All of the sheep that we keep are primitive Scottish breeds and as such they mature slowly. We keep them extensively on grassland which contains a wide variety of grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees which means that they live a contented life, foraging and browsing for whatever they fancy. When the weather is particularly bad in winter we feed them the hay that we cut from our wildflower-rich meadows at the height of summer, which all adds to the wonderful flavour of the meat. It’s not only the taste that improves from their varied diet, the health benefits to us do too. The levels of health-boosting omega-6, omega-3’s and oleic acid will be up to 50% higher in grass-finished lamb than in grain-finished.
After about 18 months of life on the farm the Shetlands and Borerays have grown to pretty much full-size. Their final weight is in the region of 30-35kg. The North Ronaldsays and Soays are even slower growing, so they spend another year with us before finally reaching full size at about 30 months. All the extra time spent foraging around the farm adds depth and deliciousness to the flavour!
When the time comes we keep the process as stress free as possible. The animals are gathered and taken in our trailer to a small, local abattoir in Ilkley. They are processed within an hour of arriving and the carcasses are then delivered to the butcher in Skipton. The butcher hangs them for about 10 days in order to bring out the best in the meat.
The meat is fine-grained in texture, and darker in colour than commercial lamb. The size of the cuts is excellent compared to the size of the animal, with the larger cuts being perfect for Sunday lunch for a family of 4-6. The flavour is rich and venison-like, and connoisseurs may detect herby, earthy flavours from their natural diet.
We keep as much as we can eat ourselves in our own freezer; it’s so delicious that we can never buy lamb from anywhere else, not even in restaurants! Any surplus is sold as an entire carcass to butchers, or cut into joints and sold in boxes to local contacts. We also have sausages made from time to time. Most of our animals are ready for eating between November and January, so we take pre-orders throughout the year to supply during these times.
If you're looking for recipes to inspire your cooking of our native breed hogget, please download our recipes.