Grass-fed lamb sounds good. New Zealand lamb is grass fed. Loncito Cartwright’s succulent lamb from Dinero Texas is grass-fed. But the best lamb I have eaten in a long time is grain-fed. It’s called Elysian Fields lamb and the top chefs in the country are raving about the stuff. I had a double lamb chop on a puree of mushed up spring peas at Tony’s the other day and I was blown away by the flavor. The meat is buttery tender and has a fresh vibrant lamb taste, but the flavor is not at all gamy.
Elysian Fields Farm in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania is owned by Keith Martin, a former investment banker who became a farmer in 1989. This grain-fed lamb is raised under close supervision. The lambs drink water tested for purity and live under very humane conditions. He works with the legendary chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se to market the meat. Keller has been serving Elysian Fields lamb for years.
New Zealand sheep are practically feral. Ten thousand sheep are not unusual for a single farm run by only a couple of guys and a dog. New Zealand lamb are not finished with any grain feeding at all. A grass-fed New Zealand lamb carcass weighs somewhere between 35 and 45 pounds. The lamb chop is small, you can eat the whole thing in a couple of bites. An Elysian Fields lamb carcass is almost twice as big–they weigh 65 pounds on average–and a lamb chop is a meal.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the gamy flavor of grass-fed lamb, especially on the grill. But comparing a New Zealand lamb chop to a Elysian Fields lamb chop is like comparing fajitas to filet mignon. And as you might expect, the Elysian Fields lamb goes for a lot more. Racks of Elysian Fields lamb are selling for $26 a pound in New York.
We produce a lot of lamb in Texas. I wonder if there’s a local farm that doing the “Kobe lamb” thing?