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From the News Archives...

Tips for buying your Easter lamb

As you scan the meat counter for that perfect leg or rack of lamb, pause for a moment and consider what the animal may have been fed. In the sheep industry, as in the cattle industry, the main determining factor in selecting an animal's diet is the almighty cost-to-gain ratio. In other words, how much did the feed cost and how rapidly did the animal gain weight? The cheaper the food and the faster the gain, the more desirable the feed. And since the typical consumer has no way of knowing what an animal was fed, the experimenters and feedlot managers have a free hand in concocting their rations.

In a noteworthy 1999 experiment, Kansas sheep researchers compared three different types of inexpensive "feedstuff"—restaurant waste, chicken manure, and ground-up spent layer hens. These novel feeds made up 40-55% of the lambs' diets. At the end of the study, it was found that the lambs fed restaurant waste did slightly better than the lambs fed the ground-up hens or manure. Not surprisingly, the lambs found their 55% manure diet the least appealing of the three.

This study raises some interesting questions. Don't consumers have a right to know what an animal was fed? Don't researchers have an obligation to determine how a given artificial diet affects an animal's quality of life? Shouldn't the animal science industry be required to determine the ultimate nutritional value of their products? And just what is the CLA and omega-3 content of a lamb raised on poultry manure?

Regular visitors to the website know that the natural diet of lambs is ewes' milk and pasture. Period. Lambs grow beautifully on such a diet, and yield roasts that are rich in nutrients and flavor. The Eat Wild Pastured Products directory lists dozens of suppliers of grain-free, antibiotic-free, manure-free, ground-up-chicken-free lamb. Enjoy.


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