Business Insider Edition

The Queen served Trump something Americans hardly ever eat and once even caused a minor UK-US diplomatic incident

Bill Bostock , Business Insider US
 Jun 05, 2019, 10:48 AM
A quartet of British lamb chops.
  • The Queen served Donald Trump lamb during a banquet she threw on Monday to mark his state visit to the UK.
  • Lamb is not a popular meat in the US, with less than 1% of the market share of pork and beef. It is much more common in Britain.
  • The meat has caused US-UK relations to strain. In October 2014 the US ambassador to London complained in an interview that British people were constantly giving him lamb to eat.
  • For more, go to Business Insider SA.

At the lavish banquet thrown by Queen Elizabeth II in honor of President Donald Trump's state visit to the UK, the centerpiece of the meal was something Americans rarely eat: lamb.

As well as likely being a novelty for her American guests, the meat has a remarkable history in US-UK relations, prompting grumbles from US servicemen as long ago as World War II, and more recent complaints from a serving US ambassador.

On Monday night the banquet menu listed its main course as "Selle d'Agneau deWindsor Farcie Marigny" (Saddle of Windsor Farcie Marigny lamb).

Lamb is a mainstay of British cuisine, and central to rural British economy, but never caught on across the Atlantic.

In the US the average person eats less than 0.4 kilograms of it a year, compared to 20 kilograms of pork and 35 kilograms of beef.

Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II on Monday evening.
DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Britain's fervent love of, and US indifference to, lamb was best highlighted by the Obama-era US ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun.

In October 2014 Barzun told British high-society magazine Tatler he was served lamb constantly at the fancy dinners he frequented, and was sick of it.

"I must have had lamb and potatoes 180 times since I have been here. There are limits and I have reached them," he said.

The reaction was seismic, and prompted a round of criticism in the UK media. He later apologised on BBC radio.

Rowley Leigh, chef at Le Cafe Anglais, an award-winning former London restaurant, told The Independent at the time: "Americans don't really get lamb. They'd rather have beef, or beef, or possibly beef."

It's true. Sales of lamb in the US are dwarfed by beef and pork. The US is averse to lamb for several historic reasons.

One theory goes that, while awaiting deployment to mainland Europe during World War II, US soldiers were fed mutton - sheep meat taken from older animals - and told it was lamb.

Lambs.

When they returned home in 1945, the story goes, servicemen refused to touch lamb meat ever again.

Another theory is that farmers consider sheep too docile, making them ill-suited to sprawling American ranches where they can be easily eaten by wildlife.

A third theory says lamb has never been well-marketed in the US, and has suffered for the absence of major campaigns like the successful 1980s drive to increase pork consumption.

UK lamb is particularly disadvantaged in the US, and is still subject to a 1996 ban on lamb imports which were a response to the long-since eradicated outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in the UK.

In 2014, the UK government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) submitted a 1,000-page dossier to the United States Department of Agriculture in support of lamb, but did not make much progress.

Cows graze on a ranch in Wisconsin.

DEFRA estimates that lamb exports to the US could be worth £35 million (R657 million) a year to British farmers.

After British farmers picked up Trump had eaten lamb on Monday, the National Sheep Association chief Phil Stocker told trade magazine The Scottish Farmer:

"We have long said the US would be a great market to tap into given the right opportunity and this could be just the chance we need to drive this forward."

"Assuming President Trump enjoyed his dining experience, we can only hope it gets him thinking and will help drive forward a strengthened market in the US."

"NSA would like to thank Her Majesty and all at Buckingham Palace for supporting the UK sheep sector and for endorsing British lamb in this way."

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