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Chef and co-owner of the Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen, Dale Bowie reckons he can get even the most ardent critic to enjoy a lamb rack thanks to a product called TE MANA LAMB.

“We’ve had customers here say they don’t like lamb, but when others on their table start saying how great it is, they try some and think it’s brilliant,” Bowie says.

A generation of Kiwis has grown up with the mantra that fat is bad, yet Bowie’s table guests are told that TE MANA LAMB has a high level of Omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats that are good for you.

“The meat is so moist and succulent you just can’t go wrong,” he says.

TE MANA LAMB is the result of a primary growth partnership between a group of like minded farmers called Headwaters, meat processor Alliance Group and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The Omega Lamb Project builds on a decade-long scientific programme and research involving Headwaters, says project manager Mike Tate.

Headwaters found that the right combination of genetics, management and feeding could alter the fat profile of lamb, produce healthy animals and deliver a healthier product for consumers, he says.

“We’ve all been scared of fat over the last decade or more, probably for reasons that have turned out to be a little spurious,” says Tate.

“But if you refocus your thinking around the ‘fat in the system’ and putting healthy fats back into animals which some would argue has got a bit lean, you find all these benefits.

“By putting healthy fats back into the ewe on the hill country, she’s better able to face the challenges of the environment and raise her lambs. We’re managing forages that promote putting on intramuscular fat in the lambs, that creates a great taste but equally focussing on the right fats like Omega-3 where we’re delivering what we believe is the healthiest red meat in the world.”

It was quite a process to get animals up to the standard required, he said.

“We’ve looked at 500 different genetic lines, we’ve looked at many different forage combinations. Part of this is at every stage of the value chain; linking and implementing best-practice orientated at this final consumer product.”

The lamb comes from a composite animal developed by Headwaters which has romney, finn, texel and perendale genetics.

Headwaters geneticist Aimee Charteris leads the work.

She was approached 10 years ago to design the breeding programme for Headwaters but “couldn’t create a plan where there were penalties on fat.”

“One of the things I couldn’t get my head around in the industry was the fact that we were selecting against fat. From a biological point of view, it is critical for survival. Fat is essential for taste.

“I went through a process of what I knew and what I’d experienced to date through science and observation and using a bit of common sense and a bit of biology, I re-thought the whole process and where I landed was fat,” she says.

“If you don’t have fat you just can’t function and particularly when you see where sheep production is right now, heading into the higher hill country.”

Charteris says she wanted to produce an efficient, productive composite animal with some “serious points of difference.” She chose the perendale because of its hardiness; the romney as a base breed to create significant volume; the finn because of it prolificacy and the texel because of its muscle mass.

TE MANA LAMB is raised in the high country in spring on farms ranging from North Canterbury to Southland. In summer, lambs are brought down to finishing farms to graze on chicory and chicory/red clover pasture.

“The diet nutritionally conditions the meat,” says Charteris. “That assists with the good pH in the meat and also makes sure the animal is growing and in my opinion has a robust immune system, so it’s got great energy flowing through its body the entire time.

“Consequently, it’s not only excellent when it lands on the plate, but it’s also fundamentally incredibly good for the animal while it’s in the production system,” she says.

Stud manager for Headwaters Simon Saunders says the breeding programme is based on two key objectives.

“Firstly making sure we have a ewe that does well in the hill country. And secondly, one that will produce a fantastic product.

“There is a significant amount of monitoring and recording going on to capture all the data we need so we can measure the genetic gain. Sitting to the side of the breeding programme we have a progeny test where we take some elite rams, and we put them over some commercial ewes. The offspring from the commercial ewes are killed, and we capture a whole lot of data around quality traits.”

About 30,000 TE MANA LAMBs reached the programme’s criteria for Omega-3 intramuscular and polyunsaturated fats this year.

Caberfeidh Station in the Hakataramea Valley finished 50 per cent of the targeted number on the chicory mix.

Caberfeidh is one of the Omega project’s pilot farms, and it’s already clear that the lambs thrive on chicory and are helping increase production.

For four months, 14,500 lambs were grazed on 173 hectares at 82 stock units to the hectare.

Station block manager Jason Sutherland says the management principles of chicory are similar to lucerne, but it is “a lot trickier” and more sensitive to the environment.

“Lambs are put on chicory until it is down to 11 centimetres and then moved on. Most of the protein and all of the goodies are in the top of the leaf. Go below 11cm, and you lose all that.

“We have a saying with lucerne that if you think stock need to be shifted tomorrow, do it today, but with chicory, we have found if you think you have two days left you need to move them today.

