According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, sales of lamb has progressively declined over the last 15 years and when I think about it, I am probably one of the contributors to this decline as my natural instinct when picking a meat generally gravitates to cuts of beef, pork and if the missus has anything to do with it, chicken. But why is this?
One school of thought is that as a generation we are just "too busy" to invest our time in committing to the lamb Sunday roast, but we know quite well that I'll happily spend eight hours gently caressing a slab of brisket so I don't buy into this. Hell, in Greece Lamb is an integral part of their cuisine and I can't be the only one who opts for lamb in my ruby murray or doner kebab over chicken. So why the decline in us Brits actually cooking it? My belief is a lack of confidence in cooking skill and knowledge so I've been researching.
Until the 1950s the value of a sheep was in the wool used for clothing and consumers happily ate older cuts of meat such as mutton and hogget. The introduction and increased availability of man made fabrics forced a decline in wool and the sheep farmers fostered a market for lamb through necessity.
New to me, not all lamb is the same and like with many other meats the end product is dependant on the feed and age of the slaughtered animal:
Baby or Milk lamb - very small with no fat and moist with a link pink meat very similar to veal and very much loved by the French for it's tenderness. Generally only approximately 3 months old and has only fed on it's mothers milk.
Spring lamb - Some white fat and marbling with a deeper rosy pink colour. Approximately 4 -9 months old.
Winter Lamb - similar to Spring lamb only a bit larger, darker in colour with a little more fat. Approximately 10 - 11 months old.
When selecting lamb it should be fresh and have a bright colour. The fat should be firm, white, waxy and crumbly and the meat moist but not wet.
I'm also of the view that cost may be a contributing factor putting consumers off buying lamb. When you can buy a whole chicken for less than a fiver and make your own burger from a pack of mince and these are your go to recipes, its no surprise that we are avoiding the lamb aisle. But I have good news...
Get on the net! There are a number of small English producers selling direct at competitive prices which kilo for kilo can out match your local Tescos as well as being clear on what you are getting. Look out for the Quality Standard Mark where the supplier has been through a strict selection process to ensure that their meat is succulent and tender. QSM lamb is produced to higher standards than required by law with a supply chain which is fully assured and independently inspected at every stage.
Of course, me being me and now on a mission to raise the profile of lamb found myself wandering around Smithfields last week and investing in this 3kg little beauty, a snip at £17 to feed the entire family this week with a roast dinner cooked on the wood pellet grill.
Head on over to the recipes section for the new Toasty Roasty Section for a selection of BBQ roast dinner ideas and recipes and keep the comments coming!