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Young, pink Ontario lamb

We reeeaaaalllly dislike NZlamb (the smell and taste) and so I am always on the hunt for Ontario lamb (young, pink, good quality). Anyone want to share their source. I checked the SLM meat place (name escapes me, by the stairs Witt...) and we were not that pleased. Plus, many of their cuts are seasoned and cryovacked.

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  1. Cumbrae's sources their lamb very carefully, usually S.W. Ont., but sometimes Q.C.


    A lot of people like the fresh Australian lamb at Costco, so that may be worth a shot.

    1. Try Bruno's expensive but good. Costco is now selling US lamb which has a stonger flavor than Ontario lamb but it's interesting.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mexivilla

        I second Bruno's, have had good Ontario lamb from there. The St Clair Market has good lamb too (I know it's really a Loblaws but the butcher is good.)

        1. Highland Farms and some Loblaws meat counters carry Ontario lamb but at a price. As others suggested, Costco is worth a look, too.

          This item might also help:

          1. I believe the people at Vince Gasparro raise their own lamb. Vince Gasparro is a butcher shop on Bloor between Christie and Ossington. You can search this board for other discussions of Gasparro's. Personally, it's my favourite place for lamb.

            1. Lots of Ontario lamb at the Greek butchers on and around the Danforth. Personally we like Ellas on Pape. This is the only lamb I've ever bought so I can't compare it with others, but I can attest no cryovac or seasoning, and they will butcher it to order for you if you want a cut they don't have out.

              7 Replies
              1. re: julesrules

                There is a butcher on Eglinton road in Mississauga, just west of Mississauga road behind the HSBC bank branch. Always fresh ONTARIO lamb and super cheap. $4.99/lb.

                Place is always busy and I have never been dissapointed with the lamb. If you don't like whats on the counter, they will cut you a fresh piece of your liking. That's IT!..I'm BBQ-ing lamb tonight.

                1. re: soze

                  What cuts at that price, soze? Is this the once-Chinese market in the Chase strip mall on the north side of Eglinton?

                  1. re: Kagemusha

                    Musha...>That's the place. All the cuts I have ever bought were at that price.

                    1. re: soze

                      Will try 'em. Have you ever checked Town and Country? It's a Middle Eastern market hidden behind the big Shell station around Central Pkwy+Hurontario. Have heard its lamb is good, too.

                      1. re: Kagemusha

                        never have...I drive by there almost every day...will have to check it out...thanx.

                  2. re: soze

                    Thanks so much for this tip; I am right near there, and didn't have a clue about this place!

                  3. re: julesrules

                    The lamb sold at Ella's gets seasoned on the truck as it's transported to the store :-)

                    Have you ever seen it being taken off the truck? The carcasses are just lying directly on the floor of the delivery truck, and not wrapped up in any way. The driver then tosses them over his shouldder, and into the store he goes.

                  4. I am simply shocked that no one has mentioned Best Baa Farms at the St Lawrence Farmers' Market and now at Riverdale and Dufferin Grove. I've been buying from the ladies at the SLFM for years. Never been disappointed. Simply outstanding quality.

                    While you're there, try their cheeses and yogurt. You may never look at another cow.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Googs

                      I am glad someone else suggested this place. Their lamb is really very lovely!

                      1. re: Otonabee

                        I know. You kinda hafta decide whether to keep it a secret or share with others. The lamb ribs sell out first for a reason and boy I love the ribs. During warmer weather months, I typically cut it into rib chops, lightly marinade, and grill on the cue over some pecan & cherry wood smoke chips. Lambie pie heaven.

                        1. re: Googs

                          Yeah I know of what you speak. I have found sometimes that letting your rbest hidden secrets sometimes backfires ;) As to Best Baa I really love their ground lamb. Combine with fresh mint, garlic and a few other things and serve with raita. The best Lamb burger ever.

                      2. re: Googs

                        SLFM, is that the St.lawrence market or the farmers market across the street?