“We usually finish the lambs for a mean of 40 days, some longer depending on weight.”

Sutherland says the Omega Lamb Project has helped him develop a farming system.

“You can’t just chuck some lambs on chicory – it’s a real farm system involving genetics, breeding, traceability and support for farmers.”

The specific breeding programme and pasture requirements don’t lend themselves initially to mass production, Tate says.

They were looking to position their lamb at the top end of the market, which would give farmers higher returns, he says.

“At this stage, it is very much aimed at the fine dining experience. We see it as heralding a rebirth of different lamb dishes and reaffirmation of New Zealand as the home of the world’s best lamb.

“We’re still exploring how big that premium can be in the market, but certainly chefs are willing to recognise it as a premium.”

Headwaters celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is looking for more farmers to get on board as its looks to increase production of TE MANA LAMB based on market demand.

 

This article originally featured in The Southland Times.

 

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New Zealanders can now enjoy TE MANA LAMB at home with the product selected for the award-winning home delivery service My Food Bag.

TE MANA LAMB has until now only been available at a select number of fine-dining restaurants in New Zealand and Hong Kong since its market launch in summer 2017.

But the premium lamb, which has been developed as part of The Omega Lamb Project (a Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme), is now featuring in My Food Bag’s Gourmet Bag and being delivered to customer homes across the country.

Nadia Lim, co-founder and dietitian at My Food Bag, said: “We’re constantly scouring the market for top quality, locally produced ingredients to help New Zealanders put great meals on the table. TE MANA LAMB is tender, delicious and makes it easy to create a five-star, nutritious meal.

“The more common source for Omega-3 fatty acids is seafood, particularly oily fish. The fact that this lamb contains notable levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, as a result of their diets, is a bonus to its fantastic flavour.

“The lamb can be cooked longer, allowing the intramuscular fat to melt, creating delicious and delicate flavours and an underlying richness. And that’s what makes it an ideal inclusion in My Gourmet Bag.”

Mike Tate, general manager of The Omega Lamb Project, said the agreement with My Food Bag marks a major milestone for TE MANA LAMB.

“We are excited to be partnering with My Food Bag. It will mean My Food Bag customers, who are real foodies, will be the first New Zealanders to be able to cook and dine on TE MANA LAMB in their own homes. We anticipate this will also act as a great launching-pad and help drive demand for TE MANA LAMB in the limited number of exclusive restaurants where it is available.”

Peter Russell, General Manager Marketing for Alliance Group, said: “The inclusion of TE MANA LAMB in My Gourmet Bag is testament to the delicate taste profile of the lamb. The response from chefs and diners has been overwhelmingly positive. Foodies have been impressed by the delicacy and lightness in mouth feel and a mild aroma. Chefs have also welcomed the high standards of consistency and quality.”

Justine Gilliland, Director Investment Programmes for the Ministry for Primary Industries, said: “This announcement and the successful launch in premium restaurants in New Zealand and Hong Kong demonstrates the potential of TE MANA LAMB and is a validation of the investment in Primary Growth Partnership programmes such as The Omega Lamb Project.

“Importantly, this is not just about TE MANA LAMB because much of the technology and systems developed for The Omega Lamb Project will also benefit other grass-fed product and the red meat sector so New Zealand Inc will benefit.”

TE MANA LAMB was developed by The Omega Lamb Project, a Primary Growth Partnership programme involving New Zealand’s leading food company Alliance Group, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Headwaters, a group of more than 50 of New Zealand’s leading farmers.

It’s the result of a project originally conceived to produce sheep better able to thrive in high altitude pastures and the harsh conditions associated with South Island sheep stations. This led to an unexpected discovery.

Not only were the resulting lambs healthier and able to withstand the rigours of the elements, but they were also significantly and demonstrably better-eating. This is due to the rich levels of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and the type of intramuscular fat.

ENDS

About My Food Bag

My Food Bag launched its home delivery service into New Zealand in 2013. Customers order online and receive food bags containing recipes for a week’s main dinner meals. The bags contain best in season, fresh ingredients that are locally sourced where possible.

All My Food Bag recipes are developed according to co-founder Nadia Lim’s Nude Food philosophy of ignoring the hype, trusting your instincts and eating real food.

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TE MANA LAMB
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The ‘Wagyu of lamb’ arrives. A new breed promises to take lamb in New Zealand to the next level and it’s coming soon to some of our finest restaurants.

IT’S LAMB, JIM, but not as we know it. Ten years of research by New Zealand food company Alliance Group, Kiwi farmer shareholder group Headwaters and the Ministry for Primary Industries has resulted in a new breed of lamb called TE MANA LAMB. Raised in our iconic South Island high country and finished on chicory herb pastures for 30 days, the aim is to breed ‘good fat’ back into the lamb.

