« Food Fight- My Tentative Review | Main | Rereleased: Raising Heritage Turkeys- One Farmers Perspective »

November 17, 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


very informative article.thank you for sharing


Great information, folks really need to look into what they eat for good health or you will pay for it in poor health, let me tell you I know. Bon apetite!

Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Kira- you are right, only a small percentage of NZ lamb is grain-finished, although that percentage is growing to keep up with certain market demands. It is really Australia that is going heavily towards grain finishing lambs. Thank you for pointing this out and for your real world perspective.


Hey there!
Just looking for information on the world consumption of sheep meat and (since there's obviously not much information on it...) i stumbled over your article :)
I know it's quite old, but I just had to respond!
I live in New Zealand on a (relatively big) farm and study International AgriCommerce here and as far as I know, hardly any sheep here are fed grain.
We even have to assure that they have never consumed anything else than pasture or milk on the truckingcards for the meatworks.
You can't really compare NZ with Australia, since their summers are much hotter, plus they often have droughts.
As farmers we get about NZ$6 per kg of lamb at the moment, but i'm not too sure about Australia.

Of cause its already 6 years later, but I just wanted to share that information :)

Interesting article!! :)


Hi everyone,

I just started raising sheep last year. I'm using the lambs for butcher and the parents for wool. This was my first spring lambing to go through. I'm going for a Cheviot cross due to the fact the using a Cheviot stud is great for meat and for passing on his "Cheviotness" to his offspring. Currently, my one meat lamb is growing pretty good I think, even though I'm new the whole thing. At 4mos old the baby weighs almost 60lbs. She's quite stocky and thickly built. She has been entirely fed on grass and hay with a bit of a treat once in awhile. I'm in the upper part of Michigan but just below the bridge, (tip of the mitt) I can't wait to see how she turns out!

Mike Marinez

Look into Michigan farm raised lambs if you want to have the flavor of grain feed lambs that have all the room to graze at the same time, Michigan is one of the most underrated places to grow quality livestock with the animal's quality of life at the utmost of respect. Seriously.


So sad to learn that lamb is being grain fed. I thought it was the one meat I could buy at a military commissary that would be grass fed. (It's hard to find grass fed anything here in Korea.) Thanks for this information!

Barbara WilliMs

Check out how well that Costco lamb is trimmed and consider the labor to remove the fat and you will start to understand their low price.


Your ethics and phieisophols are impressive. Where are the lambs processed? Does the stress free environment carry through the abattoir experience as well? Wouldn't it be great to have a mobile, registered abattoir in this country, to enable on farm processing where we can still sell the meat?Also how far do you ship meat? Interstate? Interested in the logistics of this also

Matthew McCormack

The problem with the grain finishing is that the extra weight gain is mostly fat.

I found this site because the Australian lamb available at Safeway in Baltimore is so greesy and rubbery that I thought it MUST be grain fed.

Thanks for the information! I am going to stick with grass fed cows from the downtown farmers market until I find pastured lamb here.

Deborah Bauer

My experience with raising livestock, as a meat cutter and cook I have found grass fed
Dorper lamb to best the best lamb I have ever eaten.I'm not a huge fan of grass fed beef due to its inconsistency of finish,I enjoy free range grain finished but perhaps grass finished would be better.


Raising lamb totally on grass depends, too, on where you are in the country. Our lambs are born outside in May (we need to wait until it warms up here in Minnesota), and it's hard to get the lambs to market weight before the snow flies in December. So we add some grain to their diet, but it's just a small percentage. But if we lived in CA, we'd go to entirely grass fed...

And those prices you're paying---Lordy. If you buy directly from a farmer, you'll pay less. For example, we charge about $6.50 per pound if you buy a whole or half. (We don't ship, so don't get excited.) But try buying direct---it'll be cheaper.

And thanks for writing about lamb---it's a great meat!

Rising Moon Farm
Author of The Compassionate Carnivore: How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald's Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat.

Rebecca T. of HonestMeat

The Californian grassfed lamb was from a hair sheep breed called Dorper. Since hair sheep don't produce wool, they have little to no lanolin production. This is supposed to make the meat more mild and less "muttony" flavored. In my research I found that Australia and New Zealand are still mostly using wool breeds, with Merino sheep dominating in Australia and Romney sheep dominating in New Zealand. However, I believe the mushy texture of the Australian lamb was due to grain-feeding and not the breed. The flavor was pretty good but the texture was awful.

Sam Burton

It really is the cost of lamb that keeps most people away. A nice slow roasted or lightly smoked leg of lamb is an absolute delight, but it is just not value for most pocket books.

Carrie Oliver

That's an interesting comparision between grain-finished and grass-only lamb. Were the lambs from the same breed? In my limited experience tasting what I'd call artisan lamb (no one near me can tell me what's on my plate so I won't eat it) I've found really high seasonality in the flavors, whether grain or grass-finished, and by breed. Would love to learn more.


I was very surprised also when we found out how much lamb is produced with grain. I mean, c'mon! Sheep and cows can obviously do just fine on grass...just manage your grass and give them something good to eat. There is a local lamb producer but she raises hers mainly on grain throughout, as the pastures are ruined due to continuous grazing.

We have a few now that we are trying to finish. The problem with just grassfed for most producers is getting them to the desired weight. Given that sheep (unlike pigs and cows) usually have a fixed processing cost, the more the farmer can get them to weigh, the lower the processing cost per pound. Nevertheless, we're raising only on grass and whatever the weight is when their time is due, that's what it is.

Thanks for a great post.

Nature's Harmony Farm

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

What's This All About?

Facebook Fan

  • Honest Meat on Facebook

Google Me

  • WWW
    Honest Meat

Subscribe with Bloglines RSS

Search Powell's Books

Honest Books