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Department of Animal Sciences


Preparing for Ethnic Holidays 2014

March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014
For Immediate Release

Preparing for Ethnic Holidays 2014

According to a 2010 study funded by the American Sheep Industry Association, ethnic markets comprise a significant and growing portion of the US sheep market. For this reason, producers need to consider the dates of various ethnic holidays (or religious observances) when developing their marketing plans.

Traditionally, the demand for lamb increases at Easter. This year, both (Eastern) Orthodox and Roman (Western) Easter will occur on the same day, April 20.  Often, the Easters occur on different Sundays, as different calendars are used to calculate the dates of the holidays. When targeting the Easter markets, be sure to sell the right kind of lambs (usually milk-fed and “fat”) and place lambs in the market place at least 5-10 days before the holiday.  As an option, you might consider spreading your risks and sending some lambs directly after the holiday.  Prices sometimes are high afterwards as supply is decreased due to the holiday.

Muslim holidays have become increasing important to the US lamb market. There are two major Muslim holidays. Eid ul Fitr or the “Festival of Fast Breaking” follows the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and have celebratory meals in the evening. In 2014, this three day holiday will occur on July 29-31. The most important Muslim holiday is Eid ul Adha or the “Festival of the Sacrifice.” In 2014, it will occur October 4-7. This holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. Instead, he sacrificed a lamb (ram).

Muslim holidays cannot be predicted with exact certainty, since they are based on a lunar calendar and the siting of the moon.  For this same reason, Muslim holidays move forward approximately 11 days each year. The type of lamb demanded by Muslim consumers varies, but is usually an older, unblemished lamb or yearling, usually an intact male. As with any market segment, it’s important to learn what potential customers want and will pay a premium for.

To help US sheep producers evaluate and develop potential markets to ethnic consumers, three University Extension systems have partnered with their respective sheep associations to help address this opportunity.  Maine, Maryland and Ohio received funding from ASI’s Let’s Grow campaign in 2013 for this effort.  A series of webinars on marketing lamb to ethnic consumers was presented in November and December of 2013.  These webinars, each 1-hour in length, were recorded and are available for viewing.

In addition, the tri-state ethnic marketing project has created several tools to help producers make better marketing decisions.  Susan Schoenian Sheep & Goat Specialist for University of Maryland Extension has developed several spreadsheet templates to help producers evaluate marketing options.  Richard Brzozowski, Small Ruminant Specialist for the University of Maine has developed a template for producers to use in learning more about specific ethnic consumers as well as a set of questions for possible use in customer surveys.

For these tools on marketing lamb and mutton to ethnic consumers, go to
For links to the webinar series on marketing lamb and mutton to ethnic consumers, go to