breeding stock in order to increase the number in production.
The Kentucky sheep industry adds more than $7 million in revenue to Kentucky’s agriculture receipts. For 2023, market lambs and sheep stayed steady for 2023 at 14,000 head, with higher numbers of breeding stock in inventory. The market lambs inventory was the second highest level on record for Kentucky. With solid markets, an increase in retail demand, growing grazing opportunities in the state, and increased value added opportunities for wool, this industry is expected to keep growing into the future.
February serves as a reminder of the great versatility and value of sheep and lamb. In addition to it being a source of protein, zinc, selenium and B vitamin, it’s also a good source of iron and riboflavin. Numerous products and byproducts also come from sheep, including milk, fiber for wool, and lanolin, a natural moisturizer. Across the world, farmers also use sheep to combat noxious weeds on their property, promote healthy forests, and prevent wildfires.
To celebrate Lamb Month, purchase lamb from your local grocery store, specialty shop, farmers' market, or butcher shop. The Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office offers information on its website with tips cooking the lean meat. The website also offers a buyer's guide for lamb at: https://www.kysheepandgoat.org/on-your-plate.