Pasture for Life

imageWe take producing pasture-fed lamb very seriously here at Black Welsh Lamb and are delighted to be one of very few pasture-fed accredited farms in Wales.

Whereas on the face of it you might expect most sheep to be pasture fed, this is far from the truth. The difficulties of raising sheep on a mixed farm mean that most lamb is fed with imported, wheat-based concentrate feeds (many of them containing GMOs), or at best is fed root crops or grain that could be used for human consumption.

Where sheep are fed grass, it is generally fertilised with artificial, nitrogen-based products that stimulate rapid growth, but which can cause problems for water courses and are made unsustainably from oil or mined minerals.

That’s why we decided to go for a totally pasture-fed regime. OK, it takes three times as long to mature our lambs, and we have to take care to nurture our series-rich pasture, but we feel better about it. No fertilisers, no sprays, no artificial feeds. Just lamb.

Oh, and it tastes better too.

PFLA Listing

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Time to Celebrate Difference

As you will know if you read our blogs, we produce organic lamb on the farm here for sale to restaurants and direct to private customers. We think we know some of the issues involved in getting great local produce, especially meat, out to consumers.

Some of our organic Black Welsh Lambs, taking their time.

This got us to thinking about how we market and distribute artisan products in a system dominated by big retail. The traditional path used by farmers selling through the wholesale market means that once stock is sold there is no contact between farmer and consumer and the product becomes commoditised. Farmer co-operatives bring more power to the producer, but the meat is still aggregated, taking on the brand of the co-operative, rather than the individual producer. Farmers’ markets provide an answer for the producer to some extent, but they are labour intensive and provide limited range and choice for the consumer, which is what we have all become accustomed to expect.

British Lamb – Is that it?

What strikes us is that the situation is very different for wine (and increasingly beer) and cheese. When we buy wine, we are offered a huge array of choice by location of origin, colour (obviously), grape variety and individual producer. Similarly, any supermarket will celebrate its range and diversity of niche cheese products and will stock a wide range of single varieties such as cheddar or camembert from different producers. How different is this to our supermarket meat choice, where we are offered lamb or beef by country of origin. Full stop. Who would be happy with a shop whose wine choice was either white or red / french or spanish? We know that as consumers we are increasingly wanting the backstory to our food, not just to build confidence in traceability and production or welfare standards, but because we want to be part of the story, to be ambassadors for brands we believe in and to share new discoveries we have made.

So, it is time for a new approach. We want to see Black Welsh Mountain, Balwen, Shetland and Ryeland all appreciated for their individual flavours, textures, fat content and colour.

We want consumers to appreciate the difference; the subtle minerality brought on by slow maturation and careful hanging, the complexity of taste from lambs raised on herb-rich pasture. It is time for single estate meat – and and the internet can make it happen.

 

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Hogget – Lamb as it Used to Be?

Many people that we speak to say that they prefer a leaner meat these days. That is good news from our point of view, as our organic grass-fed Black Welsh Lamb is very low on fat compared with more mainstream commercial bEwe and Lambreeds. At the same time, our ancient, species-rich pasture offers higher-levels of minerals, vitamins and omegas than modern, fast-growing rye grasses. This makes our lamb very popular amongst chefs and people who are looking for maximum taste and texture, but also those who are more interested in a healthy diet.

At this time of year, our first lambs are ready for sale. However, these are last year’s lambs that have been slowly matured without any cereal-based feeds for almost 18 months and once lambs are more than a year old, they are known as hoggets. We think this is a nice old term and it helps to differentiate our premium product from this year’s lambs – who are still firmly with their mums. Our customers tell us that our hogget tastes like lamb used to. We can’t disagree.

You can order our Black Welsh Lamb hogget by dropping us a line at sheep@penywyrlodlamb.co.uk or by calling 01873 821387.

Or you can follow us on twitter @BlackWelshLamb.

We’d love to hear from you.

Nick and Sarah

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How Many Legs does a Lamb Have?

Sometimes I think we must have been doing this too long. I remember when we first moved into the farm back in 1996, we were baffled by some of the maths our neighbours employed when discussing anything to do with sheep. Our late friend John used to report auction prices in terms of “lambs making five pounds over a pound a kilo”, meaning, for example, forty kilo lambs were selling for £45, or £5 more than the then benchmark price of £1 per kilo. He would often count sheep by the number of legs, rather than heads and we would often find ourselves lost in conversation over lambing percentages or his notions of profit and loss against the previous year’s prices rather than the current cash flow. We, of course, have gone our own way, communicating with our customers in clear language so as to avoid any misunderstandings. Except, that is, regarding the question of the number of legs on a lamb. Our customers are frequently and justifiably surprised when we come back to them about their cutting requirements, saying sorry, but you can’t have two legs whole and two halved, because a lamb only has two legs. It has legs at the back and shoulders at the front: two of each. We agree that this is slightly counter-intuitive, but there it is. Like five pounds over a pound a kilo.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

So here’s a handy diagram to show where cuts of meat come from. We hope it helps next time you order one of our fantastic grass-fed organic lambs or hoggets, but at the end of the day it is the taste that counts, not the number of legs.

