Mr Starnes, from Strauss Lamb and Veal, was a kAustralia - eynote speaker at the 2012 Lambex conference late last week.
He said the competitive consumption of protein in the US had lamb at just 145 grams per year, behind poultry in top place at 32.6kg/yr, beef at 23.5kg/yr, pork 20.4kg/yr and seafood at 7.2kg/yr.
"Lamb is very much a luxury item in the US," Mr Starnes said, citing annual sales of lamb from both Australia and New Zealand at $150 million per year.
"There is tremendous room to expand that market.
"The biggest contribution Australian lamb producers can make is by giving us the highest quality lambs available.
"And then you need to work on your partnerships - those partnerships with the grower, the packer and importer are they only way this industry will increase its market place in the US."
Mr Starnes said availability was as important as quality.
"Failure in this market to provide consistently to the supply chain has affected the market in the past," he said. "If it's inconsistent it will be off the menu."
He said Strauss relied heavily on meat purveyors, or 'white tablecloth distributors' to ensure its product of lamb and veal was attracting attention.
"Strauss has a meat purveyor in every city. They are vital to the distribution process," he said.
"Our job is to close the gap between the product and consumer, and Australian lamb producers can help is to put their product on US plates as economically as possible."
And despite the current low consumption figures, Mr Starnes said there was huge excitement among the food services network, who understood the value of lamb.
"We have top level chefs who clearly love to cook with lamb," he said.
"But we've got to get consumers through those restaurants serving lamb, and educate them about the taste and versatility of the product, before they will then buy it at a retail level.
"This is the only way we will grow the industry."
Farmer, Beef and Lamb New Zealand director and Progressive Meats NZ managing director, Craig Hickson agreed change was necessary to break into new markets, and increase market share of those already established.
Mr Hickson said producers needed to take ownership of improvements.
"You need to believe you can make a difference and not leave it to others," he said.
He said there were key elements to any improvement process.
"You need clear focus, teamwork, and a means to measure any change. And you need a means of holding it all together.
"If you don't do any one of the above the process fails."