Like the famous Wagyu beef, TE MANA LAMB boasts plenty of intramuscular fat, which melts back into the meat while it is cooking, meaning it is more succulent and, helpfully, much more forgiving – your lamb racks won’t dry out terminally if you get distracted refilling a wine glass while searing them off. That’s the good news; the bad is there just isn’t enough TE MANA LAMB to go around yet. You’ll find it in quality decicatessens and butcheries eventually, but New Zealand’s top restaurants get first dibs.

Nourish Group executive chef Gareth Stewart has just put the lamb on the new menu at Euro and Taste caught up with him for a bit of recipe development down in Auckland’s Viaduct. Gareth cooked up a three-hour TE MANA LAMB oyster shoulder, confit lamb belly and a classic lamb cutlet and served it with raw chicory marinated in a salsa verde sauce, on a fromage blanc base and finished with a silken lamb jus.

Gareth reckons this lamb is next-level stuff in this country and the innovation is past due. He took a trip to a high-country farm with felloiw chef Ben Bayly to see the lamb in situ, and the dish he whipped up at Euro was inspired by the ingredients in the vicinity: chicory, watercress and macadamia nuts. Gareth says TE MANA LAMB is the ammunition chefs need to get diners excited about lamb again. Lamb breeds have not become recognised ‘designer labels’ like Augus, Wakanui or Wagyu beef, but all that might be about to change.

This article originaly appeared in Taste magazine. Read the PDF version: TE MANA LAMB

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A bid to produce the world’s healthiest red meat is proving a hit for a group of South Island high country farmers.

Their unique TE MANA LAMB was launched onto the market this winter, to be served up at top restaurants both here and in Hong Kong.

Life on the farm’s been a lot tougher in recent years for the country’s sheep, as the growth of dairying pushes them higher into the hills.

Geneticist Aimee Charteris has spent the past decade on a project to create a new breed of sheep.

“[There’s] a real need to rethink about what a ewe needs to be functioning incredibly well in that type of environment,” she told Newshub.

Five-hundred genetic lines were tested, with the aim of finding a way to put fat back on the animals.

The whole project is about producing sheep better able to survive and thrive in the hill and high country.

Adding more fat also improves the flavour, something farmers say has been lost in the drive for leaner meat.

“We’ve been able to develop a sheep that’s high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and also really high in intramuscular fat,” Stag Valley farmer Simon Saunders said.

The lambs are finished on chicory pastures, a leafy herb that helps them grow fast. These factors combine to produce TE MANA LAMB, marketed by the Alliance Group as the world’s tastiest and healthiest.

The premium-priced lamb means better returns for farmers.

It was launched by Prime Minister Bill English recently in Hong Kong and is also on the menu of top-end restaurants here.

Queenstown chef Will Eaglefield says diners shouldn’t be concerned about the intramuscular fats running through the meat.

“People are already on board with that from wagyu beef. And I think the public are quite aware now that marbling is a good thing.”

He says that produces a juicier cut with more flavour, plus a burst of omega fats.

The successful launch has proven there’s an appetite for the new Kiwi lamb, with more breeders and farmers coming on board this season.

 

This article originally appeared on Newshub. Watch the video here.

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A great interview with Aimee Charteris on Nine-to-Noon with Kathryn Ryan on the background to the project.

Watch the video interview HERE.

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A rather special type of Kiwi lamb is now being served at selected restaurants across the country, including Sidart, Cassia and Rata.

The result of an MPI-led initiative called the Omega Lamb Project, TE MANA LAMB comes from animals reared in the South Island high country to have higher levels of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats – the “good fats”. This results in a marbled meat said to be particularly tender, succulent and flavoursome.

Lek Trirattanavatin, head chef at Auckland’s Saan, who uses TE MANA LAMB shoulder to make the massaman curry pictured, says it’s the best lamb he’s ever tasted.

 

Image credit: Saan restaurant

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Hunt for tastier lamb has New Zealand breeding fattier sheep.

When healthy eating became the rage two decades ago, New Zealand — the world’s biggest lamb exporter — made a bet the industry would later regret: its farmers began rearing animals with less fat.

That decision, combined with factors as varied as poor marketing and a drop in wool prices, helped hasten the retreat of lamb and mutton from global dinner ­tables.

Consumers turned off by the reduced flavour of lean lamb chops and cutlets switched to other meats such as pork.

