Just last week my wife, daughter, and I visited Dundonald Highlands which, in addition to Highland beef, raises Cheviot lamb, a rare find in these United States. The sheep were alert, spry, and pleasing to the eye; it’s sobering to think that three of their company went to slaughter Tuesday and are being butchered today (available for sale from Duba & Company in early August). In their honor, this post pays tribute to a noble sheep breed and sings of the author’s growing love affair with perhaps the country’s most under-rated meat.
Like the world’s best beef breeds, the Cheviot lamb hails from Great Britain: from the hill country between Scotland and England. It is an ancient breed, mentioned in writings dating back to the 1300s. Its appearance is stately and aristocratic. The little Cheviot lambs are born with a zest for life and a keen will to survive. They, in fact, require little attention, hearty as they are. Again, like Scottish Highland cattle, they’ve developed over hundreds of years, forming a resilience to the harsh environment: the beating of the summer sun and the cold, wet winters. Excellent foragers, they consume all forms of vegetative life that springs from the earth. Our Cheviot lamb–like all the beef we sell–are primarily raised on pasture.
The particular flock from which Duba & Company’s inaugural lamb comes grazes in the shadow of Highland cattle on the flood plains near the southern boarder of Michigan. And, as those who dwell in this state well know, we’ve had a very wet Spring. For pasture-raised animals, like a good vintage of wine, quality is inextricably tied to the weather. With a chuckle, Eddie Mackay of Dundonald Highlands remarked that the ideal growing conditions this season are going to translate into some very good tasting Cheviot lamb, making him look like a “genius.” Whether the genius is that of Mackay, Mother Nature (or both), I can’t wait to try it–and for you to try what promises to be a very good “vintage” of lamb.
A now a word to those who’ve never tried lamb, who are uncertain about whether they like it or not, or have decided they don’t like it: try our lamb. Developing a taste for lamb could be compared to developing a taste for IPAs. Some IPAs are so good–Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA comes to mind here–that even those that don’t like IPAs love them. I’d like to think that our lamb is this good. Perhaps it will become one of your favorite things.