Over the past five years, we’ve received a number of questions about the lamb we raise, so we’ve attempted to share them (and their answers here). We are always open to new questions, so ask away!
Are your sheep given any chemicals?
No. As with all the animals, we do not feed our sheep any antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals. We do treat injuries (such as cuts or other medical issues) with antiseptics or other medicines. However, we have learned from seasoned farmers that the best defenses against common ailments like hoof rot, prolapse or worms are prevention, not treatment. We have “honed” our flock to include sheep that are not prone to hoof rot or prolapse (that means we culled those that were, so that we didn’t propagate the genetics that left them predisposed to these problems). I’m happy to say that it’s been years since we’ve had to deal with these issues! One of the greatest problems with a sheep flock is parasites, which are the #1 killer of ruminants. Again, we’ve learned a few key things to help prevent the need to de-worm using chemical dewormers. First, we have to make sure we have enough pasture for the flock. When grass gets short, parasites reach the chewing mouths. Grass over 2 inches keeps the parasites on the ground and out of the sheep’s meal. Second, we move them and pass the chickens over their grazing area to try to catch the hatching parasites (2 weeks after the sheep were there).
Do you give them anything other than pasture?
Sure. We have apple trees that they LOVE the apples from and they also eat the pruned branches. We’ll happily give them turnips that we grow for them. We also provide them with organic salt and mineral lick blocks to help provide for their mineral needs. That’s it.
Do you sell whole or half lambs?
We do not. We participate in four farmer’s markets, and we feel that our first priority is to keep our supplies at those markets fully stocked. So far, that demand has slightly outpaced our supply, so we do not have extra lambs that we can sell as whole or half lambs.
Do you butcher your own lambs?
No. In compliance with the Health Department and PA Department of Agriculture laws, we take our lambs and pigs to USDA inspected butchers for processing. We receive the meat back from these butchers already cut, cryovac sealed and frozen.
Can I order special cuts (different from the ones on your product list)?
Absolutely. Every time we take in lambs we provide cutting instructions. We are more than happy to request something different or special. Depending on how unique the request is, we might request a deposit, so that we know you’re committed to buying it (if it’s a cut that wouldn’t sell otherwise). If you are on our email distribution list, we alert you to upcoming processing dates, including the cutoff date for getting us any special orders.
When do you have lamb (what’s the season / do you run out)?
The prime lamb season is the fall. That’s because most of our lambs are born between February and April. October / November is our key time for processing because it allows them to grow as large as possible on pasture vs. hay. When the weather cools, the grass stops growing and we transition to hay. At this point, the cost of feeding the lambs starts to offset their added weight, so we typically process all but our breeding flock. The best lamb supply is therefore available in October, November and December.
Each year, a few lambs arrive in December (we’re not very organized when it comes to breeding since we keep our ram with our ewes), and these lambs provide us with our spring lamb. We typically process our first lambs of the year during the last weeks of April, to have lamb available for the start of the market season (typically the first Saturday in May).
We run out of lamb when our fall processing supplies are sold out. Last year, that was by March. This year (with four markets instead of one), it might be sooner. We would encourage you to consider stocking up for the cold winter months, because when it’s out, it’s a wait for more.
How do I cook lamb?
This one’s always a fun question, because it depends a lot on the cut. In general, chops are simple options for grilling, because a little salt and pepper is all you need to have a great dish. Grass fed lamb has less fat, though, and should be cooked medium rare for prime tenderness.
In the winter, many of us are more open to an oven-warmed kitchen and roasts and braising become the method of choice. Lamb leg or shoulder are ideal roast cuts. Again, because our lamb is 100% grass fed, consider seasoning your lamb only lightly and then rolling it in flour to pre-brown before putting your roast in the oven. (Pre-brown a roast by pan frying it so that it is golden on all sides but not cooked through. This adds to the flavor and creates a moisture seal to keep in the juices when it’s in the oven).
Everyone’s sick of my constant talk about braising, but it blends two key elements in my world: lower cost and less time. The best cuts for braising are lamb neck and lamb shank. The marrow in these cuts adds an incredible flavor to your braising liquid and your meat, and after slow cooking them for 2 – 3 hours, the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. Braising is simple. Salt, pepper and flour the cut and pre-brown (see above) to create the golden glaze. Then, place the cuts in a Dutch oven (I use the ceramic, lidded pot) and fill approx. 50% with a mix of 50/50 wine and stock. I tend to use white wine (Sauvignon Blanc) and chicken stock because Wayne doesn’t like white wine and we have a lot of chicken stock, but red wine and meat stock work just as well. Put the pot in the oven at 385 degrees for 90 minutes, then open, turn the meat over (so that the parts that weren’t in the liquid get into it), recover and pop back in the oven. In another 30 minutes, throw in some chopped veggies – carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, onions – and recover and put the pot back into the oven. In another hour, you’ll have the most delicious dinner (complete with veggies) that I love to serve over risotto. This dish also works well with a crock pot placed on low and left for the day.
100% GRASS FED LAMB
We’re firm believers that animals should eat what their bodies were made to eat. Sheep were designed to enjoy pasture (not grain). At Canter Hill, we re-seed our pasture regularly to provide a rich mixture of different types of “salad” that provide for the nutritional needs of our flock, so although it may sound like a bland diet, it’s anything but. Canter Hill lambs are born on the farm and are nursed by their mothers and naturally learn to enjoy grazing on pasture. Lambs are processed between 5 and 11 months of age, for peak flavor and tenderness. Although we choose not to feed any grain or feeds for the simple reason that their bodies were not designed to digest it, we believe grass fed lamb has a much richer taste and it is much leaner (and healthier) than the grain-fed alternative.
WHERE WE ARE
2138 Valley Hill Road
Malvern, PA 19355
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