Per capita lamb and mutton consumption in developed countries fell by 36 per cent between 1995 and 2015, whereas consumption of pork rose by 2.8 per cent and chicken by nearly 40 per cent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and ­Development.

Sheep numbers in New Zealand, which together with Australia accounts for more than 70 per cent of global lamb exports, fell to 27.6 million last year from more than 70 million at their peak in 1982.

Now, New Zealand is peddling fatty sheep again in an attempt to reverse the decades of decline. The country’s farmers are pinning their hopes on a new lamb strain, dubbed Te Mana, which New Zealand started exporting last month after 10 years of experimental breeding.

New Zealand’s sheep industry has had other challenges in addition to its animals’ fat content. From the 1990s, a slump in the price of wool — a side business for some meat farmers — and a later boom in dairy prices led farmers to switch to bovines from ovines. Another misstep was a sales-and-marketing strategy that focused on volume rather than quality, industry experts say.

“New Zealand has just been sending undifferentiated lambs to the world,” said Peter Russell, head of marketing at Alliance Group, one of the country’s biggest livestock co-operatives.

New Zealand’s quest for a tastier sheep began in 2007, when 50 farmers from the Headwaters cooperative teamed up with the New Zealand government and Alliance Group to launch a breeding project. The group, dubbed the Omega Lamb Project, analysed 500 separate genetic lines of sheep, looking for high levels of intramuscular fat and the ability to thrive in the cold hill country to which many sheep farms had been pushed, after lowland pasture was taken by more-profitable crops and dairy cows.

The winner was Ram 211, a sheep that also had high levels of Omega-3, a fatty acid that a fifth of Americans take as a nutritional supplement.

“He was right in the top five for everything,” said Ram 211’s keeper, Lumsden farmer Simon Saunders, pointing out the animal on a recent afternoon.

From Ram 211, the Omega Lamb Project developed a breed of sheep with high fat levels, which it eventually named Te Mana. The group experimented with feed as well, testing out around 20 different types of forage in summer, after the sun had dried out the grass in the hills. So far, the group has spent $NZ25 million ($23.9m) on the project.

Early sales suggest restaurants are willing to pay up to double the price of regular lamb for Te Mana, says Mike Tate, general manager of Omega Lamb. “The difference between Te Mana lamb and other lamb is quite striking,” said chef Samuel Wilkes, who tried out Te Mana at Japanese fusion restaurant Zuma in Hong Kong.

This story originally featured on Wall Street Journal.

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Te Mana Lamb, the product of the Omega Lamb Project, has been officially launched by Prime Minister Bill English in Hong Kong.

Promoted as being the world’s tastiest and healthiest lamb, the project is a collaboration between Alliance Group, Headwaters Group and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

It involved bringing healthy fat back on to the menu by producing lambs with naturally higher polyunsaturated fatty acids, intramuscular fat and omega-3.

Guests at a gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, attended by Mr English and the Hong Kong business community, were among the first international diners to try TE MANA LAMB.

Read the story HERE.

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A new kind of lamb set to spark a renaissance in the global appetite for premium meat has been launched by New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English at a reception in Hong Kong.

TE MANA LAMB, the culmination of a decade’s research and development, has put the ‘good fat’ back into the lamb with rich levels of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, ensuring it can arguably lay claim to the title of the world’s heathiest red meat.

Guests at a gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel attended by Prime Minister English and the Hong Kong business community were among the first international diners to try the world’s newest lamb, which is bred in New Zealand’s iconic South Island high country and finished on special chicory herb pastures.

Eat the Kiwi, a New Zealand Coalition supported through NZTE, hosted the event (Friday 19th May) at Hong Kong’s Zuma restaurant as the Hong Kong distributor.

TE MANA LAMB is now on the menu of a limited number of exclusive Hong Kong and New Zealand restaurants before plans are finalised to launch the lamb in other markets.

The lamb is the result of an innovative “Primary Growth Partnership” programme involving leading New Zealand food company Alliance Group, a group of the country’s progressive farmers known as Headwaters and New Zealand government agency the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Known as The Omega Lamb Project, the aim of the programme is to increase the total value of lamb and the share of value captured in New Zealand by developing healthy, high quality branded products.

Peter Russell, General Manager Marketing for Alliance Group, said the Omega Lamb Project was originally conceived to produce less ‘lean’ sheep, able to thrive better in high altitudes, pastures and conditions.

“There was an epiphany moment. The breakthrough discovery that these lambs were not just healthier, but also significantly and demonstrably better-eating due to the type of intramuscular fat, the healthy polyunsaturated Omega-3 fat.  This in turn means the resulting lamb doesn’t taste like any other lamb before it.

