Medal for Katanning mutton

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian
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Mutton produced in WA's South West was highly praised for its role in taking out a Gold Medal menu at the international Oceanafest culinary competition last week at the Perth Convention Centre.

The win was a dream come true for Katanning sheep producer David Thompson and his family, who supplied their branded Moojepin Merino Meat which the champion Australian Culinary Team selected as its main course.

The team of five chefs prepared a three-course menu, bravely choosing mutton as the main course of smoked loin, roast cutlet and braised neck as they competed against international chefs who entertained mains of lamb, duck and beef to the event judges.

Mr Thompson has endeavoured to dispel the myth that Merino meat is too lean in his mission to add value to mutton (ewes three to six years) and build consumer appreciation.

"Our brand is becoming recognised for its ability to retain moisture post the 21-day dry ageing process, which has been successful due to breeding for higher fat content," he said.

"We have done our homework using Australian Sheep Breeding Values for the last 12 years, selecting for better eating quality traits including increased muscling and fat and attention to supplying a varied diet of perennial grasses and saltbush."

In just the past two months of introduction, Moojepin Merino Meat is now on the menus of four Perth restaurants, including Clarke's of North Beach. Restaurant entrepreneur and head chef Stephen Clarke said he was at first sceptical of considering mutton for his menu, but was intrigued with the provenance of the product and its availability year-round.

"Mutton is not an easy sell at the dining table, but the story of 1000-day grazed and 21-day dry aged is gaining customer acceptance and the quality and taste is up there with the best lamb on the market," he said.

"Those who order the South West Merino dining experience appeal to supporting the local farmer and appreciate the 'wow factor' flavour."

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