5 Ideas to Spark Fall Menus

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

Who doesn’t love Fall? The weather is still enjoyable, football is back, and the leaves will soon turn those gorgeous red, purple and orange colors – it is my favorite time of year.

The seasonal change from warm days to chilly nights also signals the introduction of fall menus for chefs and restaurateurs.

September opens the door to robust dishes and heartier meats; wild game and duck are also now in season.

Here are some inspiring ideas for  building Fall menus using a variety of meat selections and slower cooking methods:

Shanks a lot!

Shanks are terrific for braising. They are fattier with more connective tissue rich with collagen that along with the bone adds fabulous flavor when cooked. Shanks are also relatively inexpensive. Lamb, Pork, and Veal Shanks make excellent braising choices.  

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

We recommend using Domestic Colorado lamb shanks, though Australian and New Zealand lamb will work too. Compared to imported lamb, which is typically grass fed, American lamb has grain in its diet and tastes less “gamey”. Domestic lamb is larger in size and presents beautifully on the plate; many say it is the highest in quality and consistency.

For pork shanks with a little something special, try the Duroc breed hogs. This breed produces well marbled very tasty meat and competitively compares with higher priced Berkshire or Kurobuta pork.  

When it comes to Veal shanks, Domestic No. 1 Special Fed veal is our favorite. These calves are raised on a milk formula supplement. Their meat color is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine, and velvety appearance superbly tender and delicious.

Other Cuts

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Bone-In Beef Short Ribs can be braised whole, or portion cut in a variety of ways, from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.

Shoulder Cuts of all types are also perfect for braising. Lamb, Pork, and Veal shoulder cuts are typically favored for stew dishes.  

Cheek Meat has become quite popular in trendy restaurants and bistros. Beef, pork, and veal cheeks are rich with flavor and suitable for producing smaller portions. Ox Tails are also excellent for braising.

Rotisserie Raves

Rotisserie cooking allows you to cook whole pieces of meat, which can be used across multiple dishes on your menu. This maximizes your yield, saves labor and leverages your food cost.

The best candidates for rotisserie cooking are Lamb Leg, Lamb Rack, Lamb Top Round, Veal Shoulder Pork Rack and Pork Loin. Chicken, Duck, and Cornish Hens are also traditional rotisserie favorites.

Get Your Game On

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Game meats have also risen in popularity in recent years. Known to be highly flavorful, some of these meats also have lower fat content.

Elk, Venison, Bison, Rabbit and Duck all make great game for fall menus. Elk and Venison racks lend themselves well to a variety of recipes. Bison flanks and chuck rolls are excellent for hearty pot roast. Rabbit can be stewed or braised in a number of ways, and Duck is always a traditional favorite.

Recipe Starters

To help get your creative juices flowing, check out some of these fab Fall recipes for ideas:

Savuer – 25 Recipes for Braised Meats

Recipes from Chef Hans Susser: Roast Pork Butt, Braised Veggies, Pork Jus & Applesauce  Braised Oxtail & Potato Dumplings  Braised Beef Ribs In Red Wine

Recipes from Chef Danilo Alfaro:  Veal Shank Osso Buco  Braised Lamb Shoulder  Braised Chicken Stew

Happy Fall!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

 

 

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Ribs 101 for Summer Grilling

The summer grilling season is fast approaching and for those of us who live in four season climates, reuniting with our backyard barbeques is an annual rite of spring. Whether you grill year round or not, no matter how you fire it up, it’s that first grill of the season that rejuvenates our fervor for outdoor cooking.

Pork Rib Diagram v4Soon we’ll start seeing ads for ribs – Baby Back, Spare, St. Louis, Country Style, Tips, Roasts and Chops – a wealth of options to grill and prepare. Here’s a quick 101 primer for

distinguishing between rib varieties and some tips on the best ways to grill ribs this season.

Hog Anatomy

We’re all familiar with the term “Rib Cage”, where there is an arrangement of long bones that surround the chest to protect internal organs. Long rib bones start from the top of animals by the spine and extend downward with a curved shape towards the belly.  These are the ribs butchers break down for consumption.

BabyBackRibsBaby Back Ribs   The most popular of all pork ribs, Baby Backs are the most lean and tender.  These types of ribs are located at the top part of the rib bone that is connected to the spine (backbone), just below the loin muscle.  The name “Baby” is derived from the fact they are shorter than spare ribs, and “Back”, because they are nearest the backbone.

Butchers make Baby Back Ribs by cutting them where the longest bone is, around 6″ from the spine.  The meat on top of the bones is tender and delicious.  Depending on how they are butchered, Baby Back Rib racks weigh about 1.75-2.5 lbs and will normally have between 10-13 bones per rack.  Baby Backs  can be grilled, barbecued, roasted and smoked. They are typical to the northern region of the U.S. and  Canada.

SpareRib 416Spare Ribs  The Spare Rib starts from the end of Baby Back Ribs and extends to the end of the rib bone.  Spare Ribs are bigger with more meat between the bones than the top of the bones and are a little tougher and fatter, but much richer in flavor.  Spare Ribs average 10-13 bones per rack weighing between 2.5 – 3.5 lbs. They can also be grilled, barbecued, roasted and smoked.