                        1. re: BamiaWruz

                          St. Lawrence farmer's market. The stall is across from St. Clement's Poultry on the east side at the north end.

                          1. re: Otonabee

                            Seems that many of us buy lamb at Best Baa SLM,
                            but unfortunately it is Sat. only.
                            We too, do not like the New Zealand lamb, but tried the Australian from Cosco this summer on a few occasions, and DH actually preferred it to the Ontario.
                            In the summer we also cut the rack into chops to B.B.Q.

                      3. I know this is off to the left... I just spent the weekend in Iceland, and Icelandic lamb is the best I have ever tasted.
                        All of the chefs that I interviewed said the same thing about it: The lambs are basically wild, and the stock hasn't been cross bred or messed with for a 1,000 years - since the Vikings arrived with the first sheep.

                        Now here at home my preference would be Ontario lamb grown close to home, but if I were to stumble upon some meat from Iceland I would pounce without thinking twice.


                        20 Replies
                        1. re: legourmettv

                          Maybe unwittingly, I think you've nailed the key issue. WHAT'S THE BREED?
                          There are several different breeds of sheep and the key is to find the breed that you prefer. I recall many(!) years ago being astounded by some lamb I ate in a long-gone place on Church St. They told me the secret was that it was Washington State lamb. Whitehouse meats used to stock this, but after 911 the border crossings were restricted, so it was only available here if frozen - so Whitehouse dropped the product and switched to 'fresh' Ontario - which I find much milder in taste (some say this is a good thing). Subsequently I had a further revelation (at another extinct restaurant on Queen St) - again Washington State - now available from the Butcher Shoppe - which is where I still get my lamb (albeit frozen before shipping). I had assumed it was the diet (Quebec lamb from near the St Lawrence purportedly tastes different - more salty) but after finding that Colorado lamb also didn't excite me decided to investigate further. That's when I disovered that around 100 years ago there was a large emigration to the Pacific NorthWest from the Basque area (mostly Spain) and that they had brought the Pyrenees Sheep with them - but to make sheeps' cheese. Over time this breed was also reared as eatin' rather than milkin'. So the Washington State Lamb comes from a separate breed. As, apparently, does the Icelandic!
                          I guess it's time for a lamb tasting! I know that the lambs used to prune the leaves from Ontario grape vines have now been slaughtered. Will one raised on pinot noir vines taste different from one raised on cabernet? Stay tuned - I think I'll be getting to taste both this month.
                          Incidentally, I can usually distinguish New Zealand from Ontario from Washington State from Australian, although I often confuse Colorado. In restaurants in Toronto, the best (for me) is usually Australian - easy to recognise as it's significantly more tender than Ontario (and milder than New Zealand). Ontario often has stringy parts (muscles/tendons) and is the mildest of all. Certainly the choice for people who really don't like lamb (as they recall it from childhood). And the reason the Australian is the most tender - it's aged longer. Those smart Aussies set out to conquer the north American (and European) markets, with a long-term plan. Brilliant in its simplicity, they 'age' the lamb by shipping it in refrigerated ships from Australia. This allows the lamb to age for 21-28 days while in transit, and, at the same time, is cheaper than air-shipping. So they develop a premium product at lower cost. The simplest ideas are the best.
                          Now to find a cheap trip to Iceland - I've been following the air prices but it's still too high for me - but who knows what will happen with the latest financial happenings?

                          1. re: estufarian

                            Last spring Cumbrae's had a supply of Texel lambs from Elgin county. Texel is a remote North Sea Island at the tip of Holland, with a breed that has not changed for 1000 years. I'm sure Cumbrae's will repeat this next spring in April or May, as the meat was tender and mild, and a real success.

                            1. re: jayt90

                              I'm pretty sure they're also raising Texel in New Zealand - so presumably 'all' NZ lamb is not the same. Apparently their main attribute is that they survive winter very well - but indeed the taste is unknown (to me).

                              1. re: estufarian

                                The main attribute of Texel is good wool production, but they are very fine as lamb meat if not too large.

