The Wandering Palate is rather partial to lamb, even more so when there’s a happy story to it; that is you know it’s coming from a 3rd generation family-run artisan farmer with the lambs roaming free-range munching on Mallee grasses and saltbush.
The Mallee is the most north-westerly district of Australia’s state of Victoria, bordering both South Australia and New South Wales; a parched, flat, low-lying land that was covered by an inland ocean for eons and subsequently tortured by arid glacial periods leaving sandy infertile soils where only Mallee grasses (tussock) and saltbush (Atriplex) grow – perfect for lambs.
Indeed, the Merino sheep seem to prefer the more fibrous, less nutritious river saltbush with the resulting meat proven to have surprisingly high levels of vitamin E (an important antioxidant and good for neurological functions) and is leaner and keeps its fresh red colour longer. (Reference Wikipedia)
One such Mallee sheep farmer, Poon Boon Lamb Co. came to my attention recently, established by the Quinane family in 1953, taking over the 100 year-old Poon Boon station, known historically for the pioneering settlers, Burke and Wills, stopping here on their epic journey across Australia from South to North.
The name ‘Poon Boon’ is an Aboriginal term meaning ‘birds on water’ and refers to the natural lake system which nourishes the meagre pastures of the station. They also grow grains on the farm, to provide extra feed for the sheep so that it produces a well-finished healthy animal. Poon Boon states “It is this combination that gives us the belief we have some of the best tasting lamb in Australia.”
What really caught my attention and makes this story all the more fascinating, is Poon Boon are selling direct to the public, which is pretty unique in Australia and really excites the Wandering Palate; the notion that direct sales would make it more financially viable for artisan farmers and encourage more small-scale, organic to take up specialist farming.
Making contact with Poon Boon they declared they have actually only been selling direct for less than one year but have made huge progress in that time. “We started dealing with our local customers in Swan Hill via the Poon Boon Lamb Co HQ butcher shop whilst we were finalising the website. We then started selling online mostly to family and friends and friends of friends etc.”
With this success they realised that they needed to expand their footprint, so have starting to participate in farmers markets, about five per month and all around Melbourne (click here) and the business has grown exponentially from that point.
Apart from direct sales, Poon Boon Lamb also sells via Skinner and Hackett, 400 Rathdowne St Carlton, who stock almost their full range of cuts. This is also another well known butcher in Prahran that will be stocking it from February and they supply several restaurants around Melbourne, Swan Hill and Mildura.
The folks at Poon Boon say that because that their lamb can be packaged to your requests and specifications as they control the production of the lamb cuts and once processed, all their lamb is hung to enable the natural tendering process,“We’re very easy to deal with and very flexible with what we can offer customers.”
Poon Boon lamb are Merino/Borderlester cross ewes coupled with a Suffolk or Dorset ram and whilst not certified organic, it is free of hormones, accelerants, and antibiotics and is reared with the very best animal practices in mind. “We’ve had four generations eating our lamb and our lambs have never been better eating”, which is good enough for the Wandering Palate.
I can’t help think this is a wonderful opportunity for restaurateurs to source specific to their needs and explore the possibilities of old-fashion cuts, longer hang-time and maybe even more mature sheep; yes bring back hogget and mutton – what we all used to enjoy eating so much before lamb.
Poon Boon is a Prime Safe accredited and Halal licensed processing shop and that can provide direct to your door, affordable lamb in different combinations packs, as detailed on the website www.poonboon.com.au vacuum packed which gives you up to three weeks when refrigerated and three months if frozen.
I hope this inspires hunger and to try out some of the Poon Boon lamb with recipes on the Wandering Palate website:
Chef Samia Ahad’s Lamb Shank’s Scented with Persian Lime – Click here
Arrosto di agnello al ginepro – Casserole-roasted lamb with juniper berries Click here
You might also find this article on grass-feed free-range meat verses grain-feed rather interesting – Click here