Elysian Fields Farms: Kobe Lamb?

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?

5 thoughts on “Elysian Fields Farms: Kobe Lamb?

  1. Morgan


    I love me some good lamb. I haven’t made the official announcement yet at the Revival Meats site, but in June we will be getting our first sheep. I had Elysian Fields lamb the week that Textile opened a couple of years ago and hadn’t quite tasted lamb like that before. Although its ridiculously spendy, it was and still is the best lamb I’ve tasted. I think that Elysian Field’s approach to grain-finishing lamb is fantastic–for the same reasons I feel like grain-finishing pastured cattle is necessary. Consistency goes a long way. It is no wonder that most grassfed beef leaves a lot to be desired. Each changing of seasons brings about different grasses that in turn flavor the meat differently. By finishing on grain year-round, the consistency-thing is fixed.

    The best beef I’ve had thus far came from Prather Ranch in Northern California. Their cattle spend their lives grazing on pasture and then “finish” on barley, rice, and alfalfa chop–regardless of the time of year. It insures a consistent product.

    We’re planning on taking the same approach with the sheep. Right now our pigs finish on barley, wheat, and alfalfa. That diet, high in mono-unsaturated fats, creates a hard and delicately flavored fat that does really well when cured, because it won’t go rancid. I haven’t nailed down the specific ration for the “lamb finisher” but I’m thinking it will be something very similar. Once they reach their desired weight, they’ll be moved into a finishing pasture for 60-90 days.

    We decided on Gulf Coast Native Sheep as the breed because of their resilience and ability to do well in our hot/humid climate without having issues with hoof rot and parasites. They average about 145 lbs on the hoof, so it should give us a pretty good yield of 85 lbs or so.

    Drop me an email if you’d like to chat more. I kinda dork out on this sort of thing.

  2. jim

    Dork on, Morgan! The whole humane-husbandry hertitage-breed animal-husbandry thing is as exciting to me as the way the “foodie revolution” has put some wheels on organic market gardening, which is my passion. Had me a wonderful wee Dexter T-bone a few years ago; I’d love to find a regular source. I remember hearing some years ago that someone in Texas had just-for-fun spent a few decades breeding a minature Hereford and got the breed consistent just about the time people got serious about eating less red meat, which sounds like divine timing to me.

  3. wholistic midwife

    I am in the planning stages of a small sheep operation with cheese cave. I am in hays county texas. I am very interested on getting to know other texas sheep nerds!

  4. Hope Cather

    My husband’s family has been raising lamb for over 50 years in Clarke County, Virginia. Around four years ago, we decided to take it to a whole new level and are thrilled with the results. All of our lambs are born in the late winter months so that they go from nursing, to spring pasture, to grain finishing. We sell many as club lambs to 4-H’ers and FFA’ers for the show ring which are then sold at the end of the fair for meat. The rest we sell on an individual basis and are amazed at the recommendations and compliments we get on the meat. Many of our customers are as in love with the ground meats as they are the loin cuts and leg cuts. Long live lamb!

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