13 Feb 2015

National lamb day returns

2:57 pm on 13 February 2015

Red meat promotional body Beef + Lamb New Zealand has earmarked this Sunday as National Lamb Day, to remind people of the achievement that established the meat industry as one of the country's prime export earners.

Sunday is the 133rd anniversary of the first shipment of frozen sheep meat from Port Chalmers in Otago on the sailing ship Dunedin.

Beef + Lamb chief executive Rod Slater said the 125th anniversary was celebrated with a national lamb day in 2007 but the organisation has now decided it should be an annual event.

The Dunedin took the first shipment of frozen meat to Britain in 1882.

The Dunedin took the first shipment of frozen meat to Britain in 1882. Photo: Supplied

"Thomas Brydone and William Davidson 132 years ago sent off the first shipment of frozen product, that was 5000 lamb and mutton carcasses for the UK, to try and get a better price for their mutton.

"And they probably did not realise at the time, what they were starting off. It became the backbone of New Zealand's economy in years to come, with the export markets that we've got. So this will be the second [national lamb day] of many more to come."

Mr Slater said despite the technical challenges of keeping the meat shipment frozen on its 98 day voyage to London all those years ago, it arrived in very good condition.