Vancouver Olympics, but the sunshine, cherry blossoms, and crocuses poking their heads up in the garden makes me feel like shaking the winter off the Weber to do some grilling.
I went on a quest to do a side-by-side comparison of American grain fed lamb, New Zealand lamb, and American grass fed lamb. American lamb used to be far more expensive than New Zealand lamb but recently I've noticed American prices being the same or less. The animals are larger, fattier, and have a much milder flavor that their down under counterparts. Last week we ate some American grain fed lamb that was so mild it tasted like beef. It got me thinking about this blog post. The problem for me is that American grain fed lamb doesn't taste the same as the full flavored lamb I ate as a kid.
Today I wanted to see how the small local farms' pastured lamb, a growing market, compares to the other guys. I'd much rather buy fresh lamb, grown near my home, than frozen packets that travel across oceans, but I also want a product that tastes good.
I'm a bit of a lamb cheerleader. In part it's because we rarely serve it in the restaurant, so it's a change from my usual barbecue bounty. But the real reason is because I think the lamb industry has the opportunity to be responsible. It has never been a huge industry here in the US - we only consume about 1.2 pounds per capita each year as compared to about 61 pounds of beef and chicken each. Rather than join the "big bad raise 'em big and pump 'em full of drugs to keep 'em alive" beef, pork and chicken industries, lamb could take a stand.
local PCC, because I read that they had local pastured (100% grass fed) lamb from Umpqua Valley. (I often buy lamb at farmer's markets, but none were open near me this time of year on a Thursday.) I picked a lower cost shoulder blade chop ($6.49/lb) because I wanted a cut that would have some marbling and muscle to give it more flavor. I also didn't need to buy three costly racks of lamb for this experiment.
grids I checked have it going down a bit. Grain prices haven't decreased, and fuel is sky high. So how is it that I can buy American lamb at $4.99/lb? There is always a cost, you just might not be the one paying for it. Someone paid for that cheap t-shirt from China. Maybe it was a child working in desolate conditions, or it was paid for in damages to the environment, but there is always a cost. In the case of this particular lamb, it may be the farms themselves taking the hit in their effort to stay competitive.
Trader Joes in Ballard did have New Zealand lamb, though not the same shoulder chop. I had to purchase a better cut, a loin chop, at $9.49/lb.
The American grass fed from Umpqua Valley? Excellent! Though not as full flavored as the New Zealand, it tasted like lamb. Imagine that! The meat was tender, moist and delish.