Wednesday, September 21, 2011

American Lamb

We are frequently asked...WHAT makes American Lamb different? My snappy comeback is… “about 10,000 miles!” This always gets a chuckle, but doesn’t really address the issue.

The American Lamb logo, the nice recipe cards and pretty literature are all part of a campaign by the American Lamb Board to emphasize the meat grown in this country. Each time a sheep is sold through a stockyard in the US, a small amount goes to the lamb check-off and that is used to promote lamb consumption and offer education to farmers.

By stressing AMERICAN, it becomes obvious that other lamb is imported. While there are Country of Original Origin Label laws in place, it is not always simple to find out where food originated. Most of the lamb consumed in the world is from Australia and New Zealand. You can also find Icelandic lamb. More and more, consumers are looking for the American label for their food. This means that your food has not travelled halfway around the world before arriving in the grocery. This fact alone should guarantee fresher flavor.

There are a multitude of shepherds and sheep farmers around our nation. For the record, there is a real difference between a shepherd and a sheep farmer. A shepherd knows his/her sheep and they know him/her. There is a bond between animal and human that affects the quality of care and ultimately the final product. A sheep farmer, on the other hand, is not as intimately involved with the entire operation. But, all these folks work hard to provide lamb meat and wool products for the rest of society.

From personal experience, we can tell you there is a big difference in taste among the breeds of sheep. The breed we raise has been chosen for its flavor as well as it healthy vigor. These animals are an integral part of our farm and our lives. When you buy lamb in the grocery, it is from numerous farms, with various breeds and farming practices. All of these directly affect taste.

When you buy lamb from Homestead Hill Farm, we can tell you how the lamb was raised, what it ate, when the meat was processed, and if you really need to know…who its parents were, among other things. We can assure you that the sheep here on the farm are treated humanely, fed only natural feed and grass, and medicated only when absolutely necessary. Nothing artificial is done to enhance breeding or growth.

It is said that the average American eats less than a pound of lamb per year. This is in stark contrast to beef and chicken consumption. Beef and chicken account for most of the protein eaten in this country. Statistics show that on average, about 200 pounds total is consumed by each of us. While I will contest the huge amount of protein eaten, the difference seems about right. Many folks are certain they won’t like lamb, or they have had an unpleasant experience in the past. We also have to confront and overcome the “cute” factor…the mental image that springs to mind when the word LAMB is used. It is the hope of the American Lamb Board (and us!) that by educating the public, we can change that. Lamb is consumed in great quantities by folks in other countries around the world.

Lamb is low in calories and cholesterol. It’s high in protein and vitamins...and when prepared properly, is amazingly delicious! The clean, fresh taste is enhanced by grilling. When it’s ground or made into sausage, it makes a very versatile, quick entrée. (Just do NOT cook it as long as you would pork; it will become tough).

But, the shanks…oh, my goodness…they are the “primo” part of the lamb! Slow cooked in gravy with potatoes, carrots and onions…there is nothing finer on a cold winter day.
Nope, nothing!

While I don’t want to say anything derogatory about our Australian counterparts (or any other shepherds for that matter), I can personally attest to the “delicious-ness” of our own American lamb. I can also assure you, it has never been anywhere that I haven’t been. (well, …except perhaps the freezer…long-term)

It’s delicious, nutritious, local and incredibly fresh.

…and I just made myself incredibly hungry!

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