The Lamb Chop taste test: farm-raised vs supermarket

September 20, 2010 | By | COMMENTS

The Lamb Chop taste test: farm-raised vs supermarket 1
I have fully bought into the slow food movement. I buy all my vegetables at the farmers market and when I can afford it, I buy my meat from either the Farmers market or Whole Foods. It cannot be denied that vegetables you buy from a farmer at the market taste better, but it is hard to pinpoint why. The same goes for meat. We all “know” that local or small farm raised meat tastes better. The question is when it comes to taste what are the specific differences that allow farm-raised meat to out-compete supermarket bought meat?
In homage to the Amateur Gourmet, I thought it appropriate to post a taste test featuring supermarket vs farm-raised lamb on this community blog.
My boyfriend grew up on a small farm where his parents raise Jacob Sheep. The lambs graze on beautiful, green Pennsylvania grass from spring to fall and are slaughtered in early October. They are also fed some grain when weaning them off of mother’s milk and also before slaughter bulk up the fat content a bit.

The Lamb Chop taste test: farm-raised vs supermarket 2
The taste test was done to compare the taste of lamb loin chops brought from the farm and lamb chops bought at Giant, our local supermarket. Both types of lamb chops were cooked in the same way. First the chops were seared to seal in juices and to render some fat, a sauce was made with lamb fat, garlic, shallots, mint, rosemary, and about a cup of red wine, and then the lamb chops were braised in the sauce. The goal was to cook both types of chops to medium rare temperature. Since the supermarket chops were considerably smaller and had less bone and fat, those were cooked for only ten minutes and the farm chops were cooked for 15 minutes.
I am a scientist by profession so I find it easier to make contrasts in list form. Below is a summary of how the two types of lamb chops tasted different.
Farm Raised Lamb
-Subtle lamb taste; better retention of herb flavoring
-A denser, slightly more sinewy meat, likely due to the fact that these are free-range, well-exercised animals
-Juicier, most likely due to the butchering technique, which left the rib bone whole and kept lots of the fat surrounding the meat
Super-market lamb
-Stronger gamey taste, overpowered taste of rosemary and mint
-More tender flesh but had almost a grainy texture to it
-Not as moist, certainly not dry, but the chop had no fat to speak of, especially since the bone was removed
In future circumstances, with unlimited resources, I would probably choose to eat the farm raised lamb chops over the supermarket chops, but that has more to do with the importance I place in knowing the source of your food. Now that I’ve done the taste test, I would say that the difference in taste (at least in these lamb chops) is due more to the difference in butchering than how the lambs were raised. I think a blinded taste test would produce more a more accurate assessment of the meat because I know I entered this taste test biased toward the farm raised lamb.
Stay tuned to my blog where I will definitely be doing more taste tests in the future to compare farm raised vs supermarket chicken and beef.

Categories: Cooking Stories

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