If you haven’t heard Te Mana Lamb’s story yet, it’s definitely one worth knowing if you’re a lamb lover. It started as an attempt to make it easier to farm lamb in the cold of New Zealand’s Southern High Country. It ended up on the menus of some of the world’s most revered dining establishments. Oh, and in My Food Bag.
This is the story of how a crew of Kiwis almost single-handedly revolutionised the art of farming lamb, challenging the norm and ultimately coming up with something entirely new and exciting altogether. Minaret Station Alpine Lodge is as good a place as any to begin. Nestled almost a kilometer above sea level in a valley that stretches to Mount Aspiring, this is one of the original 16 breeding stations that discovered the rare traits that became synonymous with Te Mana Lamb.
If you’re unfamiliar with the lore of lamb farming, it traditionally doesn’t take place in high, remote and hard-to-reach areas. This was an experiment, something unusual. A 10-year breeding programme aimed at breeding healthier sheep, better adapted to high country environments.
Then, something remarkable happened. The farmers discovered their lambs were not only healthier, but they now contained high levels of natural, healthy omega-3 and polyunsaturated fats. After a little more research, they found out their lamb contained more of both than any other red meat on the market.
As you can imagine, these guys know what they’re doing. They’re experts, and you can taste it. The lambs spend thirty days finishing on chicory pastures, which “releases the full potential for omega-3”, according to their website. As well as the obvious health benefits that go along with this, it also impresses on the eye, the fat delicately marbling through the meat.
Interestingly, this also makes it easier to cook. The marbling helps to reduce the meat’s inherent moisture, which means it holds it shape and texture better than traditional cuts of lamb. As any lamb connoisseur will tell you, the secret to cooking lamb is timing. With Te Mana, the omega-3 can withstand a little extra time in the pan as the fat melts into a more tender, succulent bite.
Word soon began to circulate about the mysterious “omega-3 lamb” with ears pricking up all over the world (Te Mana Lamb launched their brand globally in Hong Kong earlier this year). Eager to spread the word they invited Nadia amongst other top food personalities to see visit some of their breeding stations and experience the sensation for themselves.
Travelling to Walter Peak Station, Queenstown (a ‘founding farm’) with a couple of My Food Bag chefs to the historic station (it was founded in 1860), they saw the sheep in their natural environment, fully adapted to the cool, elevated climate. They’re actually a hybrid of four different sheep species, each carefully bred together to brave the infamous southern chill. Walter Peak Station is situated across from Lake Wakatipu and is a breath-taking vista of unspoiled high country grazing and lowland chicory meadow.
It seemed the perfect environment from which to draw inspiration for My Food Bag, and with most of the lamb being exported to some of the world’s finest dining establishments, it was a done deal.
The result are a number of dishes featured in My Gourmet Bag that highlight the delicate flavours of the meat. Our journey with Te Mana has officially begun.
To read on our Kiwi mates, head to their website https://temanalamb.com