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maggiethecat

Why Is Lamb so Expensive and Elusive?

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Most small scale farmers don't have access to USDA licensed slaughter facilities. They can use state licensed lockers who can process the whole animal for sale as either whole or half. Basically you are buying a live animal and having it processed. This meat can't be legally be sold in stores. A whole lamb is not much more than the chops, legs and rack so you may as well get it all.

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Chiming in from Hawaii, lamb is absent from most supermarket meat cases (there aren't really old-fashioned butcher shops here) except at Easter, when it's usually imported from Australia or New Zealand. I can find it at Costco or Sam's Club most of the year, also imported, but only as legs/boneless legs or occasionally $$$ racks.

It's certainly declined in popularity from when I was a child in the 1950s and we ate lamb chops at least once every two weeks. They were fattier and gamier then, too.

Save eGullet and a few friends, most people I speak to, both in real life and online, about lamb turn their noses up, either because they think it's too gamy, or because they picture cute fluffy baby sheep. They're generally the same people who freak out at the thought of eating rabbit.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

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Yeah, I hear the "gamy" thing too, which I don't understand. Perhaps some of the Med garlic and rosemary cooked on a spit dishes make them think "gamy" but it isn't. At all. It's mild and meaty and piquant and precious.

In fact, way back, the most romantic dinner a lover ever cooked me was two perfectly pink chops, with asparagus and handmade hollandaise whipped up in a love nest with a mini fridge, a stove and cockroaches belly up in the rental wineglasses. There was no touch of game, just the rosy crusty bliss of two beautifully cooked lamb chops. Tender tasty pretty meat.

My English grandmother told me that the tallow in mutton could be overpowering, but the sweet young stuff I occasionally buy as lamb is not dressed with thick yellow tallow. (Not that that's a bad thing!)


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

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the rack of lamb we had for Easter dinner went over well. Even my niece and nephew liked it. So, it's not all bad out there. :)


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I notice that nearly all of the posts on this thread come from people residing in North America. One hates to rub salt into open wounds but the easy availability of lamb may be one of the most valid reasons to move to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine or Israel. Not only lamb readily available but also mutton and kid.

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There's a historical angle to this in North America as well... there were bloody "Range Wars" amongst the pioneers pushing westward across North America, and those wars decisively vanquished sheep herders and left the range open to cowboys and cattlemen. There may be some leftover symbolism from that conflict in the stocking choices of supermarkets in places that sided with the cattlemen. Sheep weren't just another meat choice, they were the enemy.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

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Cattle/sheep range wars reminds me of that Ogden Nash poem on the subject.

Depending on my plans I use various sources. The Middle Eastern market, all halal, is good for ground-fresh-all-day lamb for kebabs and so forth, and has more mature shanks and legs than one sees elsewhere. They have fresh, more expensive and domestic, and froz, of unknown provenance. No racks, though, ever, at this market. Other ME markets sometimes do.

Imported NZ and Aus dependably available at Costco and Trader Joe's, the little racks are mild to a fault but OK for Marcella Hazan parmesan crusted chops in a pinch.

Domestic, seems to be mostly Superior Farms from CO, the best taste and texture, legs run $3.99 or $4.99/lb., occasionally at a regular supermarket but always at the butcher shops, and racks $15.99 or $19.99/lb., more than twice what the imported ones cost. The butcher shop where they are already trimmed and Frenched is often on the lower end of the scale, fortunately, but feeding more than 2 is going to cost.

100% worth it, to me, but then lamb is a favorite in our house and so we make room for it.


Priscilla

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I notice that nearly all of the posts on this thread come from people residing in North America.  One hates to rub salt into open wounds but the easy availability of lamb may be one of the most valid reasons to move to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine or Israel.  Not only lamb readily available but also mutton and kid.

True, but it's still more expensive in Greece and Turkey than Beef is. Pork is also cheaper in Greece. (In Turkey pork, if you can find it, is quite expensive, but for other reasons.)

Here there are several different kinds of sheep. Some are only considered desirable at a young age, some are grown more for wool than for meat, some of them are really gamy. People who like mutton still sometimes talk about meat so gamy you "feel like you're kissing the sheep."