Finally, the answer to “How many legs does a lamb have?” is of course six. Two at the back and forelegs at the front.

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Summer’s End……

The summer’s coming to an end .. autumn is beginning and our ewes are on the best grass, preparing for tupping and the start of another farming year.

Alltybrain Leroy

The rams, all too aware of the time of year, are peeping through the hedges in keen anticipation.

There are around four hundred bales of our meadow hay safely in the barn and we’re looking forward too. We are developing even better ways of rearing our organic pasture fed flock .

You may think our rare breed sheep have a boring diet since they only eat our grass and hay. In fact they have an incredibly diverse diet .. Not only do they graze on the forty different types of grass and herbs that make up the “grass “ in our fields, they also enjoy the wide variety of plants in our extensive hedgerows ; hazel, blackthorn, gelder rose, wych elm, hawthorn, oak , elder … and at the moment  wild plums and damsons. The ewes are loving them !

Because of this indigenous varied diet, in contrast to high protein bought-in ewe nuts , the lambs mature very slowly and at varying rates and that’s why we can offer fresh lamb all year round.

But what’s making our lamb even more special now is that we have started hanging  it for two weeks in a very carefully controlled environment so that the temperature and moisture levels are perfect for enhancing the taste and texture of  the meat .

We were very proud of our flock anyway , now we are positively delighted. It was recently chosen for a special international event for European food writers organized by Hybu Cig Cymru, Meat Promotion Wales.

If you would like to be part of the experience, we will be taking lambs on 3rd October for delivery two weeks later.  We sell whole or half lambs, butchered, vacuum packed, labeled and ready for your freezer .

We recommend our  Organic Black Welsh Box ;

  • One leg whole
  • One leg halved
  • One shoulder whole
  • One shoulder boned and diced
  • One breast boned and rolled , ready for stuffing
  • One breast minced

Drop us a line to order: sheep@penywyrlodlamb.co.uk

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True Acclaim

Matt tebbutt in action

True acclaim today from one of our favourite clients, Matt Tebbutt of the Foxhunter Restaurant, Great British Menu and Market Kitchen fame.

We always welcome feedback on our lambs and especially from chefs, whose own reputation depends so much on the quality of the ingredients they serve to their customers.

Matt described his last delivery as: “Small but beautiful. A bit like Pixie Lott. Loved it.” Just in case any of you are worried about what you might be eating, here is a quick guide to distinguish an organic Pen-y-Wyrlod lamb from the fragrant songstress:

One of our lambs

Pixie Lott

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Outstanding at Trealy Farm

Yesterday we were priviledged to be part of Outstanding in the Field’s first UK event, at Trealy Farm, Monmouth. I arrived late, but still in time for a glass of Ancre Hill sparkling 2008 Seyval Blanc – which was a really good start to the afternoon. Ruth Tudor and James Swift gave us a great farm tour, describing their commitment to producing honest, sustainably reared animals on the ancient farm overlooking theUsk Valley. The two of them have developed and put into practice so many ideas it is truly humbling.

The assembled group of guests threaded our way up the hill, through ancient pasture and picturesque woodland to our dinner site. As we came over the brow of the hill, there below us was laid out an immaculate row of tables with white tablecloths and folding wooden chairs.

We rapidly took our places at the table and took time to introduce our selves to our neighbours: a mix of mainly Monmouthshire, London and American diners, with a couple of people from South West England, but all with a common interest in locally sourced, excellent food and drink.

The menu offered a six course tour through some of the finest produce in the region (not including the appetisers that I had missed down the hill by being late!) Trealy Farm charcuterie, hot and cold smoked salmon from Black Welsh Mountain Smokery, our own Pen-y-Wyrlod organic lamb (cooked with chick peas, coriander, preserved lemons and coriander), Philp Bevan’s amazing vegetables, stunning late summer pudding, a selection of Welsh cheeses and finally coffee with Gower Cottage Brownies. Each course was accompanied by (Ancre Hill) wines and/or cider/perry from the area.

The Hardwick team, in the form of Chris and Chris, prepared, cooked and presented this amazing feast, which was served up by the very engaging OITF team. Our waitress (under states her role) had developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Welsh produce in the forty eight hours since she arrived and everything was handled efficiently, engagingly and with a barrage of smiles.

As the sun went down, we made our way to the fires lit on the hillside and chatted with old and new friends, producers and the OITF Team. For a first time event in the UK, it was undoubtedly a success. Sure it was expensive, elitist and for the few, but it provided a perfect setting to showcase the best of Monmouthshire produce and cooking, the landscape and the people. Beyond that, the meal demonstrated how pop-up banquets on a more modest scale could be made to work on any farm, on village greens or in town centres. I hope it is the start of something truly exciting.

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