A guide to sourcing the best quality meat:
three questions to ask your butcher about lamb
The wide variety of breeds used in British farming, and the more natural nature of sheep rearing, means lamb tends to vary in taste and texture. This is a great thing, because it truly means it’s a product of the landscape it was reared in.
So, how do you ensure you’re buying the best lamb from your butcher? Here’s what you need to ask…
1. HOW WAS IT FARMED?
Sheep are traditionally grazed on land that doesn’t have much other agricultural use – such as poor quality hillsides. They also fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields, which means it makes economic sense to allow them to roam free. You’re looking for a lamb raised like this.
2. WAS IT CORN FED AND IF SO HOW MUCH OF THEIR DIET WAS CORN?
A rising number of farmers are turning to corn to fatten up their sheep in time for the Easter lamb market. A high-protein diet changes the texture and cooking quality – lamb shouldn’t be super lean. It’s also uncomfortable for any animal to grow unnaturally quickly.
3. WAS IT STUNNED AT SLAUGHTER?
Compassion in World Farming has calculated that a staggering 3.5 million sheep and goats are subject to non-stunned slaughter in the UK annually, based on the newly-released Food Standard Agency figures.
did you know?
We predominantly eat lamb in the UK, which is a sheep up to 14 months old that hasn’t given birth, commonly eaten from five months upwards. But hogget can be delicious, too. At 15 or 16 months old the lamb will erupt two dominant teeth in its bottom jaw, that’s a true hogget. It’s increasingly popular on British menus and is very similar to lamb, with a slightly deeper taste and finer grain.
Mutton is a sheep that’s two years old or above, again offering a deeper flavour.