Why New Zealand Lamb is So Good

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An image of new zealand rack of lamb

The Land of the Long White Cloud Flock

We’re the rugby world champions. Lorde lives here. Heck, way back in 1893 we were even the first to give women the right to vote. Yet when many people think of New Zealand, their first reaction is, “Isn’t that the place with 60 million sheep?”

Yes, New Zealand is home to far more sheep than humans, but there certainly aren’t 60 million of them here. At last count, approximately 31.2 million sheep called the Land of the Long White Cloud Flock their home (roughly seven per person), so it makes perfect sense that born-and-bred New Zealand lamb is one of our biggest exports.

In 2013, Kiwi farmers exported nearly 207,000 tonnes of New Zealand lamb to our top international markets including Belgium, Germany, the US, the UK and China (you can see our full export statistics here). But when sheep are farmed all over the world, it makes you wonder why New Zealand lamb is so good. Well, here’s why.

Superior quality lamb

Above all else, New Zealand lamb is world-renowned for its superior quality and distinctive flavour. New Zealand is home to superior air, water and soil quality, and when the three combine they create perfect conditions for growing high-quality grass. Raised on fresh green pastures and 100% grass-fed, lambs are slaughtered before they turn 12 months old, therefore resulting in a very tender meat that is perfect for dishes like lamb steak, lamb chops, lamb burgers and roast lamb.

A great food match

bottle of palliser estate 2011 pinot noir
Stunning Pinot Noir to have with lamb.

Aside from being delicious by itself, New Zealand lamb is perfect when it’s prepared with a traditional rosemary, garlic and olive oil marinade – we recommend The Village Press olive oil which is made in New Zealand too. If you’re after a great drop of wine to perfectly complement your lamb dish, opt for this Central Otago Pinot Noir from Palliser Estate. The ripe plum fruit flavours in this medium-to-full bodied Pinot Noir will enhance any succulent lamb dish. Don’t just take our word for it though. New Zealand lamb has won numerous international excellence awards, and it’s so good that Air New Zealand serves it on their international flights.

Nutritional benefits

New Zealand lamb isn’t just delicious; it’s also full of many nutrients essential for a balanced diet. Lamb is high in iron, low in fat, and an important source of protein, B vitamins and zinc. And you don’t need to eat a lot of it to receive the benefits, either; just a small portion will do. There are also surprisingly few calories in lean red meat, which means New Zealand lamb can also assist with weight management.

Versatile cuts of meat

New Zealand lamb comes in many cuts of meat, including a range of chops, fillets, shanks and racks. This means you’re guaranteed to find a cut perfect for any occasion, from casual BBQing right through to fine dining.

New Zealand lamb versus American lamb

While New Zealand classifies lamb as an animal aged 12 months or less, the US doesn’t restrict the age of their animals which means larger – and more importantly, tougher – animals can be sold as lamb, despite the quality of the meat being reduced. American lamb can also be grain-fed which results in a plainer more mellow flavour. New Zealand lamb versus American lamb is therefore far superior.

Halal New Zealand lamb

A large proportion of New Zealand lamb is slaughtered according to halal requirements, making it a viable dietary option for much of the world’s population. While a much smaller percentage of New Zealand lamb makes it through halal certification and labelling due to cost, what does is guaranteed to meet all halal requirements. Many international markets are also concerned with animal welfare, particularly in relation to halal preparation methods. New Zealand practises all commercial animal slaughter, including religious slaughter, under strict animal welfare laws, which state that all animal slaughter must be humane and quick. To purchase halal-certified meat products, read this directory of halal-certified establishments.

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