Meat sales
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why should I buy lamb direct from a producer?
Should I ask for a young lamb?
Do you feed hormones or antibiotics to your sheep?
Do you feed animal or poultry byproducts to your sheep?
Why should I buy a locker lamb from you?
Should I order individual cuts, or a whole or half lamb?

 


Why should I buy lamb direct from a producer?
Aside from the benefits of knowing where your food comes from, and often a lower price, it is the only way you will consistently get lamb of excellent quality and good plate coverage.

In a US supermarket, you will find three (3) types of lamb:  1) New Zealand lamb, 2) Australian lamb, and 3) American lamb.  Each has its own characteristics.  New Zealand lamb is typically grass-finished Coopworth and Coopworth-cross sheep.  If weather conditions in NZ were good when the lamb was finished, flavor and tenderness will be good, if conditions were bad, then not so good.  (I don’t think the best NZ lamb compares with the best American lamb, but you are unlikely to find the best American lamb in a supermarket.)  The biggest negative with NZ lamb is size and cost; NZ lambs are slaughtered at around 80#, and chops are tiny by American standards.  Providing adequate “plate coverage,” in restaurant-speak, can therefore be a pricy proposition.  Australian lamb is typically also grass-fed, but Merino-cross and stronger-flavored, and frequently tougher as finishing conditions in Australia are rarely as good as in NZ.  American lamb in the supermarket can be anything – grain-finished, legume-finished, or grass-finished, any size, any breed, and of varying ages.  Plate coverage is typically better than NZ/Aus lamb, but of widely varying flavor profile and quality.  (This is the main reason, by the way – not currency exchange rates – why the US market for lamb has shrunk overall, and that NZ lamb increases its market share in the US, despite it’s small size and cost – it’s at least consistent.)

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Should I ask for a young lamb?
Not unless you want a small whole lamb to put on a spit for that special barbecue, or for an ethnic specialty dish. 

(And the usual followup questions:  Aren’t young lambs more tender, and mild-tasting?  Aren’t older lambs, and mutton, strong-flavored and tough?)

There are surely more misconceptions (and complete nonsense) in circulation concerning lamb and mutton than any other meats.   A few years ago I posted a discussion of this topic to one of the sheep Yahoo! Groups.  It gets reposted and quoted with some regularity, which indicates that even experienced sheep people are not always clear on this topic.

Like beef, flavor develops with age.  It is ironic that people who would never buy veal (“too bland!”) will insist on the sheep equivalent of veal!  This attitude, however, is a perfectly logical reaction to bad experiences with poorly-finished, bad-tasting sheep (i.e., “If the flavor’s not that great, let’s get a young one that’s got less of it.”).  University studies, with properly grown and finished lamb, have shown the highest satisfaction with hoggets (aged 9 to 12 months) and yearlings (aged 12 months to 2 years).  This is older than most lamb sold in markets.  Our experience has been that a properly-grown and finished lamb is going to taste good, irrespective of age.  (Most of the locker sheep we sell are lambs between 5 and 9 months of age, with the occasional yearling.)  Moreover, very young lambs are small, and with processing costs, a poor value for the money relative to older, larger sheep.

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Do you feed hormones or antibiotics to your sheep?
Hormones, never.  Antibiotics, only for medical conditions that specifically require their use.  Importantly for you, the buyer, we do not administer “fed antibiotics” to our lambs as a growth supplement.
 

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Do you feed animal or poultry byproducts to your sheep?
Never. Sheep are ruminant herbivores, and should be fed accordingly!
 

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Why should I buy locker lamb from you?
Good question.  Short answer:  we know sheep on the hoof, and lamb on the plate.

As a seedstock producer, we pay more attention to detail – at every level – than any other kind of livestock operation.  The health of our stock is an overriding concern.  Due to the various health certification programs of which we are a part, our sheep are inspected every year by a USDA veterinarian.  How we grow, care for, and feed our locker sheep reflects this kind of attention to detail.  We don’t feed antibiotics, hormones, or animal by-products.  Our locker sheep are managed for flavor profile, tenderness, and the proper amount of “finish” (i.e., marbling).  They are processed in USDA-inspected facilities of impeccable reputation.  The breed we raise – the Suffolk – is the meat sheep breed par excellence, used worldwide more than any other to produce premium lamb.

On the culinary side, the proprietors of this business are “foodies” of an advanced order – avid cooks, and food industry professionals with 45 years combined experience.  They eat a lot of lamb, work with recipes constantly, and know the kind of lamb they want on the plate.

As a result, the most frequent comment we hear from first-time purchasers is “I’ve never had lamb like that before!”, and most of our customers are repeat buyers.  We offer advice on cutting, coordinate custom cutting and delivery, and provide proven recipes to ensure that your exploration of cooking lamb is successful.

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Should I order individual cuts, or a whole or half lamb?
This depends on the size of your freezer. Unlike a locker beef purchase, a half lamb will fit into the freezer compartment of an ordinary kitchen refrigerator/freezer. Even a whole lamb takes up only one shelf of a large upright freezer. A half or whole lamb is the better buy, if you like all the cuts. On the other hand, buying individual cuts lets you pick out exactly what you want. If you're a "newbie" to lamb cooking, we'd recommend a half lamb, which lets you try out a number of recipes at a modest cost.

928 NW Camellia Drive • Corvallis, OR 97330 • 541.753.4812 •  ThickSheep@gmail.com  • Club Lamb Page Breeding Sheep Page
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