Welsh lamb has special protected food status. Find out what makes it so special - and who to buy it from!
Welsh sheep-farmer Myrddin Davies was named the Face of Welsh Lamb.
I saw a daffodil last week, which means spring is coming. At last! What better way to celebrate it – and on St David’s Day too – than with a dish as symbolic of spring as the first yellow blooms of the season?
I’m talking about Welsh lamb, a product that has been recognised by the European Commission as a unique product, and awarded the status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
This accolade proves that Welsh lamb isn’t just any lamb. Eating it assures you of a certain quality: that the lamb has been born and raised in Wales, which has 1,200km of coastline, sea air blowing in from three sides and tumbling green hills where the flocks roam and feed.
Compared to New Zealand, where one farmer usually looks after an around 5,000 lambs on average, in Wales there is one farmer per 500 animals. The stock must also be traceable and slaughtered in an approved abattoir.
The face of Welsh lamb
When the Welsh farming community gained this status (Welsh Beef is also a PGI product) a few years ago, it got very excited and appointed a “Face of Welsh Lamb”, Myrddin Davies (pictured above).
Davies farms his family’s 180-acre Nant y Wrach farm near Conwy in North Wales. I met him for lunch at Arbutus and asked him it is so important that his lamb is recognised as special (in case you are wondering, yes, we had the Welsh lamb sweetbreads).
Welsh lamb is a unique product, he said, and should be as desirable as other PGI foods like Parma Ham or Melton Mowbray pies. He also pointed out that Welsh sheep farmers safeguard the land they use for grazing as much as their own animals.
Myrddin’s family has farmed in the area since the 1900s, and his grandfather bought Nant y Wrach Bach in 1970 before handing it over to his son Gwynfor and Myra, Myrddin’s parents.
They keep about 500 ewes, who only spend their first few days inside before being let loose to wander the Welsh hills. Lambing begins in late February, in time for the spring rush and are sold at the Llanrwst market.
Graig Farm Organics
Graig Farm in Powys, mid-Wales, has been operating as an online organic shop for over 20 years, which is ancient in organic terms. In 2002, local farmers Jonathan and Sally Rees began supplying their meat to the company, and soon won top customers such as The Dorchester hotel in London.
Last year the Rees took the business over, so they both produce and supply award-winning Welsh lamb around the country. The sheep are mountain ewes, which mature slowly out on the hills. All the butchery and processing takes place on the farm, so you can be sure where your meat has come from.
Gower Salt Marsh Lamb
Gower Salt Marsh Lamb just sticks to what it knows best – the lamb. The northern shores of the Gower Peninsula are mainly a large salt marsh, and the animals graze on the saltmarsh grasses, samphire, sorrel and sea lavender.
In 2009 and 2010, the Guild of Fine Foods awarded Gower Salt Marsh Lamb three stars, and were the only lamb producer to receive the top award.
How to eat it
If you’re wondering how to cook your lamb, a rack of lamb with a herby crust of some kind, is much easier to pull off than you might expect, if you haven’t done it before.
If you have time to prepare in advance, try Cowdray Butchery’s Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb, which needs two days marinating time and 12 hours in the oven, but will be worth the wait.
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