How Buying Lamb from a Farm WorksWhile some farms do sell by the cut, most sell by the half or whole lamb. With a lamb this is quite manageable. A whole cow or pig will be hundreds of pounds of meat, but a whole grass fed lamb will usually be a few dozen, small enough to comfortably fit in a normal freezer, so long as you don't have too much ice cream.
There are lots of ways farmers calculate prices - live weight, hanging weight, even a fixed price. Regardless, you should ask for an approximate price per pound of the meat you will bring home, and a farmer should be happy to give it to you. Local farming is all about transparency, so find someone who seems trustworthy. and can tell you what you will pay and what you will get.
How to Know You've Found a Good Source of Grass Fed LambThe first thing you should do when you find a local farm you're interested in is to check it out. Like many farmers who sell direct to customers, I put a ton of time into my farm's website. I have a section about how I raise lamb, as well as posting frequently about farming more broadly. Lots of small farms do the same thing, so if you're lucky you'll find one that answers most of your questions on the website.
But many excellent farmers (surprise!) are not particularly internet savvy, so don't dismiss a farm just because it doesn't have much of an online presence. In this case, you'll want to call or email to get info on pricing, as well as to make sure that you are on the same page about what the term grass fed means.
Keys to a Good Farm
- It is truly grass fed. An unfortunate reality is that people don't always mean the same thing by this very basic term. Most farmers you'll encounter won't market grass fed lamb as grain fed, but a few might. Make sure that the sheep only eat grass in the summer and hay in the winter.
- You can visit. There is no bigger red flag than a farm that won't let you visit. It's fine if you have to schedule ahead - farmers are busy! - but you should be welcome to see the animals and hear about how they are raised.
- Rotational grazing. This fancy term basically means that the sheep are regularly moved to fresh grass. This practice is foundational to good farming. I wouldn't buy from a farm that doesn't regularly move sheep throughout the growing season.
Grass Finished, Grass Fed Lamb
Picking up Your LambLike an increasing number of farms, I ship directly to customers. This is obviously very convenient, but for some reason grass fed lamb farms in particular seem to do this less frequently. But if you've found a local farm, picking up shouldn't be too big a deal, which is what you'll likely be asked to do if you've bought a half or whole lamb, though you may be directed to get it straight from the processor.
It will come boxed, and if your drive is less than an hour, you don't need to do anything else. But if it's especially hot or if you're traveling further it is prudent to bring a cooler with a couple ice packs. Again, one really nice thing about lamb is how manageable an amount of meat you'll get.
Odds and EndsI've also made a directory of local grass fed beef farms, so check that out if you're interested in beef as well as lamb. It includes a lot more farms than i've listed here, simply because so many more people raise cows than sheep. So if you know of any grass fed lamb farms I haven't put in the directory, especially if you're a farmer, please let me know so I can add them to the map.
You can reach me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm happy to help you in your quest to find a good, local source of grass fed lamb!