Mutton movement momentum

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Mutton like no other was presented in a chef’s masterclass workshop last week, giving WA producers and industry stakeholders a taste of hope towards participation in supply chain premiums.

Doing away with the old stigma that mutton doesn’t measure up in fine dining, Moojepin Merino Meat founder David Thompson, who farms in Katanning, is driven to introduce consumers to a new coming-of-age product, particularly sheep meat that is carefully bred and grazed over 1000 days, followed by a dry ageing process which adds further flavour and value.

Mr Thompson said his Moojepin Merino stud, combining the extensive use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values with visual assessment and encompasses breeding objectives to maximise sheepmeat eating quality, challenged the more traditional Merino sheep breeding practices.

“In terms of flavour, our mutton product will knock the socks off of lamb,” Mr Thompson said.

“It’s about eating quality before the addition of any cover-up seasoning.”

At the workshop held at Fremantle’s Young George restaurant, Mr Thompson’s 20-year mutton movement found terrific support from the 23 stakeholders including sheep producers, consultants and chefs who gathered to discuss the opportunities.

With intentions to create a dedicated supply chain, Strategy Matrix director and Moojepin Merino Meat facilitator Ann Maree O’Callaghan presented some key market issues.

She touched on all the relevant points including animal welfare, provenance and transparency, but spoke out loudly on the fact that “flavour is king”. “We need to educate consumers that mutton is not only a healthy and year-round product, but it is big on flavour,” she said.

Kondinin sheep producers Bruce and Maree Browning agreed on this flavoursome fact.

“This is the first time I have had Moojepin mutton cooked by chefs and it is noticeably surprising and presents wonderful eating quality,” Mrs Browning said.

“We have been on Mr Thompson’s Moojepin bloodlines for 12 years and would like to see more rewards for what we produce.”

Mr Browning said the recent frost, which wiped out his family’s crop, had given new relevance to livestock.

“Our crop loss has reinforced how we value livestock,” he said.

While a multitude of mutton dishes were being served to the workshop participants, Passion Meats Purveyor principal and masterclass chef Peter Manifis said Moojepin mutton had terrific marbling and fat, which made it the “Wagyu of lamb”.

“We also need to educate chefs on how to best prepare mutton and find ways to use all the secondary cuts to avoid wastage,” he said.

The Cabin Small Bar head chef Adam Giddings is also a big fan of serving Moojepin.

“My motto is to serve only WA produce and customers’ feedback on Moojepin has been all about the story behind the product,” he said.

Fremantle’s Young George co-owner Melissa Palinkas, who hosted the workshop and chef’s masterclass, said her restaurant served a variety of Moojepin dishes to the delight of satisfied customers.

Meanwhile, Broomehill producers David and Charmaine Meyer are excited to be included in the potential of a supply chain network.

“We are excited to be part of a like-minded group of people who are looking to value-add past the farm gate,” Mr Meyer said.

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