Thursday, December 17, 2009

If you are not eating Hawk Hill lamb, you are just eating sheep.

We have had two meals based on our purebred Tunis lamb and personally we thought the meat was delectable. A delicate aroma and flavour with fine-grained tender meat. Exactly what we had been led to believe by Tunis boosters.

We decided to put the lamb to a taste test and compared four different breeds of sheep. We tested our pure Tunis, our cross-bred Tunis/Cheviot, another Ontario lamb of a different breed from an organic farm and commercially available lamb from New Zealand. All were loin chops and all were cooked the same with no flavour additions. The lambs originating from our farm were both raised under the same regime though the Tunis Cheviot cross was about one month younger than the pure Tunis. There were four of us testing flavour, texture, aroma and taste. While not a true blind taste test it was the best we could do in a social dinner setting.

Well there was a significant difference in all the lamb. The least difference was between the Tunis and the Tunis/Cheviot cross. All of us preferred the Tunis and or the Tunis Cheviot. The Ontario lamb from another farm was not liked by any of us and the New Zealand lamb was in between. The Tunis and the Tunis/Cheviot had a more pleasant aroma, texture and flavour. The meat was more tender and the flavour was rich without a "wooly" after taste.

At one point I was considering selling our Tunis ewes and just using the Tunis/Cheviot crossbreds. Welllll.... the taste test has made me reconsider and the Tunis ewes are going to remain as part of our lamb production flock.

We then had the balance of the New Zealand lamb for our meal the next night. I am totally spoiled. Tunis rocks.

We are trying to encourage a meat marketing agency here in Ontario to run a chef-judged taste challenge. Growth statistics, conformation, carcass structure etc are all important but in your breeding program you cannot forget the most important factor - taste.



  1. In complete agreement! Something else you might play with... A couple years ago I took a tunis ram, a tunis wether and a suffolk ewe lamb, all within two weeks of age (7 months). I finished them on alfalfa and a pound of grain a day. This was a two fold test, not very scientific but it was very revealing. All weighed within 10 lbs of each other hanging, the ram being the heaviest; the suffolk ewe had almost no fat; the wether had too much fat; the ram was perfect. Having already eaten suffolk and not willing to repeat the experience, that lamb was sold so there was no real taste test here, the whole point was to see how the tunis growth /consumption compared to the bigger framed suffolk, and to see if there was any difference between ram and wether meat hanging. I don't cut my tunis locker lambs anymore, no point. Glad to hear you're keeping you girls :)

  2. Very interesting Becky (I actually just picked up this comment as I am still getting used to having a blog). We are keeping more and more data on our sheep so we can tell the difference. This year we will have pure Tunis, Tunis/Cheviot cross and Cheviot/Hampshire cross. Again another taste test but like yourself a whole lot more data on growth rates etc.
    We are planning to cut our rams because of the logistics of managing the ewe lambs and ram lambs.

    We are planning to plant some annual pasture of oats, wheat, barley and field peas as a forage crop and finish the lambs on that.

    I will be posting the results.