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So much more in the lamb’s tail

Today, February 15, is National Lamb Day. It is the day when we’re all encouraged to eat lamb and my view is we shouldn’t need any encouragement.

Lamb is a natural food, readily available, mouth-wateringly tender and better for our health and the environment.

Also, as William Shakespeare was quoted as saying, ‘intelligent people eat lots of meat’, which I’m sure is true.

I put my intelligence down to meat consumption, and I believe the rest of the country can too, because only 1 per cent of us are vegans, and that percentage is decreasing.

It is also important to acknowledge that grains, seeds, nuts fruit and vegetables all need flattish land that can be cultivated plus requiring chemicals and water. Meat-producing pasture doesn’t.

All that means is that eating naturally produced red meat is an absolute no-brainer for good health and welfare, not forgetting its benefit to the environment.

February 15 is poignant because it is the 142nd anniversary of our first shipment of frozen lamb departing Port Chalmers. The voyage took three months and the 5000 carcasses, we are told, arrived in perfect condition.

Lamb Day is an initiative of the farmer group Ag Proud, who come across as a relevant and much-needed part of New Zealand’s landscape.

Their aim with Lamb Day is to boost the profile of New Zealand lamb and to get some clear messages out on the importance of lamb to our economy.

Mediaworks are on board, as is Otago Port, Beef and Lamb and FMG.

There will be 15 lamb barbeques run around the country, mainly in the main centres, plus one at parliament. That will be in the form of a lunch hosted by Associate Agriculture Minister, the Hon Mark Patterson.

The barbeques will offer free lamb chops and lamb burgers that will be cooked by local farmers so they will, inevitably, be a culinary delight. I can’t wait.

Beef and Lamb make the point that ‘the day is a celebration of food and the significant economic contribution New Zealand’s red meat sector generates for Kiwis’.

They then give credit for ‘the hard work of our dedicated farmers’.

Lamb Day is a worthwhile day, but it is more than that, because people have taken their eye off the nutritional value of red meat. We’re continually told to eat more greens, but my view is that if God wanted me to eat greens, he would have given me big ears and whiskers.

Because he didn’t, my sincere belief is that meat should be compulsory, with greens being optional.

The beauty of lamb is that it can be cooked in many delicious ways.

Paddy Tatham of the Homewood Storeroom has convinced me that slow-cooked lamb is the food of the gods and is not difficult to cook. There are many ways you can prepare delicious lamb. It is a healthy, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable product we should be eating more of.

So, fellow farmers and privileged residents of Wairarapa, we expect you all to be serving lamb today. Deliciously cooked with a cheeky locally-produced chardonnay or pinot. Greens are optional, but not necessary.

    Alan Emerson is a semi-retired writer, farmer and businessman living in Wairarapa. He writes a weekly column for Farmers Weekly and has written and/or edited five books.

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