                                1. re: jayt90

                                  Sorry, I know this was posted a long time ago but wanted to add Texels are not noted for their wool although it is relatively fine, they are used in Ontario to produce meat as the are double muscled. Google for pics.

                            2. re: estufarian

                              I just started a thread in the Quebec section looking for Central Asian lamb. I had the pleasure of sampling this exquisite meat over my time spent during the past few years in Russia.... at take-your-pick Georgian or Armenian restaurant in any major Russian city (and I imagine, all the better in Tbilisi!).

                              The lamb and mutton, it was explained to me, is trucked or flown into Moscow / St. Pete fresh ... and so if you are fond of gamy, aromatic, relatively fatty meat, you would simply adore this variety. Nothing I have ever sampled from the Americas or Western Europe comes close in terms of the intensity of characteristic lamb flavor that is so enjoyable. So much so that I have embarked on finding it anywhere in Eastern Canada... but doubt I will, as I believe it is Western European breeds which prevail.

                              I believe the breed I am after is Karakul, with an unchanged 1400 year history in Central Asia.

                              1. re: estufarian

                                Estufarian do you know of any butchers selling Australian lamb or is this something only encountered in restaurants? TIA.

                                1. re: Apprentice

                                  Actually the best and cheapest source for Australian lamb is Costco. Bought some chops from there a few weeks ago and were simply blown away.

                                  But of course you can only get your basic cuts, so for anything more exotic...yeah, I don't know.

                                  1. re: Apprentice

                                    I've seen it at Longo's but haven't checked recently. I stick with the Washington State (irony - I'm typing this in Seattle - and haven't been able to find Washington State Lamb here - all simp[ly USDA (mind you I'm not aggressively searching for this ingredient in particular)

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      Although this is an old thread, the post below shows still some interest.
                                      And, by coincidence I'm having an Australian vs. Ontario vs New Zealand 'taste-off' this week.
                                      But Australian is no longer available at Longo's (nor Fiesta Farms which also carried it for a while).

                                      1. re: estufarian

                                        I'll be interested to hear about the results. I've noticed the ON lamb varies quite a bit this year, depending on where you buy it. I've been very happy with the cuts I've bought at Cumbrae's. Are you going to include ON lamb from a few sources? Last time I checked, Costco was still selling Australian chops. I much prefer ON lamb to the Costco lamb.

                                        1. re: prima

                                          It's being done at a restaurant - i'll find out as much about the provenance as I can.

                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            I hope you post the results (with restaurant name - if permissible).

                                            1. re: Apprentice

                                              It's a special dinner for 10 people with a menu specially prepared for us - so not sure they'll ever repeat it. But I have no problem with results (except we'll have better wines!).

                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                OK results.

                                                A small sample and perhaps some cooking differences but the majority view was

                                                Best - Ontario

                                                #2 Australia

                                                #3 Alberta

                                                #4 New Zealand.

                                                Personally I was surprised by the depth of flavour in the Ontario lamb - in the past I've found it very mild (sometimes so mild it had no distinct flavour). But this is the second time in a month, at different restaurants, that I have failed to clearly identify Ontario lamb - in the past I've found it relatively simple. I did notice that the meat seemed to be a little fattier on the Ontario lamb, and speculated that might be the reason - however, later in the meal the New Zealand version had a higher proportion of fat yet that was easily in last place.

                                                As just mentioned, the New Zealand was easily last - it had the strongest flavour but seemed 1-dimensional. I grew up on this, so thought I had a good food memory (although in recent years have mostly had Australian and Washington) and I found it jarring - reminded me of cheap (and nasty) wine!

                                                The Alberta may have been my first sampling - but it was more like my 'usual memory' of Ontario - milder and a bit on the tough side (not a high fat ratio?). And the Australian was pretty good, except just outperformed by the Ontario - chef wasn't aware of the specific origin or farm - he had just ordered a rack (or two) and split it into chops.

                                                I still think my favourite is Washington State (not available from the restaurant's normal supplier) - but on this occasion, the Ontario deserved to be 'Champion'.

