National Lamb Day

24/05/2020

It’s National Lamb Day:

National Lamb Day is celebrated on the 24th of May to commemorate the day in 1882 when the first shipment of frozen sheep meat arrived in the UK aboard the Dunedin. The shipment was organised by two entrepreneurs, William Davidson and Thomas Brydone and left New Zealand on February 15th from Port Chalmers, Otago. William Davidson, was a British-based general manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, whose landholdings in the two countries exceeded 1 million hectares. Davidson had taken an interest in refrigerated experiments, which had proved the concept, if not yet the economic viability, of shipping frozen meat around the globe. That historic journey of around 5,000 carcasses was the beginning of what is now a multi billion dollar industry. New Zealand farmers produce some of the best lamb and the rest of the world just can’t get enough.

Beef + Lamb NZ has a gallery of photos from New Zealand farms featuring lambs here.

 


How Do I Love Ewe?

15/02/2017

How Do I Love Ewe? (With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I love ewe? Let me count the ways

That lamb tempts the taste buds and any hunger stays.

Of course I love ewe roasted, but still a little rare.

And I love ewe butterflied, from all the bones carved bare.

I love you chopped or diced and threaded onto sticks,

With capsicum and onion to get my vege fix.

I love you minced with salad in a burger bun

And chewing on the chop bones is always lots of fun.

I love ewe tender barbequed, the smokey taste sublime,

And hocks cooked long and slow for flavour that’s divine.

I love ewe marinated, with mint or coriander,

And many other ways my appetite ewe pander.

Though proud Kiwi that I am, would be hard to find one keener,

My favourite way to cook ewe is how it’s done in Argentina:

 

It’s a date on which the history of New Zealand changed – February 15th, 1882, William Davidson and Thomas Brydone launched the first shipment of frozen sheep meat to London from Port Chalmers in Otago.

New Zealand wasn’t the first country to export frozen meat:

Canning was started in 1869 in New Zealand but only the best meat was preserved.  The rest of the carcass was boiled down for tallow and all offals were wasted.  The returns from these processes were poor and sheep were principally grown for their wool.  In some districts the only practicable way of getting rid of surplus flocks was to drive them over the cliffs into the sea.  (A practice still followed in the Falkland Islands).  

With this background, it is not difficult to imagine the interest which must have been aroused in New Zealand by the various  attempts made by the pioneers of refrigeration to transport  carcasses across the seas.  The first exports of cooled meat to Britain originated in the United States in 1874. Natural ice chilled the beef.  A trial shipment of frozen meat from Australia was planned in 1876.  Ammonia refrigeration plant was installed in a ship, with brine pipes used to provide chamber cooling.  These pipes leaked, causing the failure of the shipment before the vessel left harbour.  

The first successful shipment took place between San Nicholas in the Argentine and Le Havre in 1877-1878.  It took seven months because a collision and subsequent repairs delayed the the ship, “Paraguay”, but the eighty tons of hard frozen mutton was in perfect condition. The freezing plant used ammonia compression.   

The “Strathleven” inaugurated the Australia trade to London the following year, and by 1881, it had become established.  . . 

The next year New Zealand’s first frozen shipment took place:

In 1881 the Albion Line fitted a Bell-Coleman plant to its sailing ship Dunedin and at Totara Estate, just outside Ōamaru, the Land Company added a slaughterhouse to these late 1860s farm outbuildings. Davidson and local manager Thomas Brydone supervised the slaughtering of 300-400 sheep a day. Ōamaru’s harbour works were incomplete, so they railed the carcasses to Port Chalmers for freezing aboard the Dunedin, which sailed for London on 15 February 1882. The ship landed the cargo in perfect condition. Over the next few decades refrigeration reshaped the New Zealand economy, making meat and dairy products new staple exports. ‘A new economy and society was created’, the New Zealand Historical Atlas noted: ‘one of sheep bred for meat as much as for wool, of owner-occupier farms rather than stations with large numbers of hands, of freezing works and their associated communities, and of ports, some of the activities of which were dominated by this industry.’ By 1902 frozen meat made up 20% of all exports. . . 

New Zealand’s sheep numbers peaked at more than 70 million, we’re now down to fewer than 30 million.

The quantity of sheep is down but the quality and variety of meat cuts has improved.

It doesn’t earn the farmer as much as it did or should, but today’s National Lamb Day – the day to celebrate my favourite meat.


Celebrate National Lamb Day

11/02/2015

Kiwis are invited to celebrate National Lamb Day:

Sunday February 15 is to be National Lamb Day, with this year marking the 133rd anniversary of one of the most significant milestones in New Zealand’s sheep meat industry.

On this day in 1882, William Davidson and Thomas Brydone achieved the remarkable, by launching the first shipment of frozen sheep meat from Port Chalmers in Otago on the Dunedin, bound for London.

The industry hope Kiwis here and around the world will recognise this incredible feat and celebrate it by enjoying lamb for dinner on February 15.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO, Rod Slater says this day also gives New Zealanders an opportunity to recognise the hard work of our farmers and as a nation, a reason to be proud.

“So let us here in New Zealand celebrate with some delicious New Zealand lamb,” says Mr Slater.

“Not only are we celebrating the pioneers of the past 133 years, but also the direction our current agricultural industry is heading. We’re 100% behind all those in the industry.”

This first voyage was an important step in establishing our sheep and beef industry which now contributes $8.5 billion a year to the New Zealand economy.

The 5,000 sheep carcasses arrived in London 98 days later, in excellent condition (although not without incident, with all the challenges of refrigeration in those days) highlighting the size of the accomplishment. Prior to this, New Zealand mainly sold wool overseas as no one believed it possible to have a thriving meat export business.

 

The sheep on that first shipment were killed at Totara Estate a few kilometres south of Oamaru.

The Historic Places Trust (now called Heritage New Zealand) refurbished the buildings. It’s well worth a visit to learn about this important part of our history and get a sense of what life on the estate was like 133 years ago.

You can read more at NZ History Online.

If you’re wondering how to celebrate the day, here’s some inspiration from Australia’s lambassador, Sam Kekovich, :

 


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