Judge Scott Kennedy says Glammies win with tender lamb was no fluke
The cut of lamb that won the Golden Lamb Awards was so close to perfect that a judge wants to put it on plates in his restaurant.
The Golden Lamb Awards, also known as the Glammies, measures the tastiest and tenderest lamb in New Zealand with 166 entrants narrowed down to 20 finalists. Manawatu farmers Angus and Forbes Cameron who farm in the Pohangina Valley won the supreme award, but came second in their section.
Beef and Lamb Ambassador Scott Kennedy, from Cafe Nero in Palmerston North, was one of the six judges.
Kennedy said he wanted the Cameron product at his restaurant. "We need to have it on the menu. And I am prepared to pay a premium. It is the best lamb from right across New Zealand, and the Camerons have won the 'Glammies' before, and the 'Steak of Origin' [for the best tasting steak], so they are doing it right."
He said a different lamb cut was used when the competition got down to the final five so it was no fluke the Camerons won.
Kennedy said the judges were in agreement with the winner. After dividing up the 20 finalists, two judges taste tested a rump cut to find the top five, based on points.
"We all tasted the top five together, a top side, a different cut from the heats, and we didn't know who the farmer producers were. But the Cameron cut stood out. It got close to 100 per cent."
Kennedy said all the cuts were cooked by sous vide - slow cooking in hot water - and were then barbecued to caramelise them.
He said half the animal was tested for tenderness, and half of the final 20 entries were sent to judges.
"That's why we only had one rump from each lamb to try."
He said all cuts were cooked for the same length of time for the final five lamb entries from farmers.
"All the judges thought the same - we were pretty much all on the money. We tested lamb for smell, texture, tenderness, and did it hold its juiciness well and for taste."
The Camerons' lamb came out the winner for all judges, but another finalist was fairly close, Kennedy said.
"I think we tried the Cameron lamb second, and we were all gobsmacked. The smell was good, the flavour was amazing and the taste incredible."
He said it was smaller than the other topsides, but had the finest grain.
Most diners were willing to pay for something that was really good and had little impact environmentally, he said
He said companies differentiating their product included Coastal Spring Lamb, Lelands Lamb, Taupo Beef and Lamb and Cardrona Merino.
Forbes Cameron said they won because of good genetics and low stressed animals.
"It is a whole lot of things, not just a single one. I think one of the reasons could be docility. We have really docile animals with no-stress handling. So we try to operate a no-stress environment."
He said they handled their animals, both sheep and cattle, as quietly as they could when they' were in the yards.
"But overall, these animals haven't been treated any differently to anything else on the farm or feed any better – in truth they've been in a paddock."
Cameron said genetics played a large part in docility.
"We're combining the production traits with docility to get the best out of them."
He said they had been placed in the Glammies many times, and had always entered ram lambs.
"Contrary to what people are saying, they are tender and, outside when ewes are in season, are fine to eat."