                                                And the wines were similarly surprising - the unheralded 1920 Chateau Haut Gardere beat out more highly renowned names. But that's a different topic.

                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                  Do you know the provenance of the Ontario lamb?
                                                  I really think breed and terrain, possibly including finishing feed, are extremely important. Place names like entire states or countries may not predict or yield a consistent product, because of the individual variables.

                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                    "chef wasn't aware of the specic origin or farm"

                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                      Yes, that's what I thought you said, but I'm still curious. I won't press you for the restaurant source, but I suppose it might be listed in the wine tasting group.

                                        2. re: estufarian

                                          Fiesta Farms has Australian Lamb back in stock (frozen). It's comparable to New Zealand prices (within 10%).

                                  2. re: legourmettv

                                    Having just eaten Icelandic lamb, the bones are on my plate as I type, I find the flavor quite mild. My favorite is still Australian. For those interested Whole Foods Mississauga is selling Icelandic lamb for a seasonal period.

                                  3. http://www.torontolife.ca/features/me...

                                    Sides of pork are about 100 pounds, custom cut and wrapped to the customer’s specifi­cations. $3.65 per pound. Grass-fed beef, lamb and free-run poultry also available. 905-775‑5520, www.dingofarms.ca

                                    You have to read that article! Buy directly from the Farmer and you'll get the freshest product!

                                    1. If you have the room, there is a place just outside of Hamilton where you can buy it direct from the farmer. They usually sell it in "freezer packs", and I think they have a couple of different packs. I have only had the lamb, and it is fantastic.


                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: bcg97

                                        The Icelandic lamb I had while in Iceland was nothing short of spectacular. Is the lamb they're selling at Whole Foods actually from Iceland? There are American farms raising Icelandic breeds, but they would taste different due to their diets and the weather conditions. In Iceland, the sheep roam free and graze on the the plants, grasses and berries that grow from the extremely volcanic soil. The island gets sea winds from all sides. There is no way to mimic those conditions in North America. I am quite positive that the meat quality from that type of sheep will be high no matter what the diet, as long as the herds are responsibly raised, but the taste could range quite dramatically.

                                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                                          Back in 2009 (above) I 'speculated' that breed was more significant than location/rearing. HOWEVER within a breed I'm sure that there are local and regional differences.

                                          And somewhere in the distant past, on a similar topic I also speculated that 'beef' breed could be more significant than feed - again, I'm still waiting for a refutation (and similarly agree that grass-fed and corn-fed make a difference within breed).
                                          [That thread revolved around my search for Longhorn Beef].

                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                            1sweetpea, I have to question Icelandic sheep thriving on berries. Sheep everywhere, including wild, prefer broadleaf weeds and plants, clover, and grasses in that order. They can die from from some fruits and nuts, such as cherries and acorns. Broadleaf forbs are the most nutrtious diet for sheep, so perhaps Iceland has a unique natural supply of these plants and no expensive grain finishing. The terrain will also help in developing lean muscles, similar to Texels, and this trait can be successfully moved to other domains.

                                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                                              It is imported from Iceland. As Estufarian alludes to we could have eaten different breeds (I'm 100% certain breed impacts cattle flavor, along with diet) or we have differing palates. My post was to communicate my "results" and to inform others of the availability so they can try for themselves, I don't doubt it tasted spectacular to you.

                                          2. I almost didn’t post this for fear of impacting my off season supply of Ontario lamb; however, I felt it was my duty to lovers of good lamb in the Toronto area to share this.

                                            IMHO… Outside of Spring, when everyone seems to sell decent Ontario lamb, for quality, service and value Toronto’s hands down winner is Macelleria Venezia on Bloor St near Ossington. It’s a few blocks west of another great supplier of Ontario lamb Vince Gasparro's. Between the two, Macelleria Venezia is slightly superior for the quality and price of lamb and clearly superior for service and atmosphere. Also worth noting, Gasparro’s sometimes has better chicken and Macelleria Venezia usually better everything else. I definitely agree with many of the other recommendations but you have to question paying $50-$55 / kg for something that should cost $18-20 / kg.

