Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tangle Ridge Ranch Lamb

If you're unfamiliar with Tangle Ridge Ranch and their pastured lambs, here's some information to digest:
Last week Tangle Ridge killed this year's lambs, and Lisa and I were fortunate enough to get a whole, uncut carcass.  My primary motivation was securing lamb meat and offal for this January's Burns supper (stay tuned...)  Here's some details on the purchase.

Cutting Lamb

Lamb is a relatively simple animal to butcher.  The carcass is easy to handle (typically 40-60 lbs) with fewer cuts than, say, a cow, or even a pig.  For details on cutting, here's a great video of a master butcher breaking down a whole lamb.

Lambs are cut into four primals.  First is the front, from which you get:
  • neck, or "scrag": one of the most repulsive words in the English language, but a fantastic piece of meat for braising
  • shoulder chops, roasts, or stewing meat
  • arm chops
  • foreshanks
Then the loin, which yields:
  • loin chops, analogous to the t-bone steak on a cow
  • racks, often prepared with the slender ribs still attached and thoroughly cleaned, at which point it's called a "Frenched" rack.  (Is their any other nationality that becomes a verb so easily?)
The belly section of the lamb is called the flank.  It's usually made into ground meat, but can also be braised or stewed.

Finally there's the legs, most often kept whole or nearly whole for large roasts.

It took me an hour to break down the lamb, including the time for the more tedious tasks like portioning the chops and Frenching the racks.

The Numbers

Compared to most other meats, lamb is expensive.  My side of pork this year was $2.15/lb for a 110 lb side.  This whole, uncut lamb was $5.85/lb for a 50 lb carcass.  The cut and wrapped lambs sell for $7.50/lb.

Yes, compared to pork this lamb is expensive.  But compared to supermarket lamb, Tangle Ridge is a steal.

I weighed every piece of meat that I got from my lamb to see what those final cuts would cost when purchased from retailers.  In the spreadsheet below, the weights are what I got from my animal.  The costs are for an identical cut, as sold at local retailers, mostly Sunterra Market in Lendrum, which carries a lot more lamb than most grocery stores.

There are a few cuts (flank, neck, and the "fatty trim" that I rendered out for cooking fat) that are not available in grocery stores.  These represent small portions of the carcass, and are estimated at very low prices, so are a correspondingly small source of error.

If I purchased all the cuts of lamb that are now in my freezer from a grocery store, it would have cost about $8.26/lb, instead of $5.85.

I can't wait to tuck into this lamb.  I'll be posting about some of the preparations over the next few months.


  1. Awesome. Love the economics, as you know.

    And their lamb is tasty. Btw. I have solid pics of the leg of lamb for you.

  2. Cool. I think we should call that dish "Five-Alarm Leg of Lamb".