If you compare veal with beef, veal will be more expensive. Lamb is the equivalent; and even people who like mutton usually like lamb better.


"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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Maggie I feel your pain. Here in Western North Carolina, lamb is very hard to come by. Ham is the big seller this time of year.

I was only able to find two stores in my local area that carry lamb (and don't even get me started about the difficulty in locating veal!). In both stores, the lamb chops (with rib bone already cut off) run $14.99 a pound. Only one store sells racks, and they go for $19.99 a pound. At those prices, it makes it difficult to justify making a lamb dish on a regular basis...sigh.

Sadie's experience mirrors mine, also growing up in western NC (Rutherford county fyi) and now living in Charlotte--chops I can't recall offhand, but leg goes for 4.99-6.99 a pound depending on venue. Right now the meat cases I've seen are full of chops and shanks, and a fair portion of legs that are left over from easter stocking-up. Most places seem to at least stock a few items of lamb constantly but nothing like a prominent spot in the case except around holidays.

I'm hoping that post-easter I can get a decent looking leg a little cheaper as surplus gets sold off--I've never tried chops due to the expense, but I love doing up leg or shanks when I have the chance (and the budget!)


Edited by Malkavian (log)

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I recently returned from India, where "mutton" refers not to adult sheep, but to goat. It was delicious. Now goat is not easy to find outside of certain ethnic markets.

There's a meat goat farm in Saugerties, look them up next time you're headed south.

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...One hates to rub salt into open wounds but the easy availability of lamb may be one of the most valid reasons to move to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine or Israel.  Not only lamb readily available but also mutton...

I wonder if Kiddle can arrange to bring some home in her luggage next year?


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I notice that nearly all of the posts on this thread come from people residing in North America.  One hates to rub salt into open wounds but the easy availability of lamb may be one of the most valid reasons to move to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine or Israel.  Not only lamb readily available but also mutton and kid.

You can find lamb and goat at almost any Halal butcher. There are Halal butchers in nearly every city in the country. Lamb may be difficult to find at a local megamart in middle America, but that doesn't mean it's actually difficult to find.

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We import lamb from the US. I haven't really looked at the supermarkets here, but both Costco and a local wholesale that is part of a large nation-wide chain (Superstore/Loblaws) sells lamb, so I'd guess it's not too hard to find across Canada.

We sell kosher meat, and that's harder to find. So, our lamb comes from Iowa. They're not raising them just for me, so middle-America must be able to get it (though I only buy kosher, if they've got kosher, then they have non-kosher).

I find that my customers fall into 3 categories. The first are those who love lamb and will pay the high prices for it -- and at kosher prices, they have to be willing to pay a lot. The second are those who shy away from it. They're the ones who have had a bad 'muttony' experience. The third are those who have never had it because it was almost impossible to get for a long time.

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You can find lamb and goat at almost any Halal butcher.  There are Halal butchers in nearly every city in the country.

Sounds rather dogmatic to me. I haven't seen a halal butcher anywhere here in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia or the Florida west coast.

I wonder if there is a an association that might tell us how many there really are in the country and where.

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You can find lamb and goat at almost any Halal butcher.  There are Halal butchers in nearly every city in the country.

Sounds rather dogmatic to me. I haven't seen a halal butcher anywhere here in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia or the Florida west coast.

I wonder if there is a an association that might tell us how many there really are in the country and where.

Well, at least according to this website, there is at least one Halal market--and in a number of cases, several more than one--in each of the states/regions you mention above (North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Gulf Coast Florida). Mind you, there isn't a listing for "nearly every city"--but then, there may well be more out there than are listed on the website ...

(Just trying to be helpful. :biggrin: )

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You can find lamb and goat at almost any Halal butcher.  There are Halal butchers in nearly every city in the country.

Sounds rather dogmatic to me. I haven't seen a halal butcher anywhere here in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia or the Florida west coast.

I wonder if there is a an association that might tell us how many there really are in the country and where.

Well, at least according to this website, there is at least one Halal market--and in a number of cases, several more than one--in each of the states/regions you mention above (North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Gulf Coast Florida). Mind you, there isn't a listing for "nearly every city"--but then, there may well be more out there than are listed on the website ...