“TE MANA LAMB is to lamb what Wagyu is to beef, with a rich marbling of healthy Omega-3 fats. That’s where the spectacular taste resides. The result is an entirely new lamb taste experience– delicate, clean and tender.

“TE MANA LAMB doesn’t behave like regular lamb when cooking. Because the lamb meat is full of ‘good fat’, it has essentially less moisture. That means it doesn’t suffer shrinkage, retains its shape, flavour and texture and is more versatile.

“It boasts a delicacy and lightness in mouth feel and a mild aroma that no other lamb before it has been capable of.  The product has outstanding succulence, tenderness and flavour.”

He added: “This discovery will benefit a whole new generation of foodies that may have thought lamb was consigned to a previous generation and entirely new consumer segments and markets that previously weren’t interested in lamb.

“TE MANA LAMB, befitting its place as Food from Heaven, is produced to the highest standards of consistency and quality.   It is only available in limited quantities and its supply will be restricted to a number of exclusive restaurants.

“Importantly, TE MANA LAMB reveals a very promising premium future for New Zealand’s farmers.”

Mike Tate, General Manager of the Omega Lamb Project, said: “New Zealand lamb is internationally renowned for its quality by consumers and the hospitality industry.

“However, TE MANA LAMB is something different. The specific breeding programme and pasture requirements don’t lend themselves initially to mass production. At this stage, it is very much aimed at the fine dining experience. We see it as heralding a rebirth of different lamb dishes and reaffirmation of New Zealand as the home of the world’s best lamb.”

There has been an extremely positive response from chefs, and the feedback from multiple taste panels shows the extra “good fats” really enhance succulence and eating quality, said Mr Tate.

Justine Gilliland, Director Investment Programmes for the Ministry for Primary Industries, said: “Over time, the programme aims to deliver premiums for our farmers and processors, and raise the value and profitability of New Zealand’s lamb overall.

“This Primary Growth Partnership programme has the potential to add over $400 million in new export earnings, and increase lamb revenues by 34% for adopting farmers.

“Many of the technology and systems developed will also apply to grass-fed product, and the wider lamb supply.”

TE MANA LAMB was tested to chef and customer acclaim at luxury lodges and leading restaurants in New Zealand as part of a trial in 2016.

Dale Bowie, chef and co-owner of the renowned Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen in New Zealand’s South Island, is one of the chefs who has been serving the lamb.

He says: “It’s a revelation – radically different. With ordinary lamb, I have to do a lot of adjusting during cooking, but with TE MANA LAMB, it’s really simple to get a perfect result every time.

“Since we’ve been using TE MANA in the restaurant, many customers have commented the lamb is even better than before. It’s really succulent, with a great taste but none of the fattiness you traditionally associate with lamb.

“We’ve had customers say they don’t like lamb but when others on their table start saying how good the lamb is, they try some and think it’s phenomenal.  The meat is so moist and succulent you just can’t go wrong. In terms of new recipes and innovation, the sky’s the limit.”

Volker Marecek, executive chef of The Langham in Auckland, New Zealand, said the new class of lamb was a game-changer for chefs: “This lamb hits the sweet spot for taste, tenderness and succulence.”

TE MANA LAMB was selected as the centrepiece of the main dish prepared by New Zealand’s team when it competed in the international Culinary Olympics in October, winning a coveted silver medal in the live hot kitchen competition.

TE MANA LAMB is currently being supplied solely by Eat The Kiwi to the following restaurants in Hong Kong:

  • Zuma
  • Otto E Mezzo
  • Ham & Sherry
  • 22 Ships
  • American Club (Exchange Square)
  • Grand Hyatt
  • Le Garçon Saigon
  • 12000 francs
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Lamb packed with Omega-3 fats is on the menu at fine-dining restaurants.

TE MANA LAMB, bred in the New Zealand high country and finished on chicory herb pastures, is marbled and rich in polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats.

The lamb is part of the Omega Lamb Project, a Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between meat processor Alliance Group, the Headwaters group and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The project is eventually expected to increase the total value of lamb by $400 million by developing healthy and high quality branded products.

Omega Lamb Project Mike Tate said the project built on a decade-long scientific programme and research involving Headwaters which found the right combination of genetics, management and feeding could alter the fat profile of lamb and produce healthy animals and deliver a healthier product for consumers.

“The specific breeding programme and pasture requirements don’t lend themselves initially to mass production. At this stage, it is very much aimed at the fine dining experience. We see it as heralding a rebirth of different lamb dishes and reaffirmation of New Zealand as the home of the world’s best lamb.”

 

Read the whole story here.

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