Sunday, May 17, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions About Buying a Lamb

About our farm: We have been raising sheep since 1979. Our flock has grown from 4 ewes to 150 ewes at the present time. Every January and February, our ewes produce our lamb crop of at least 150 lambs. Many of the lambs are sold into the Easter market trade at a live weight of about 50 pounds. The lambs that are not sold for the Easter market, live on in our flock. Some are used as replacement ewes for our breeding flock. The others are grown out for our freezer lamb market. All of our lambs are processed at a local USDA inspected, state of the art facility in nearby Athol, Massachusetts.

Our lambs are sold by the animal. We also sell ground lamb, stew meat, and all the other popular cuts by the pound. It is packaged frozen in cryovac packs.

Q: What does a lamb cost?
A: A whole lamb costs $275.

Q: Is delivery included?
A: No. You may pick up at the farm depending on the season. We can also meet you at a local place such as a library, post office, or parking lot at no charge. If we are coming your way, there will be no charge for delivery. Sometimes we come to Boston (Kristin’s sister lives in Dedham) so you may be able to meet us there for pick-up.

Q: Should I bring a cooler when I pick up my lamb?
A: This depends on the weather and how far you have to travel with your frozen lamb. Use common sense. In the summer, definitely yes.

Q: What will my lamb look like?
A: Your lamb will be packed frozen in cryovac bags with all the air taken out of them. They will be labeled and have the cut of the meat marked on them. The individual packs will not have individual weights per pack. You will receive 2 to 3 large bags of meat. Here is a photo of a lamb delivery:

Q: What will my lamb weigh?
A: Our goal is to slaughter our lambs at approximately 100 lbs. liveweight. An average 100 pound lamb will yield approximately 30 to 35 pounds of meat.

Q: What do I get?
A: Here’s how the sample lamb pictured on these pages finished out.

Note – Not all lambs will weigh the same going in and coming out of processing. A lamb is an organic thing - every animals weighs slightly different just like humans.

The following is an example of how we normally have our lambs cut. After 20 plus years of eating our own animals, we have determined these cuts to be the best for our family. Your family may have different needs and we are willing to accomodate with appropriate notice.

• Loin and Rib Chops -
8 lbs - chops are cut approx 1 to 1 ¼” thick – this lamb yielded 24 chops
• 4 shanks (shanks are the bottom part of the leg)
2½ lbs

• Legs (back legs of the animal.)
2 legs – both bone-in and cut in half unless otherwise specified
• Shoulders (front legs of the animal)
2 shoulders – both bone-in and cut in half unless otherwise specified

• Ground Lamb
3 to 3½ lbs ground lamb
• Stew Meat
5 lbs stew meat cut from various pieces
• Organs
1 lamb liver – about 1¼ lbs
2 kidneys ¼ lb
1 heart – approx. ¼ lb.

This sample animal yielded approximately 33½ lbs of meat. This averages out to approximately $7.50/lb.

Q: Can I get special cuts?
A: If you would like special cuts, they are available by special order. To get an idea of special cuts, see the illustration on page 3.
For instance, if you want the ribs as a “rack of lamb” they can be supplied whole (French cut not available – French cut is the fancy cut restaurants serve w/ the little curled papers on the bones)
•If you want both legs boned, this is possible. Obviously, the boned legs weigh less than with bone in. Boned legs are perfect for butterflying for the grill in the summer.
•Thicker chops are available by special order but obviously you would receive fewer chops.
•Shoulders can also be cut into shoulder chops or stew meat. After many years of eating our own lamb, we have decided we prefer our shoulders with the bone-in for a slow braise. The shoulders have quite a bit connective tissue and benefit from a very slow, low temperature, long roast or simmer or braise.

Q: Can I buy separate parts of a lamb?
A: Yes, at our self-serve Farmstore. See Directions.

Q: What do your lambs eat?
A: Grass during pasture season, homegrown and harvested hay during winter. Milking mothers and young lambs are supplemented with grain for about 2 months in the winter before the pastures kick in. Most of those lambs go to the livestock auction for the Easter lamb trade. The grain that we feed has no added hormones nor antibiotics but it is not certified organic.

Q: Do you give your sheep any antibiotics or hormones?
A: No

Q: Are your lambs certified organic?
A: No

Q: Can I get my lamb fresh, not frozen?
A: Unfortunately no. It just doesn't fit into our processor's schedule, nor ours.

Q: How do I pay?
A: We prefer personal checks or cash. If you must pay with a credit card, we will process it through Paypal. There will be a 3% surcharge for Paypal payments. Let us know so that we can send you an invoice and you can arrange for payment. The Paypal transaction must be completed before pick-up.

Q: Can you ship my lamb?
A: Not quite yet - we’re just learning the ropes. Maybe someday.

Q: Can you supply restaurants?
A: We can sometimes supply restaurants with ground lamb and stew meat in limited amounts.

Q: Can you suggest any good books for learning about cooking meat and about grass-fed animals?
A: There are more and more coming to the market as the grass-fed meat trend continues to grow. Here’s a short list:
•Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall, 10 Speed Press. This book comes from one of the gurus of the “where does your food come from?” movement in Great Britain. It has been recently printed for the US market. Hugh has several other great cookbooks that often feature lamb recipes. These include River Cottage Year, The River Cottage Cookbook, and others. Check out his website:
•The Grassfed Gourmet by Shannon Hayes
•All Flesh is Grass by Gene Lodgson

Q: Can I purchase a live lamb?
A: Yes, call for availability.

Q: Do you sell wool?
A: Not yet. We are working on it.

Q: What breed are your sheep?
A: Our base flock is Romney, a dual purpose breed that originated in England and is very popular in New Zealand. Over the years, we have introduced Dorset, Dorper, Shetland, Texel, and Border Leicester, usually by purchasing a ram and using him for breeding the flock. We continually try new cross-bred combinations to develop an animal which works well within our management system and local ecology of the pastures we graze.

We have tried to anticipate any questions you may have about purchasing a whole lamb. Please feel free to e-mail or call us and we will answer your specific questions.

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