(Just trying to be helpful. :biggrin: )

Thank you Mizducky, :smile: I had already found the same website. Yes, you are right there are a number listed, but when you look at them, some are listed as "groceries and meat" while others show "groceries" only. Giving them the benefit of doubt and assuming when they list meat they are halal butchers, a quick check showed fifteen possibles in the Durham area and none for the coastal areas. For the West coast of FL, there are a total of six in Tampa, and none south of there or north all the way to Tallahassee. I didn't bother checking elsewhere but it would seem that the big cities may have a few, but they are certainly not "thick on the ground"! :hmmm:

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There's a historical angle to this in North America as well...  there were bloody "Range Wars" amongst the pioneers pushing westward across North America, and those wars decisively vanquished sheep herders and left the range open to cowboys and cattlemen.  There may be some leftover symbolism from that conflict in the stocking choices of supermarkets in places that sided with the cattlemen.  Sheep weren't just another meat choice, they were the enemy.

Riffing on this, the beef (and pork) industries appear to do much more PR than the lamb folks. I can vaguely recall a lamb ad or two, but have no problem remembering "Beef -- It's What's For Dinner" (with its irritating use of Aaron Copland's music) or the equally obnoxious but catchy "Pork -- The Other White Meat."


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Just providentially Bernard, our local sheep farmer, called today. He's going to deliver a spring lamb next week.

He farms just West of us, about 1/2 a mile away. He's passionate about his sheep & even drives a lot further to a special abattoir which is more humane.

His lambs are truly milk fed and absolutely delicious.

Can't wait!

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I was contemplating buying some lamb shoulder( low, low price of .99lb) for the Senior's. I thought I'd better check with the person in charge and was told NO, the Senior's no likey lamb.

I discussed this on the senior dining thread, and it was suggested that when they think lamb, they're really thinking mutton.

Anyway, long story short, I ended up buying 5 of them and hauling them on Via Rail to KerryBeal and Anna N. They enjoyed them!!

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There was lamb in the Kosher section of our local ShopRite yesterday- US$5.99 a pound for shanks, US$15.99 a pound for chops- and they were those tiny chops- which always freak me out and remind me of babies. My daughter is planning a foray to Lakewood for a lamb roast and some ground lamb. She likes it when I slice the roast into medallions and broil them. The ground lamb is for yebra and lahme'ajim- it's time to teach her how I prepare those foods.


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I was contemplating buying some lamb shoulder( low, low price of .99lb) for the Senior's.  I thought I'd better check with the person in charge and was told NO, the Senior's no likey lamb.

I discussed this on the senior dining thread, and it was suggested that when they think lamb, they're really thinking mutton.

Anyway, long story short, I ended up buying 5 of them and hauling them on Via Rail to KerryBeal and Anna N.  They enjoyed them!!

And I'm eating the last one of those shoulders tonight in a nice Irish Stew.

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Irish Stew. Moan.

But, Kerry, you're Canadian, and citizens of the former British Empire (Indians, Pakistanis, Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians --dare I say Irish?) are lamb loving people. Med folk too. But it seems as if, here in the Heartland, the taste for lamb -- even it's existence -- is marginal.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Irish Stew. Moan.

But, Kerry, you're Canadian, and citizens of the former British Empire (Indians, Pakistanis, Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians --dare I say Irish?) are lamb loving people. Med folk too. But it seems as if, here in the Heartland, the taste for lamb -- even it's existence -- is marginal.

Maggie, I feel your pain - even as I drizzle a little mint sauce on my leftovers. Hubby might as well live in the heartland however - not a lamb eater.

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You can find lamb and goat at almost any Halal butcher.  There are Halal butchers in nearly every city in the country.

Sounds rather dogmatic to me. I haven't seen a halal butcher anywhere here in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia or the Florida west coast.

I wonder if there is a an association that might tell us how many there really are in the country and where.

There's a halal butcher (probably more than 1) in Raleigh, off of Western, not far from NCSU's campus. They even have organ meat, but I'm not sure they know what lamb sweetbreads are.

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