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LAMB - Domestic vs imported

Any feelings on this? Years ago I used to freeze a couple of US lamb and bring them to my car for hire driver and his family,in Bermuda, as they could only get Aussie or New Zealand lamb. They found US superior.

Is that still regarded as a valid opinion? I just bought a semi boneless Aussie lamb leg at $2.99 lb and at that price will let it wet age and either grill it or cook it low and slow and let it rest rest rest.

So as we see the seasonal lamb sales, does anyone have an opinion regarding imported vs domestic lamb and how it differs? I like it a bit gamey and usually do the lemon garlic balsamic rosemary parsley route.

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  1. I much prefer my local Ontario lamb to any imported Australian or NZ lamb sold in Ontario. I find the flavour of the local lamb to be sweeter, and the Australian/NZ lamb to be somewhat 'muttony', rather than gamey. The local lamb from one of my two local sources often costs close to twice as much as the Australian lamb sold at Costco.

    1 Reply
    1. re: prima

      Interesting observation. Here in the UK, I only buy locally raised lamb - finding NZ lamb to be too mild in flavour for my tastes.

      I suspect that it's a combination of factors that give the British lamb its extra taste - breed of sheep, how/where it's raised, age at slaughter, how long its hung, etc.

    2. If you're going to cook it low and slow, you might want to consider making a lamb curry

      1 Reply
      1. re: mucho gordo

        do you have an opinion of domestic canadian/US vs Aussie/NZ.

        I would love to have a local source and would not mind paying double for that.

      2. You really can not make a comparison in those very general terms. There is a great variety of differences with in the US domestic market. Colorado Lamb does not taste like Sonoma Lamb does not taste like Texas Lamb.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefj

          100% agree. I can buy local lamb in the Reno area. I'd also say that local, small production lamb is going to taste different than big(ger) ag.

        2. I guess I don't eat enough if it to have a true opinion....we eat roast leg or lamb chops a few times a year... But fwiw, I worked for a caterer here in Beverly Hills, and she only bought Colorado lamb. Very tender, almost sweet and she got raves whenever we did a dinner with the lamb.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

            I lived 8 years in Colorado and was spoiled by delicious Colorado spring lamb. I lived 9 years in Texas, where sheepeaters are disparaged, and lamb is rarely featured in the prime meat case. Go figure. I was told it has something to do with sheep overgrazing beef pasture land in Texas. I was amused in Australia where lamb is half the price of beef.

            1. re: Veggo

              I would think sheep are cheaper to raise than cattle

              1. re: scubadoo97

                But Texas is cattle country, eating lamb is for pussies down there ;)

          2. Since the early 1970's its been a local choice for us.

            Imported from Oz or NZ, the lamb is mild flavored and has a different texture. A finer texture. American lamb has a more coarse texture. A "meaty" texture.
            Is it just the breed of sheep? The diet? The opposite seasons? I dunno.

            I do know that the whole spit roasted lamb will be enjoyed tomorrow. Sourced from Upstate New York (no longer do we go to Latrobe, Pa). Leftovers will not be found or needed to be dealt with. A distended stomach... lamb... wine... cheer... Happy Pascha !

            10 Replies
            1. re: Gastronomos

              NZ and Oz lamb are definitely stronger tasting and smelling than U.S. lamb, IMO. And others I've seen comment. I really don't like NZ lamb at all.

              1. re: mcf

                interesting polar opposite opinions

                1. re: Bellachefa

                  Yes, I know! I believe I recall Tom Colicchio talking about Americans preferring U.S. or Colorado lamb because it's milder, too.

                  Different folks experience things differently.

                  I buy Oz lamb and beef that I know to be only grass fed, and I find that much milder and less gamey to my tastes and my husband's compared to NZ meat, too.

                2. re: mcf

                  is it because they were frozen?
                  poor factory handling?
                  is it the breed?
                  The meat is awfully dark red for such a small animal.
                  I prefer fresh local lamb.
                  I guess if I were in NZ or Oz I would choose the fresh local lamb.
                  Either way, I get a whole lamb, about 35Lbs for our whole lamb spit roasted / open BBQ / Rotisserie for Pascha.
                  I also buy two more that I butcher myself for the freezer.
                  Sourced from Upstate New York (no longer do we go to Latrobe, Pa).
                  I'll admit that this lamb is MUCH smaller than a 'market lamb'. A single leg of lamb from these lambs is about 1/4 the size of a "market lamb". "Market lamb" is really mutton. It's practically a sheep.
                  Lamb, whether you choose the old school names of "baby lamb" or "spring lamb" should not have a gamey taste nor a 'mutton' flavor.
                  White meat, not dark red.
                  Otherwise we're talking supermarket offerings of dark red, strong flavored mutton sold as "lamb".

                  1. re: Gastronomos

                    I would love to get a whole lamb for my freezer but DH doesn't like it, so we don't have it often and not in much quantity.

                    I'm sure local lambs, and smaller ones are milder and better than the lamb from Oz we're getting.

                    From the size of the whole legs or chops we're getting, it's definitely not mutton, though, they're small.

