Spring lamb raised on the coast of the lower North Island is already on the plates of discerning diners around New Zealand.
Four heritage farming families in the South Taranaki-Whanganui- Rangitikei area are supplying a brand they launched last year to high-end North Island restaurants and retail outlets throughout the North Island and in the upper South Island. It can also be bought online and is available in Hong Kong via an on-line retailer.
Coastal Spring Lamb is already on restaurant menus and will be launched in retail outlets for the 2012-13 season on Monday.
Feeling disconnected from the European market where they previously exported their lambs, the families decided last year to test New Zealand's appetite for their product and supplied spring lamb to New World supermarkets in the lower North Island last spring and summer.
South Taranaki brothers William and Richard Brewer are part of the consortium. The other three families are the O'Neills at Turakina, the Redmaynes at Whanganui, and the McKelvies at Bulls.
Owned by the families for about 100 years, the farms on the North Island's west coast are in the path of the region's salt-laden winds that flavour the pasture the lambs graze.
The Brewer farming partnership's two properties - Makowhai, near Ohangai, northeast of Hawera, and at Manutahi, south of Hawera - feature a diverse mix of dairying, sheep, beef and maize-cropping.
Richard and William Brewer are the third generation of the family to farm the 192 hectare Makowhai block, a West Coast lease property bought by their grandfather and later farmed by their parents, Judy and the late Gil. The brothers bought the Manutahi property in 1987 and have since expanded it to 220ha.
Between 10,000 and 12,000 spring lambs are expected to be processed for the Coastal Spring Lamb brand during the 2012-13 spring and summer.
Consortium spokesman Richard Redmayne said the four families had the capacity to supply 30,000 lambs so they could cater for growth.
He said the venture went exceptionally well last year, with sales of 6000 lambs.
Tastings he and his wife conducted at supermarkets provided them with valuable feedback.
Redmayne said Coastal Spring Lamb was a premium seasonal product, like whitebait or Bluff oysters.
A new initiative this year is a website dedicated to promoting the venture. It features the stories of the consortium's four families and information about their farms and lists the retail outlets and 30 restaurants where Coastal Spring Lamb is available.
Restaurants where Coastal Spring Lamb is sold include Table at New Plymouth's Nice Hotel, Hawera's II Chefs Restaurant, Wellington's Logan Brown and Dine by Peter Gordon, in Auckland.
Check out coastalspringlamb.co.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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