                                            If you are making grilled rib/rack chops Macelleria Venezia will almost always have un-Frenched racks including the belly for $8-10/lb… I’ve never understood why so many people prefer to remove the delicious meat between the rib bones.

                                            P.S. Here’s an excellent recipe for Greek style grilled lamb chops from one of America’s top Greek restaurants Kokkari in San Fran.: Search thedailymeal website for grilled-lamb-chops-kokkari-dressing. (yum). Don’t use the epicurious version it’s not accurate. Try to cook it to at least medium well / well to ensure the fat turns into a golden crust.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Prince_Ed

                                              Thanks for mentioning Macelleria Venezia.

                                              I realized you mention Macelleria Venezia sells un-Frenched racks including belly for $8-$10/lb.

                                              How much does Macelleria Venezia sell their racks (not including the belly) for? Most places I've shop have been charging $21.99/lb-$23.99/lb for racks, and $9.99-$11.99/lb for leg lately.

                                              I haven't been questioning paying $21.99/lb for rack of local lamb, because that's how much at least a half dozen places seliing quality local lamb have been charging. I could save a little by heading to the Danforth or the Market, but if I factor in the time spent travelling, the parking fees or subway tokens, I don't end up saving much.

                                              I've always figured local lamb is more expensive to raise and there's less demand for it, so the grocers have no choice but to charge that type of price. The only way I know of getting around the price is to buy a whole lamb.

                                              1. re: prima

                                                Frenched and with the cap and belly removed both Macelleria Venezia and Vince Gasparro's seem to fluctuate between $15 and $18 / lb for the local lamb. Not a huge savings vs. $22 / lb - unless you need several pounds – then it’s worth the drive. I’ve read (not sure it’s true) that Gasparro’s raises their own lamb.

                                                I’m in the west end of Toronto so there aren’t many good options. I’ve had mutton flavoured lamb too many times from Bruno’s, a few expensive let-downs from Whitehouse Meats and Loblaws charges $27 /lb! Other places seem to charge even more or they are selling dark oversized “lamb”.

                                                When I need lots, I find that it is a better value to pay the $8 – 10 /lb for untrimmed racks from Macelleria Venezia or one of the other owner-operated local butchers and save the small pieces of belly meat for another purpose.

                                                1. re: Prince_Ed

                                                  thanks for writing back. I'll check out both Macelleria Venezia and Gasparro's next time I'm in the west end.

                                                  Didn't realize Loblaws would have the nerve to charge $27/lb, which is more than Pusateri's or Cumbraes tend to charge for rack.

                                                  If you ever do decide to splurge (again) downtown, I've been very happy with Cumbrae's lamb (which was closer to $22/lb for rack, last time I was there)

                                                  1. re: prima

                                                    I haven't tried macelleria venezia, but now we're on the look out for some young goat (half or whole).

                                            2. There is a new vendor at the Brickworks that specializes in lamb. Buschbeck Farms. The are located just next to Marvellous Edibles.

                                              I gather they have a small farm up around Markdale. I picked up some fresh ground lamb and it was a lovely very light pick so I am thinking it should be VERY good.

                                              Apparently they will be there every week and it looked like they had a pretty good selection selection.

                                              1. Not having purchased much, if any Lamb in my years cooking (I know, shameful!), I am somewhat at a loss for a source which is (somewhat) local.

                                                Costco will be my fall back if there are no other suggestions, but can anyone suggest a source for good lamb (it appears Ontario is favored) north of say, Finch?

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Sadistick

                                                  North of Finch, in which general area/radius? Any particular cuts you're looking for?

                                                  For fresh lamb, I swear by Kostas Meat Market on Ellesmere, west of Warden, on the South side.

                                                  Kostas has all different sizes of lambs on premise and will cut them down to whatever you order

                                                  1. re: dachopstix

                                                    Thanks dachopstix.