                    1. re: mcf

                      "baby lamb" or "spring lamb" doesn't need to be bought whole. The butcher I go to is selling any lamb you like. Leg, chops, shoulder, etc.
                      it's quite nice. 'sweet' in flavor. light colored, "white" meat.
                      quite different from both the usual leg of lamb or chops I see in the supermarket or other butcher shops.
                      if ever in Queens, I recommend a stop by Plaza Meats (2318 31st St, Astoria, NY 11105 (718) 728-5577 ). Chris will be happy to show you around. And he also has anything else you might seek. Jim Leff praised the place in some post he made about sausages. It's that good. Your husband may change his mind after tasting this.

                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        How is it raised if it's white? With veal, they do that by horrible treatment and diet.

                        1. re: mcf

                          it's simply young, milk fed lamb. it hasn't had the opportunity to eat grass yet.

                          1. re: Gastronomos

                            So are they nursing? "Milk fed veal" means crammed into a crate with no room for activity and fed an iron deficient "milk" diet to keep the meat from darkening.

                            If it's Milk fed lamb" the same way, I am not interested.

                            1. re: mcf

                              If Plaza Meat in Astoria isn't your thing, this place upstate takes orders a week in advance for anything meat your heart desires:

                              Greenville (USDA butcher on premises)
                              10687 Rt 32
                              Greenville, NY 12083

              2. in the us, most commercial lamb is now grain-fed. its flavor is much milder and the meat is "softer" than what i ate as a child. i won't buy it.

                we have been getting nz lamb at costco which is always grass-fed. i let it wet-age in the fridge for awhile before i get to it and have enjoyed it quite a bit.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Our Costco only carries Oz lamb, are you certain yours is from NZ?

                  Also, U.S. lamb is primarily grass fed; not because producers don't want to grain feed them, but because they just don't do well health wise on grains. From all I've read, grain feeding does happen at some ranchers just before slaughter, but producers are increasingly moving away from it, reportedly.

                  Every source I've checked said only a few, not most, U.S. lamb producers use grain feeding at the end and that the numbers are decreasing. I may've missed a citation that you found, though.

                  1. I find US raised lamb to be superior in both flavor and texture than NZ lamb. It tends to be stronger in flavor and the texture is firm but not tough. But I know many folks who prefers NZ because it tends to be less "lamby" in flavor and the texture is very smooth/buttery.

                    I am picking up a 6 lb boneless Colorado lamb leg today. It will be covered in a rosemary/mustard/garlic paste overnight and then roasted to barely med. rare. My favorite holiday meal!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: foodieX2

                      In the early seventies around here 'Salt Spring Is. lamb was considered the 'gold standard for taste texture. It was only available on SS. In no time the large grocery stores in Vancouver 'pre-ordered' every SSI born. No more SSI on SSI right? A couple of years later thousands and thousands of SSI lambs was being sold all in grocery stores.
                      Even SSI grocery stores once agin had SSI lamb.
                      Funny thing. All of the land available to raise sheep on SSI would produce at most five hundred lambs a year.
                      Somehow the Island was able to increase it's lamb production to easily more than ten thousand.
                      Funny old world.

                    2. I'm a big lamb afficionado, and while I agree with those who say you can't generalize based solely on country of origin, the absolute best I've ever tasted (and it doesn't seem to have been mentioned here yet) is Icelandic lamb. My local Whole Foods gets it from time to time.

                      1. I only buy local (US) lamb. I only use chops, shanks, shoulder, breast and ground lamb chuck.
                        I don't buiy lamb that has been previously frozen or oacked with gases for long refrugerator shelf life as much of the Australian/NZ lamb is offered.

                        I prefer to buy my lamb on the hoof from local farmers and have it slaughtered and processed locally.

                        I am not fond of the lack of taste in the imported lamb.

                        Ian n ot comment on leg of lamb as this is not a cut I use.

                        1. We always try to buy NZ lamb. Even frozen it tastes better than most domestic lamb. Part of the reason for this IMHO is US lambs are typically older when they get slaughterrd and are more muttony. A lot of the taste will depend on where the mommy sheep got grazed. In France agneau du pre salee is highly prized - that's dead baby sheep whose mommy grazed on coastal salt prairie grass.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: kagemusha49

                            "...Part of the reason for this IMHO is US lambs are typically older when they get slaughtered and are more muttony..."

                            TRUE! and that is why I source local US "baby lamb" or "spring lamb" whole.... no strong flavor. no gamey flavor. no mutton. Just Lamb!


                            1. re: Gastronomos

                              As I understand it, "spring lamb" is BORN in the spring but slaughtered in the fall. Yes?

                              1. re: c oliver

                                From Wikipedia
                                Spring lamb — a milk-fed lamb, usually three to five months old, born in late winter or early spring and sold usually before July 1 (in the northern hemisphere).

                            2. re: kagemusha49

                              Absolutely correct that where the sheep graze can be a significant factor in flavour. Animals that spend their lives on hills are likely to have more flavour than those which spend relatively easier lives on lowland pasture. You will also find different breeds are better suited to different environments. For example, my favourite sheep for eating are Herdwicks, almost exclusively raised in a single county and entirely suited to living on the hills. They are very full flavoured even when lambs and, of course, even better when hogget or mutton.

                              Saltmarsh lambs/sheep are inherently lowland grazers and have a slightly different taste to other lowlands because of the food they eat. In turth, I'm not sure I could identify them in a blind tasting (but that may be more about my palate than the lamb). They are otherwise treated as other animals in terms of age at slaughter, etc - although I suspect the flocks are relatively small and there isn't the financial margin to raise them to hoggets or mutton.