Margaret’s Lamb

The other day (after my elevenses at ten o’clock), I stepped out of the greenhouse and looked to my left; this was what I saw:

These are hoggetts; one year old lambs.  They are the brothers and sisters of the baby lambs currently being born up on the farm. And they are ready for slaughter.  Indeed six are going to the abattoir this week.

I really like having Margaret’s sheep in the neighbouring fields.  They afford me a little company.  In a few weeks time, her cows will be let out from the sheds where they have spent the winter.  They will then be my summer companions, eating grass, mooing loudly, poohing copiously and staring at me.  Cows spend a lot of their day staring.  That’s OK; I just stare back. They soon get bored.   In the meantime it’s just me and the sheep.
One (the only?) advantage of supermarket meat is it’s anonymity.  You don’t even have to think of the cellophane wrapped lump as animal.  Just product.  You don’t get that anonymity with Margaret’s lambs.  At first, I was distinctly uncomfortable about eating animals that  I had known in life. I saw the above lambs last year shortly after they were born.  I have since watched them growing up.  But as I do eat meat it seems right that I should eat meat whose provenance is absolutely known to me, whose food miles are only those to and from the local abattoir and the buying of which helps keep our local farmer, Margaret, in business.  And it’s damn fine lamb too.  Damn fine.  In my opinion autumn lamb is far superior to spring lamb; the animals have been out to pasture and spent some months eating grass.  This gives a far better flavour. And better still (if you can get it) is hoggett.
Nevertheless, it is very sad to know an animal that is going to be slaughtered.  I have to tell myself that Margaret wouldn’t have bred them in the first place if she wasn’t going to sell them as meat.  She wouldn’t have spent sleepless nights during the lambing season helping them be born.   And fretting.  And they wouldn’t have spent time in the fields about the Priory keeping me company.  They’ve had a pretty fine life really.  If short.
But I do wish that particular lamb would stop looking at me like that. He doesn’t know, does he?

9 thoughts on “Margaret’s Lamb

  1. Hi Christina, yes they are quite fat (great flavour). One good thing about all the rain we get here in England is, I guess, lots of good pasture.

    Dave

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  2. I like your fat looking sheep; I have sheep in the fields next to my house too, but they are very thin in comparrison to yours; maybe it's because here (Lazio, Italy) the sheep are breed for their milk for cheese making. When they do sell the lambs as meat they are very small incomparison to English or Welsh lambs. For example 2 people can easily eat a leg.

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  3. Hi Stacy, yes they have. Margaret is one of my favourite people and her animals are very well looked after. In a way that is unusual in modern farming. She keeps an old, clapped out ewe for no other reason than she is used to seeing her about the place. Similar story with a couple of the cows. Reminds me a little of the farm that Wilbur moves to in 'Charlotte's Web.' The Zuckermans, from memory. She will, I hope, appear regularly in this blog. She's a deep seam of good stories.

    Dave

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  4. It's hard to imagine cows getting bored.

    Probably the six sheep heading for the abattoir are the ones eating as if there's no tomorrow, so don't be anxious about the one looking at the camera. Like Jason said, they've been reared and treated well, which is more than can be said for most “anonymous” meat.

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  5. Hi Simon, well Margaret only charges approx £40 for half a hoggett. That's a lot of meat. I'm not sure you could buy that quantity in a supermarket for that price unless it was on offer (and incidentally, as I'm sure you're aware, it's the poor producer who suffers the discount not the supermarket, even though it is imposed by the latter. Grrrrr). I'm afraid she doesn't do mail order. She disposes of all her lamb through existing customers.

    Pigs are so lovely and so intelligent. I do like a pig. I haven't faced up to eating one I knew yet. That will be a toughie!

    Hi Petra, missed the food programme – will try and catch up. I live for the day that Clarissa is proud of me.

    Jason, that's the wrong answer! I was trying to convince myself that he didn't know at all. Oh dear, I shall worry now he was having a premonition.

    Hi W,M,G (might just call you Julie if that's OK?) – hmm. I do seem to be just constantly eating at the moment. I'm very good at growing stomachs. My belly is going to be a whopper. Perhaps I ought to enter it in a show? Might win a rosette. Anyway, you are my first Overseas (if you'll forgive the term) commenter and you're very welcome.

    Dave

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  6. I'm sure that the one looking at the camera (assuming that he can see out from under his ample fringe of course) knows what's coming. But don't let that put you off; you know they've been reared and treated well which is something you can never really know about supermarket meat.

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  7. I think you should have been featured on the British Food Revival programme yesterday. Similar notion, and I am sure Clarissa Dickson Wright would be proud of you! It is difficult though, I agree with you. One the one hand they look so lovely, and we enjoy having them around, yet, they also taste good. The fact that you care is the most important.

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  8. Morning Dave.
    A friend of mine did the same with some Tamworth pigs a couple of years ago, and i purchased about 3/4 of one off him after it had been butchered. I actually felt quite bad when i picked it up from his house though as i'd been there several times and fed them and seen them growing up from piglets. It was pretty sad in one way… but on the other hand it was damn fine pork!!!
    I personally think more people should use local produce like that to keep the small farmers in business.. i know it usually costs a little more, but i do think you get your moneys worth.
    Does Margaret do mail order hoggett? 🙂

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