Tag Archives: sheep

The Livestock Conservancy

17 Feb

Those of you who’ve bought my book will notice that a quite a few photos in the animal breed sections were taken by Jeannette Beranger of the Livestock Conservancy. Super shots of cows, pigs, sheep and chickens you’ve never heard of before.  Like these…

White Park

White Park

Ossabaw hog

Ossabaw hog

Dorset Horn

Dorset Horn

Buff Cochin

Buff Cochin

PIneywoods

PIneywoods

Jeannette really helped us find these rare or heritage breed images, so I thought you’d like to know more about the organization she’s with. It’s interesting…and important.

The Livestock Conservancy was formed in the 1970s, when people began to realize that traditional agricultural livestock breeds were rapidly disappearing as meat production became more industrialized. And I’m proud to say that the organization began in my home state of Vermont when (quoting from the org’s website), “a handful of concerned citizens gathered at the Vermont Department of Agriculture to sign incorporate papers for the American Minor Breeds Conservancy (the original name of The Livestock Conservancy).” 

Now based in North Carolina, the Livestock Conservancy’s focus is on making sure that our agricultural future is secure by saving endangered breeds from extinction, building up their populations and promoting them to the public.

Why? ‘Cause much of the reason why these breeds were kept viable by farmers for so long is that each brings something special to the table. Things like especially delectable meat, or superb milk, or extraordinary fertility, or – like the Florida Cracker cow – the ability to prosper in challenging environments. Many of these breeds were early contributors to the gene pool of commercial meat animals – endowing them with qualities that make our food taste better, or adding genetic traits for increased fertility or soundness or… 

As some of you will know, genetic diversity is increasingly endangered through the practices of large-scale agricultural production. If we lose diversity, then we place ourselves at greater risk. This – as most of you know – is not only important in the case of meat animals, but also the plant world, which continues to give us treatments for many diseases. Look up “yew” and the cancer drug “taxol” and you’ll get the picture. Or “willow” and “aspirin”. 

Back to the Livestock Conservancy. Their website is fascinating, with pictures of many animal breeds you won’t have heard of. The list includes goats, donkeys, horses, cattle, chickens, sheep, rabbits, ducks, geese and turkeys – a page for each breed, with photos!

Why not support them by becoming a member?

Mary had a Little Lamb… No! Make that a Thousand.

19 Nov

An excerpt from my upcoming book “The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat”…

There are several methods of raising sheep, depending on what the farmer’s aim is, the size of the flock, and the local environment. Large commercial sheep operations are either range band flocks or farm flocks. Very large flocks are often called mobs. As in, a mob of sheep (I now have an image of masked evil sheep in my head.) 

Huge range band flocks are managed by shepherds and sheepdogs, who often live with the flock as it moves. Photo by Stephen Ausmus. Courtesy USDA.

Huge range band flocks are managed by shepherds and sheepdogs, who often live with the flock as it moves. Photo by Stephen Ausmus. Courtesy USDA.

Range band flocks are generally groups of over 1,000 sheep grazing in large fenced or open-range pastures. Since the areas are so large, the sheep eat only what they find in the natural environment. Range band management is the main type of sheep operation in the United States and places like Australia and South America. 

In these large bands and in rugged terrain, it’s obviously extremely difficult for the shepherd to keep track of his sheep, so a black sheep is often added according to a ratio of 1 to 100 or 1 to 50. That way the shepherd only has to count the black sheep daily to know that the flock is intact (is that cool or what?). Since high-quality nutrition isn’t necessary for the production of wool, wool sheep are often kept in poorer climates or arid regions than are meat sheep.

Farm flocks are typically found in places where large tracts of open land are less common.

Farm flocks are typically found in places where large tracts of open land are less common.

 Farm flocks differ in that they’re kept in much smaller fenced pastures. Often farm flock sheep are fed supplements like grain, but they also thrive on well-managed and intensively grazed pastures.

There are also other kinds of flocks: for example, flocks comprising only purebred sheep, hobby flocks, fiber flocks (sweaters!), domestic pets (sheep instead of lawn mowers), and so on.

Shaun the Sheep, from the Wallis and Gromit films

Shaun the Sheep, from the Wallis and Gromit films

 

And now for a delectable recipe, just in time for Thanksgiving…

Lamb, Ginger, and Fruit Sausage

4 feet of sheep or small hog casings (sheep casings will give you a smaller sausage)

2½ lbs. lean lamb, cubed

½ lbs. pork fat cubed

1 tablespoon of kosher or coarse salt

1 tablespoon of ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of finely chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries

1 tablespoon of finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine