Alabama is a state that loves meat, and for good reason — chickens, cattle and pork are all raised locally and are widely available in restaurants and retail stores. But there’s another meat gaining traction that’s worth adding to the rotation: lamb.
Many folks are scared to cook lamb because it’s not as familiar as other meats.
But Henry Dorough, Alabama Cooperative Extension System agent and owner of HD Farm in Calhoun County, said it’s much simpler than people imagine.
“Lamb is like anything else — if you start with a good product and you cook it properly, you’ll have a great meal,” Dorough said. “You cook lamb to the same temperature as you cook beef, but you can season it differently.”
Dorough, who has raised and cooked lamb for more than a decade, said it pairs well with strong seasonings. Spices like cinnamon, allspice, clove and nutmeg complement lamb’s rich, complex flavor.
Mint, however, is overplayed when it comes to lamb, Dorough said.
“I just really don’t understand the obsession with mint and lamb,” he said.
In addition to adding new flavors to the palate, lamb also is packed with nutrients. It’s a great source of protein, as well as immune system-boosting nutrients zinc, selenium, niacin, riboflavin, Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.
Dorough said he accidentally stumbled into raising lambs. His son, Matthew, was involved in livestock shows through 4-H, so the family began raising lambs. After Dorough bought his farm, he and Matthew expanded their flock and supplied lambs to other 4-H members. After showing season was over, Dorough stocked his freezer and those of a few friends’ with fresh lamb. Word soon spread, and demand grew.
“After Matthew graduated, we shifted gears and changed our breed selection to raise strictly meat lambs for our customer base,” Dorough said. “We started out selling lambs directly to customers for them to have processed. About three years ago, chefs started approaching me about purchasing lamb, and we began having the meat inspected by USDA so we could sell it in a retail setting.”
Now, HD Farm keeps about 70 sheep on the farm and supplies lamb to two restaurants and many individual customers. Matthew, now 24, is in culinary school in South Carolina.
“They did lamb in class last week, and he had no problem with it,” Dorough said. “He’s got plenty of experience.”