Indeed, gone are the days when merino was exclusively reared for wool. The breed has already become just as desired for their meat as their wool.
This is basically due to the fact that though they produce carcass sizes that are relatively smaller than some major meat breeds, the quality of the meat is better than what is obtainable with other sheep breeds and many individuals are becoming increasingly interested in eating merino.
Most suppliers already know about the fact that many individuals are becoming interested in merino meat and the sourcing of the meat is on the increase.
Before we look at what makes merino meat better than the rest, let us consider how the breed differs from the others.
Also known as the South African Meat Merino (SAMM), the Merino is a meat and wool sheep that was introduced into South Africa in the 1930s from Germany.
In 1971, the breed was recognized as a separate breed and has since spread to other countries of the world and is regarded as originating from South Africa. Currently, merinos are found in Australia, Canada, USA, etc.
In South Africa, the sheep has been recognized as a dual purpose breed and are raised accordingly. The rams are known for their wool quality and excellent carcass yield, while the ewes are known to have good maternal instinct and good milk production.
While rams can grow up to 100kg, the ewes can grow up to 95kg. Both rams and ewe produce good quality wool in reasonably large quantity and when they are killed for their meat, the quality and quantity of the meat are remarkably high.
Rams that are reserved to be used as sires are also bred for this purpose and when they are grown, can be slaughtered for their meat too.
These rams weigh over 100kg and will produce top quality meat. Meat can also be sourced from matured ewes and the quality will not be any different from those sourced from rams.
Why Merino Meat is Better
Merino meat is not very much different from meats of other breeds, but there are differences all the same. However minute the factors are, Merino meat is better than others in some ways that we can consider below.
1. Moderate Fat in the Right Areas
While every butcher wants an animal that will yield good carcass, the fat content of the carcass is also considered an important factor. The fat content of merino meat is not too much.
It is also not too small either if you consider what should be regarded as ideal. Many butchers have confirmed that merino has moderate fat that is just right for the meat quality.
Most importantly, the fats are also located in the right places. For sheep meat that is adequately rich in intramuscular fat or marbling, merino is the right choice.
2. It is Nutritious
It is well known that lamb and mutton are very nutritious. Merino was normally reared for their wool, but when farmers started breeding them for their meat, people started looking at the meat to see if it is as good as any other sheep meat.
From all indication, Merino sheep are genetically lean, succulent and rich in protein, iron and vitamins. It is also low in kilojoules, making it a highly nutritious meat.
3. It Tastes Great
Asides from being nutritious, merino sheep are known to be very tasty. The meat of the sheep has a delicate flavour and tender texture after cooking.
While Merino lamb will taste like every other lamb, the mutton from a mature one has a unique taste due to its fat content.
This taste has been described as remarkable by those that love mutton and lamb and has been hailed as an exceptionally tasty meat. This has had a positive effect on its demand among sheep consumers.
4. It can be Prepared Through Most Cooking Methods
Another thing that makes merino meat exceptional is the fact that it can be prepared by almost all of the popular methods of cooking meat.
Whether you want to go for grilling, barbecuing, braising, stir-frying, pan frying, roasting, or stewing, the meat will turn out just fine and preserve its unique flavour.
Sheep is a great source of meat and merino ranks among the very best breeds not just in wool, but in meat too.