                                                    I suppose I should have been slightly more specific. Ideally boundaries would be between Dufferin - Leslie, though I am willing to travel.

                                                    I am looking for lamb chops.

                                                    I read that Stuart Carroll butchers was decent, which is in the farmers market just north of Yonge and Clark....

                                                    1. re: dachopstix

                                                      Kostas lamb is fairly mediocre. Good for large family backyard bbq's, but not meant for any intense dining. Highland Farms Kennedy & Ellesmere is actually better. Absolute top drawer in the north is McEwan. Say what you will about McEwan, but the lamb does not lie.

                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                        Thanks for the update. I was in town last week/two weeks ago and I missed this post. I am going to try and get up to TO again.

                                                    2. re: Sadistick

                                                      I haven't bought any lamb north of Finch, but I have liked the lamb I've bought at the Bayview Village Pusateri's north of Sheppard.

                                                      Cumbrae's has been my go-to for lamb south of the 401. Have also been meaning to buy some lamb at La Boucherie at St. Lawrence Market. http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/vendo...

                                                      1. re: prima

                                                        @Prima: You have taste my chowfriend!!

                                                        Yup! Both Pusateri's and Cumbrae have great quality Ontario Lamb but so are their sky-high prices!! Once in a while, I try to catch Bruno's product going on sale before buying. Equally good!

                                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                                          Even though it's pricey, Cumbrae's sometimes charges less for ON lamb than I often end up paying at a independent grocery store in London, ON, where legs run $12/lb, chops run around $22/lb, and racks run closer to $27/lb.

                                                          I'll keep Bruno's in mind- I don't end up shopping there too frequently!

                                                        2. re: prima

                                                          You'd do better than La Boucherie for lamb at Best Baa in the Farmers Market. La Boucherie's fine if it isn't Saturday.

                                                      2. Bought this 'Fresh Ontario Leg of Lamb' from Yummy Market North, yesterday. Noticed both veal and lamb on special

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                                          Result of the above Ontario Leg of Lamb from Yummy Market. Marinated in a Herbed Mustard Whie wine marinade before roasting to medium rare. Meat was very tender and not too gamey.

                                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                                            I don't know if it's just the lighting, but some of that looks a whole lot less than medium rare or even rare. Be careful Charles.

                                                            1. re: Googs

                                                              Thanks for your concern, Googs!
                                                              I think its just the lighting. The actually meat wasn't as red/pink. Definitely less rare. Anyways, I'm used to having this type of done-ness for my lamb after spending over 2 years living in Paris.
                                                              Still no sign of food poisoning so far!! Ha!

                                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                I cook it the same way, but it took some practice. The one time I got it wrong, I really paid for it. Good luck.

                                                        2. I just bought a bone-in shoulder at Arz. Haven't cooked it yet, but it looks really good - small bones, young animal! Well butchered (he cut it from a hanging carcass when I ordered it!) and the price is a reasonable $14.31/kg.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: gttahaveit

                                                            Now THAT's worth serious investigation.

                                                            1. re: Googs

                                                              Braised in white wine with cannellini beans, it was as good or better than any I've had at various famers' markets at twice the price!

                                                          2. I've had really serious lamb from a vendor at our local farmers market. Yesterdays I learned from her that she can provide a whole lamb to my specs at $6/lb dressed weight - just over $13/k. Cut to our specs.

                                                            I have grown increasingly fond of the "gamey" taste as time passed and so will also consider an older beast.

                                                            1. It is going to be difficult to find consistent lamb at any retailer. Taste varies hugely with age and feed and buyers do not know either when they select animals sold at auction. The only way to control the taste is to buy direct from a producer. Ontario lamb has a locator that helps you connect with a sheep producer in an area that suites you.
                                                              Remember when you buy direct you are helping support a local farmer, and therefor the local economy! Don't send your hard earned dollars into the pockets of huge international corporations like Cosco and then oversees to Australia, New Zealand or even the US.