Welsh rare breed enterprise sustained via local chef partnerships.
A farming family from Monmouth, who raise prize-winning rare breed lambs, have come up with an innovative, environmentally friendly way of disposing of their surplus stock, while also maximising its value.
John and Hilary Garn, of Upper House Flock near Monmouth, breed Pedigree Welsh Black Mountain Sheep, primarily for the show ring. Each year, the potential prize winners are kept or sold to other rare breed farmers to preserve the breed, while the rest go for meat. But these lambs aren’t taken to the local livestock market; instead, they are sold directly to top local hotels and restaurants.
Hilary said: “You won’t find this lamb on a butcher’s counter. The meat is slightly darker than the lamb you see in supermarkets and therefore what consumers are used to. Consequently, it has a relatively low value at market, but it has a much better flavour, so we sell directly to hotels and restaurants who know how best to prepare the dishes.”
“We are lucky enough to have a local abattoir at Talgarth, which will still deal with small farmers. The animals are inspected there and once slaughtered, taken to butchers who will cut the meat to order for the hotels and restaurants. It means the chefs get what they want. They love it, and they say their customers do, too."
Welsh Black Mountain Sheep is one of the oldest breeds in Britain and John and Hilary say selling the meat provides a vital source of income to help preserve and promote diversity in our farming stock.
“Selling our surplus lambs locally reduces food miles, and maximises the value of the limited amount of meat we have to sell. We also know that the meat is ending up in the best possible place, where it will be beautifully cooked and appreciated by people who love good food.” Hilary said.
One Head Chef, Padrig Jones, who works in the area, recently went to see for himself the welfare standards at Upper House Flock. He said: “It’s incredibly important to me to know where the food I am serving comes from. These lambs have not been reared intensively. They have been grazing on meadows, eating the herbs and flowers in the borders which will add to the flavour and they have been outside, so they have been able to exercise. The meat will be a bit leaner than other lamb but still very tender because the muscles have been working.”
"I have tasted lamb in different countries around the World. I have had lamb from the Pyrenees, which is absolutely incredible, but Welsh lamb is fabulous. And people want to try local produce when they visit the area, and you don't get much more local than this."
“It will be prepared simply, but beautifully,” Padrig said, "this flavour needs to speak for itself, and I want to do justice to the lambs that John and Hilary lovingly breed.”
You can find out more information about the Upper House Flock on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/theupperhouseflock.