Spring lamb is an Easter and a Passover dinner-table tradition. Yet this is also the trickiest time of the year to buy it because supply is limited—the bulk of the new season isn’t available till May or June—and what is in stores will have been fed mainly grain, rather than grass, which makes for fattier meat. Most of what you will see is four-to-six-month-old Colorado lamb, and even that isn’t plentiful, so stores fall back on tougher, gamier ten-to-eleven-month-old lamb to make up the numbers. How do you tell the difference? Look for a smaller leg, which means the lamb is younger. Or seek out lamb from Australia or local small boutique farmers: They’re grass-fed, generally less mature, and more tender.
Colorado Characteristics: The most common American lamb is fed on grass prior to being plumped up on grain in feed lots for a few months. This produces a larger animal than a pure grass-fed lamb—up to 85 pounds—with well-marbled pinkish-red meat and a large eye nugget on the rib. The flavor is rich and mellow, but the meat can be fatty. Don’t pay much attention to the USDA-prime label: Only grain-fed lambs are fat enough to qualify, and lamb raised outside the U.S. is grass-fed.
Australian Characteristics: The next most plentiful lamb, after Colorado; 70 percent of it is shipped fresh. The animals are free of all growth hormones and 99 percent grass-fed (occasionally, a small amount of grain is used). The ten-month-old lambs weigh, on average, 40 to 50 pounds; the flesh is lean and pale pink, with a sweet mild flavor. The Australian lamb currently available has been raised under prime summer conditions, so it’s a good time to buy.
New Zealand Characteristics: After Australia, New Zealand is the next big producer, although not as much of its lamb seems to end up on these shores—and 90 percent of what does get here is frozen. This all-natural pasture-raised lamb is small, with a carcass weight of between 33 and 40 pounds at four months. The meat is lean, pale in color, with a stronger flavor than Australian lamb.
Angus Brands proudly offers domestic and imported (New Zealand, Australia) 100% natural lamb. Raised in limited quantities, our lamb selections include frozen and fresh custom cut racks, cutlets, chops, stew meat, sirloins, and tenderloins.