Spring and lamb go together like salt and pepper. That’s why we’re featuring lamb in our meat department this month. And not just any lamb – Western Canadian lamb from SunGold Specialty Meats.
SunGold processes lamb in Innisfail, a town set among farmers’ fields just south of Red Deer, Alberta. In the warm upstairs offices, General Manager Miles Kliner explains that lamb is the only red meat increasing in per capita consumption in Canada. In other words, Canadians are eating more lamb.
“Lamb is no longer a specialty item,” says Miles, his arms waving while he talks. “With beef prices being what they are, lamb is not out of reach, cost-wise.”
And SunGold lamb has a lot more than just that going for it. All the lamb processed at SunGold is raised domestically, with the majority raised in Alberta. About half of the approximate 100,000 lambs that SunGold will process this year will come from their new state-of-the-art feedlot near the hamlet of Iron Springs, Alberta. The rest come from a variety of quality suppliers from British Columbia to Manitoba.
If you’re thinking that’s a lot of lamb, you’re right. In 2014, SunGold processed over 70 per cent of all the lamb raised in Alberta, says Miles. The plant is federally inspected, so SunGold sells its coveted meat across Canada and to the USA, Mexico and the UAE, where it is served in high end hotels in Dubai.
Part of its popularity is because SunGold lamb is certified halal. It is also processed in a modern facility with advanced equipment, refrigeration, packaging and processes. But mostly, it’s the flavour. Since Canadian grown lamb can’t be grass fed throughout the year like it is in Australia or New Zealand, SunGold lamb is grain finished for a minimum of 45 days, resulting in tender, juicy marbled meat that has a milder taste than imported lamb, says Miles.
“We know it’s the best,” says Miles. “You’ve got to give it a try.
”If you want to try lamb but are unfamiliar with it, Miles recommends cooking it to no more than medium, about 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat should be pink throughout with a nice crust on it. From legs, racks and loin chops to burgers and kebabs, Miles says his favourite way to cook lamb is to barbeque it. He grills year-round, as long as it’s not cold enough to freeze his beer. If you prefer something a little more indoors, you can also roast, braise, broil or pan fry. Visit sungoldmeats.com/recipes for more details.