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what makes lamb from South Africa’s Karoo and France’s Mont Saint-Michel so particular

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A meal or meals buying expertise may be extra fascinating and pleasurable when you realize extra a few specific product, like what area it got here from and the tradition that formed it. Understanding what makes the meals “distinctive” can enhance the tasting expertise.

Take into consideration consuming an ice-cold glass of “actual” Champagne from France or the satisfaction of serving your dinner visitors “Parma ham” from Italy’s Parma area.

In 1994 the World Commerce Organisation put in place an settlement on mental property (Journeys) that had a part on Geographical Indications. This elevated the safety of sure merchandise, and prolonged it to extra nations. The rights are territorial – the title of a product can solely be used whether it is sourced from a chosen nation or area. All members of the WTO are required to ensure this safety occurs of their territories.

Because of the settlement most nations realised that they had meals merchandise with distinctive “backstories”. Examples embrace: Basmati rice (India and Pakistan); Darjeeling tea (India) and Café de Colombia (Colombia).

African nations have additionally joined the worldwide Geographical Indication household: there’s Poivre de Penja (Penja pepper) from Cameroon, for instance. And in 2021 South Africa registered Rooibos, a regionally grown aromatic plant used to make tea. In 2023 it registered Karoo lamb. That is meat from lambs born and raised within the Karoo, a semi-desert space of the nation which supplies it a particular flavour.

Which means Karoo lamb has its personal Geographical Indication safety with its personal distinctive story.

There are similarities between the backstories of Karoo lamb and Mont Saint-Michel lamb, often known as Agneau de Prés-salés du Mont-Saint-Michel (salt meadow lamb).

Lamb: two tales

The story of France’s Agneau de Prés-salés du Mont-Saint-Michel begins within the huge salt marshes that encompass the Mont Saint-Michel abbey, a Unesco World Heritage Web site in Normandy, France. The marshes are flooded twice every day by the tides of the English Channel. The sheep that roam these salt meadows feed on a wide range of grasses and herbs that impart a particular flavour to their meat.

The excessive saline content material of the vegetation, mixed with the coastal local weather, leads to lamb that’s tender, succulent, and imbued with the essence of the ocean. For hundreds of years the farmers have moved their livestock between completely different grazing areas seasonally, and through spring and summer time the sheep are delivered to the salt marshes to graze. In 2013, Mont Saint-Michel lamb was given official recognition as a Protected Geographical Indication below European Union legislation.

This designation acknowledges the distinctive traits of the lamb produced within the bay space and gives authorized safety in opposition to imitation or misuse of the title. The standing ensures that Mont Saint-Michel lamb can solely be produced throughout the designated geographical space and in keeping with particular manufacturing standards outlined within the official rules.

South Africa’s Karoo lamb story has echoes of this.

The Karoo covers nearly 50% of the whole space of South Africa and is sparsely populated, far-off from main city and distribution centres. This lonely nook of the earth is residence to one in every of South Africa’s dwelling treasures: flocks of sheep, grazing freely among the many scattered shrubs. Their meat is spiced on the hoof because the sheep feed on wild vegetation.

Karoo lamb Geographical Indication can now be traced to its personal “salt marshes”, on this case the Karoo’s distinctive shrubs and grasses (“veld”). In line with the assertion giving it this particular standing:

It is just Karoo Lamb when it’s a lamb which was born and raised on Karoo veld within the outlined Karoo area. It has by no means been in a feedlot, and by no means grazed on planted pastures.


Buying and selling these genuine merchandise exterior the area of origin and past nationwide borders brings into play a number of issues. These embrace traceability, labelling and shoppers being misled. Defending the fame and authenticity of those merchandise must be achieved with nice care and precision.

Merchandise which have particular designation now generally present in retailers. Johann Kirsten.

Most excessive worth merchandise with intrinsic worth lose their fame by misappropriation, usurpation and easy fraudulent and counterfeit practices. For this reason some type of assurance is essential to guard the worth of the product.

Rigorous traceability techniques are wanted to make sure compliance and to offer the mandatory shopper assurance. The regional collective organisation, the Karoo Lamb Consortium, tries to make sure the integrity and honesty of all function gamers – from the farmer to the retailer to the restaurateur.

There are however alternatives for opportunistic behaviour, dishonesty, shirking and plain meals fraud. These embrace:

  • farmers who market feedlot or pasture lamb as Karoo lamb

  • abattoirs that supply from farms exterior the area

  • butchers who don’t verify the origin however promote it as Karoo lamb

  • restaurateurs who inform the naive vacationer that the lamb on the plate is from the Karoo when it’s really sourced from a feedlot far-off from the Karoo.

Happily science can detect the origin of lamb by evaluation of the meat and fats. In a 2017 paper researchers confirmed it was potential to authenticate the origin. Their outcomes confirmed clearly that fats from Karoo lamb had the next focus of key terpenes, validating the direct hyperlink with the herbaceous plant samples.

Learn extra:
It is true: what a sheep eats impacts the style of your lamb roast

Total, the evaluation exhibits appreciable variations between the Karoo and non-Karoo samples.

This analysis was adopted by an intensive train to develop a database for extra areas and sub-regions within the Karoo. Scientists can now simply analyse samples from retail cabinets and ensure the authenticity of claims on labels.

These methods have been efficiently utilized to guard the authenticity of Welsh lamb and New Zealand lamb.


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