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Lamb will have pride of place in restaurants and at the family dinner table at Easter and through springtime into early summer, but why is it particularly popular during this season and is all lamb the same?
The answer to its origin as a headline artiste on the plate on the first official holiday period of the year dates back to biblical days, but today its enduring popularity is a result of an engaging taste and texture, particularly in Farmison & Co's case with lamb grown and nurtured in the north of England from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Cumbria and Lancashire where there is an emphasis on breed quality and the accurate timing of succulent, tender lamb availability through excellent shepherding and stockmanship.
And it's not all the same either. Lamb varies from region to region, week to week, month to month and from breed to breed. Farmison & Co's lamb is selected from animals that have enjoyed the most natural, nutrient-abounding, stress-free environment feeding on wild grasses, flowers, herbs and heathers. This creates delicious tender lamb or hogget and mutton offering rich and harmonious to deep, gamey flavours.
To many, all meat from sheep is thought of as lamb but that's not the case.
This is intended as a definitive guide to lamb, hogget and mutton and their respective qualities reflecting the differing subtle taste sensations, how the lambing season works and why lamb remains the most in-demand meat a Easter and in the coming months and why Farmison & Co is proud to be able to offer the very best from farmers who take immense care of their livestock.
Lamb has three distinct age categories all bringing something different to the party particularly also when considering meal accompaniments.
Extremely popular in the Mediterranean and Asia. In Greece it is highly prized and many roast a whole milk fed lamb on a souvla; in Spain the small lamb chops known as chuletillas are a delicacy. Pyrenees Milk Fed Lamb is also much sought after with the ewes give birth to the lambs at the foot of the Pyrenees.
The meat from a milk-fed lamb is sweet, indulgent, milky and rich and works well with delicate spring vegetables. Milk Fed Lamb born in the UK from December to March is ready between four to six weeks old when the lamb, that will not have been weaned, is at a weight of between 6-9kg. Delicate spring vegetables make an ideal pairing. If you haven't tasted milk-fed lamb previously prepare for a new, lighter texture with sublime tenderness, small lamb chops from milk-fed lamb have been described by culinary experts as 'perfect jewels'.
Milk Fed Lamb Vital Facts
Born | Dec to Mar
Availability | Apr to May
Age | 4-6 weeks old
Average weight | 6-9 kg
Tasting Notes | sweet indulgent meat, pair with delicate spring vegetables, milky & rich
By far the most well-known lamb variety and is sometimes known as Early Lamb or Summer Lamb as its availability transcends the spring and summer seasons. The lamb is from livestock that is between three to six months old and has benefited from being milk-fed and grazing on new, fresh spring grasses. It is usually available from May to July. The hills and dales of the Yorkshire Dales, Lancastrian hills and the Lake District in Cumbria make for a perfect allure of countryside tranquillity offering an ease of life that ensures a tender meat that cuts beautifully as a result of the lamb's stress free life. Classic Mediterranean ingredients are great partners on the plate.
Spring Lamb Vital Facts
Born | December to March
Availability | May to July
Age | 3-6 months old
Tasting Notes | mellow, subtle meat, creamy fat, pair with classic Mediterranean ingredients
Takes lamb to the point just prior to its name change to hogget. Born at the same time as Spring Lamb anywhere between December to March this more mature lamb has abundant, grassy flavours benefiting from having grazed in the beauty of the North of England countryside for many months. Autumn lamb becomes available after Spring lamb during the period from July to January until 11 months old.
Autumn Lamb Vital Facts
Born | Dec to Mar
Availability | July - January
Age | Under 11 months
Tasting Notes | rounded, traditional grassy flavours, pairs well with sweet garlic, aromatic herbs & ripe tomatoes
The UK sheep breeding season starts with farmers purchasing ewes to add to their flocks and buying new rams or tups in the early to mid-autumn usually in September and October. The tups are then put to the ewes, with a single tup serving anywhere between 50-80 ewes, usually in early November. Some farmers start their breeding season earlier in autumn in order to have lambs on the ground before others and to provide lamb before the vast swathe of new lambs are born in March and April.
Northern heritage breed sheep, including Swaledales, Wensleydale and Herdwicks have an inherent ability to thrive in all weathers and are renowned as fabulous, milky mothers who will generally have either single or twin lambs. The breeds are ideally suited to their free-range lifestyle and will often lamb out on the hill with no assistance.
Farmison & Co's small farmers base their selection of the right lamb at the right time on one criteria. It's only right when it is spot on and meets the standard required. Correct standards and disciplines followed by Farmison & Co's farmers ensures milk-fed and grass-fed lamb hits the mark every time and with the right quantity of Omega 3 and Vitamin E.
For years there has been very little definition of when lamb is no longer lamb and when it is something else. Everyone has heard of mutton, but hogget? Simply put, hogget is a juvenile sheep either a young ewe or tup over 11 months old to 24 months.
Hogget is the new find for discerning chefs and diners. Tommy Banks, twice winner of the BBC's Great British Menu and head chef at the Michelin-star Black Swan in Oldstead, Trip Advisor's Best Restaurant in the World is a confirmed Farmison & Co devotee and his hogget with goat's cheese and hispi cabbage has proved that full flavoured, ethically reared hogget with its richer, stronger taste is fully deserving of its heightened status. It works well with classic English herbs, mushrooms and brassicas - and a full bodied red wine is a must alongside. What's more it is available from Farmison & Co all year round.
Hogget Vital Facts
Availability | All Year
Age | 11 months to 24 months.
Tasting Notes | Full flavoured savoury, pairs well with classic English herbs, mushrooms & Brassica
Did you Know... Hogget is the name of the first shearing of a sheep and is the best wool that animal will ever give
HRH The Prince of Wales led the charge to bring back the glory days of mutton with the Mutton Renaissance Campaign and the results have been outstanding. Mutton is now very much back in favour and it is its intense, deep flavour that has brought it in vogue once more with gamey, rich herbal notes that last long on the palate. If you enjoy venison, rabbit or wild boar then mutton should be added to your list. It is particularly ideal for casseroles and slow cookers.
Mutton status takes over once the hogget reaches two years old and there are connoisseurs who enjoy it best for its darker meat flavour at four years old. Farmison & Co has its availability for the autumn, winter and spring seasons from September to May. Aromatic spices, root vegetables and another luxurious red wine are the willing accomplices.
Mutton Vital Facts
Availability | September - May
Age | 2 years
Type - Female or Castrated
Tasting Notes | Deep flavour, long on the palate, slightly gamey rich herbal notes, pairs well with aromatic spices, root vegetables & red wine View Our Mutton Range
Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural / farming purposes, their triple benefits of providing milk, fleeces and meat while living largely off grass has endeared them to farmers and businesses alike for centuries and millennia.
The UK lambing season has always fitted well with the holiday period and whether you want to enjoy Milk-fed Lamb, Spring or Autumn Lamb, Hogget or Mutton in the coming months Farmison & Co has the complete variety of wholesome, grass-reared, nutritious meat from sheep in the Northern hills that meets with a personal mission to encourage the nation to eat better meat where flavour is everything. If you haven't decided on a centrepeice for the spring celebration, check out our Easter lunch ideas for inspiration.
When making any decision over purchase there are various considerations. Around one-third of the lamb consumed in the UK is from New Zealand to meet demand.
Farmison & Co is wholly committed to supporting the traditional, native, heritage breeds with their own exceptional flavours from the Northern farmers of Great Britain.