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Eat Lamb on Australia Day

Updated on April 17, 2014

January 26th is Australia Day when "real" Australians are supposed to eat lamb

In the United States the whole of January is National Meat Month, but in Australia, when we celebrate Australia Day on 26 January we are encouraged to eat lamb.

Australia has had a lot more sheep than people since the early colonial days. In 2012 flock numbers were around 77 million, down from 170 million in 1990. Wool has been a major agricultural export throughout Australian history and in the 1950s the phrase was coined that Australia "rode on the sheep's back." In the lead-up to Australia Day in 2005, a campaign was created to promote lamb as the food for Australia Day (26 January). A former Australian rules football player, Sam Kekovich was signed up for the campaign. Sam, who was born on 11 March 1950 became the national lamb spokesman.

Image credit: jules:stonesoup on flickr (

Sam Kekovich Lamb Adverts

Sam delivers tongue-in-cheek deadpan commentary to the camera where nothing and nobody is sacred. In the 2005 campaign he called vegetarians "un-Australian" which outraged the Australian Vegetarian Society and animal rights activists. There were calls for the adverts to be banned, but the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau allowed them to stay as they were clearly satire. Each year since then there has been a new ad and they have developed a cult following and do increase sales of lamb in January, where people traditionally hold barbeques in the summer weather. My favorite ad is the Barbie Girl one from 2012. McDonalds even sell a lamb burger for a limited time in January and Kekovich appeared in the advert for that too.

Sam Kekovich Australia Day Message 2005

2005 Lamb Advert Poll

(Those who liked the ad will find the ads for all years further down the page)

What do you think of the ad?

See results

Australia Day Lamb

Australia Day is a time to celebrate so you don't want recipes that take hours to prepare. The best choices are lamb chops, cutlets or kebabs that can be marinated beforehand, or a simple lamb roast. You can make your own marinades or buy them. Below are some marinades that go well with lamb. there are also links to marinades you can buy on Amazon. The traditional accompaniment to lamb is mint sauce or the thicker mint jelly, so that is a must too.

With marinades, mix all the ingredients together then put in the meat and allow it to marinate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. You can use a zip lock bag instead of a bowl.

Six good marinades for lamb

  1. Honey Soy Marinade

    Combine 1 clove garlic, 1/3 cup soy sauce 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons honey.

  2. Balsamic Marinade

    Combine ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon finely shredded mint and salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Greek Style Lamb Marinade

    Combine 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon thyme ,1/2 teaspoon oregano,1/2 teaspoon bay leaf and a dash of salt and pepper.

  4. Aromatic marinade

    Combine 3 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Rosemary lamb marinade

    Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar,1 tablespoon dried rosemary, 2 cloves minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Zesty oregano marinade

    Combine 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 2 crushed dried bay leaves, 1 tablespoons olive oil, juice and rind from one orange, salt and pepper to taste.

Lamb Poll

How do you like your lamb cooked?

See results

Australia Day 2013: Lambnesia

Australia Day 2012 Lambassador Sam Kekovich changes his tune

Australia Day 2012: "Barbie Girl" (Sam Kekovich v Melissa Tkautz v Justice Crew)

Australia Day 2011: Lambassador Sam Kekovich takes on Europe

Australia Day 2010

Sam Kekovich 2009

Eat Lamb during "Australia Week 08" (Sam Kekovich)

Australia Day 07 Sam Kekovich Lamb 3min TVC - Vote Lamb

Sam Kekovich Eat Lamb on Australia Day 2006

McDonald's lamb burger ad with Sam Kekovich

Australia Day 07 Sam Kekovich Lamb 3min TVC - Vote Lamb

Sam Kekovich Eat Lamb on Australia Day 2006

McDonald's lamb burger ad with Sam Kekovich

Looking for more lamb cookbooks or marinades? - Check these out or use the search box to go straight to Amazon!

What are your thoughts on lamb for Australia Day?

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    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for the marinade recipes - so quick, easy and delicious. Hope you had a great Australia Day, with lamb of course!

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      So if the sheep population went down 93 million in 22 years, and there's 77 million as of 2012, then you'll run out of sheep by 2030.

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Love lamb! My husband won't cook anything marinated on the barbie!

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 5 years ago from Orange County, California

      I'm back again to let you know that I voted for this lens in the "food" election going on today. Good Luck!

    • ViJuvenate profile image

      ViJuvenate 5 years ago

      Darn! Looks like I just missed it. Great cultural traditions should be celebrated. :o)

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this which is a part of your Australian culture. Blessed!

    • MaureenCee profile image

      MaureenCee 5 years ago

      Seeing as we used to be home on the sheeps back at least it's something that hasn't been forgotten. Most farmers would love to get $26 for their leg of lamb so you're not the only one being fleeced.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Like many other people I would love to have a lamb roast. But to be honest I refuse to pay $26.00 in our local shops for a very small leg of lamb. I wonder whose superannuation we have to contribute to when we pay the prices in the shops.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love these ads! My love was a true-blue Aussie, who sent me these Lamb for Australia Day ads every year. (so I wouldn't be un-Australian--even though I'm American) Australia Day meant more to him as an officer and pilot in the Royal Australian Navy (retired) than any other holiday. He died in December, so this year, he's not here for Australia Day. The first one he's ever missed. Oz and I will somehow have to carry on without him. Happy Australia Day, my love. I'm remembering you, my beloved Peter on this and every day.

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 5 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      I'm not sure how many Aussies are buying this message but lamb on the barbie is a definite winner any time!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I was in New Zealand for Australia Day in 1988, does that count? I think it's great to have a national day, I wish we did it properly in the UK.

    • profile image

      aussiejon 5 years ago

      hehe, got to love "Keka" and they way he goes about promoting lamb, makes sense to choose lamb on Australia day!

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 5 years ago

      I've never heard of this holiday, but I love lamb.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      This is the first I have heard of this. Thanks for the info.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Good the Aussies keep supplying Asia with lamb so we can enjoy it wherever we are.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Lamb does seem the most appropriate meal for Australia Day!

    • VictoriaKelley profile image

      VictoriaKelley 5 years ago

      I Miss my Aussie Lamb. Been a long time since I had a good lamb roast and mint sauce.