St. Louis Ribs  This style of ribs was popularized in the 1930’s – 1960’s by butchers in the St. Louis area who wanted a better rib cut than they were receiving from big meat packers at the time.  St. Louis Ribs, or St. Louis Style Ribs are actually Spare Ribs with the rib tips cut off where a lot of cartilage and gristle exists with very little meat.  “Pork Ribs, St. Louis Style” officially became an official USDA cut standard NAMP/IMPSStLouisRib416a #416A in the 1980’s. Spare Ribs and St. Louis Style Spare Ribs are found on grills and smokers in the southern states of the U.S.

Rib Tips   Rib Tips are found at the end tips of the rib bone. They are the by-products of St. Louis Ribs where butchers cut the tips off the end of the ribs into strips with a saw. Even with little meat and a lot of cartilage and gristle, Tips are rich in flavor due to the presence of bone and higher fat content.  People generally either love them or hate them.

CountryStyleCountry-Style Ribs   You may be surprised to know that Country-style Ribs are not cut from the rib cage but from the front end of where the Baby Back Ribs are near the shoulder blade.  They are the meatiest variety of ribs and are perfect for those who prefer to use a knife and fork rather than eating with their hands.

Rib Chops & Roasts  Rib bones are also used in other types of butcher cuts.  Rib Chops are produced where the loin meat is kept attached to the bone and portion cut into a chop.  The end of the rib bone can also be exposed to create a “French Cut” Rib Chop.  A Crown Roast is created when instead of cutting the loin into chops, it’s formed into a circle and tied to look like a crown.  Crown style roasts are  seasonal holiday favorites.

Beef, Lamb & Veal Ribs

The anatomy of pork, beef, lamb and veal is pretty much the same.  Beef ribs are typically produced as Beef Back Ribs, Beef Short Ribs and Beef Rib Chops – aka bone-in rib eye steak.  Denver Ribs are like St. Louis pork ribs but cut from lamb.

A set of five or more ribs together is known as a “rack”; veal and lamb ribs are sold as ‘racks’. Lamb and veal racks are typically roasted whole or cut between the rib bones into chops.

Top Grilling Tips

Regardless of the species, ribs are full of flavor and can be prepared in any number of ways.  You can be creative with different rubs, sauces and marinades, to grill, roast, smoke or braise a variety of rib dishes.  Our Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, shares his top grill tips below:

Tip #1 – Cook to Perfection

There are a few methods to prepare pork ribs for the summer. Your number one goal should be to serve ribs that have a tender bite off the bone but never where the meat falls off the bone. Ribs that fall off the bone will do you in at competition BBQ s!

Tip #2 – Use Rubs

Rib rubs differ from steak rubs because they are generally sweeter; steak rubs are more savory. As a general guideline, use a Paprika base with spices such as, garlic, onion, cinnamon, clove and dry mustard. (For sweet, I use turbinado sugar.) Herbs are best left for steak rubs.

Generously sprinkle your favorite rib rub a good hour before cooking to let the flavors work into the meat. Be creative and experiment with your different combinations of spice and sweet until you find your favorite.

Tip #3 – Cooking Method

Over medium heat, grill the slabs until they are seared and caramelized, then switch to the indirect heat method and slowly finish cooking. This can take about 3 hours to get the nice bite off the bone. Then sauce them at the end.

Extra Tip  Use a spray bottle with some apple juice in it and spray the ribs every 30 minutes to help keep them moist.

Tip #4 – Smoke Ribs (Competition Style)

Stoke the fire using lump charcoal and fruit wood such as apple. The fruit woods work well with pork since their smoke profile tends to be milder than a hickory or mesquite. Pork, being a lighter meat works best with a milder smoke.

Generously sprinkle your favorite rib rub a good hour before cooking to let the flavors work into the meat. You can also rub on some yellow mustard for a tangy flavor.

Maintain the smoker temperature at 250 degrees. Place ribs in the smoker and slow smoke for 4 hours spraying them down every 30 to 40 minutes with the apple juice infused with a bit of apple cider vinegar.

Foil the slabs after 4 hours by wrapping each slab individually in foil. In the foil pouch, add brown sugar and/or honey, some butter and a little apple juice to help steam the ribs a bit while in the smoker for the final time.

Let them cook for an hour and check for doneness. You will see the bones exposed a bit at the bottom of the slab – that’s a good sign. Remember that ‘tender bite off the bone’ is what you are looking for.

Once the ribs have cooked to perfection, pull the slabs from the foil and brush with your favorite sauce. Return to the smoker for about 10 minutes more to glaze the sauce.

Whether you use the traditional grill or the wood smoked method, have a fantastic grilling season!

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook  Fan Page

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Meat Picks | 3.28.13

Easter Feast

The “sacrificial” lamb dinner is traditional to Jewish Passover and Christian Easter. Ham also became popular in North America when pigs were slaughtered in the fall when there was no refrigeration. Leftover pork was cured (a long process at the time) throughout the winter months until it was ready in Spring – just in time for Easter dinner.

There are many fine varieties of Lamb you can choose to make this Easter from domestic American Lamb, to New Zealand and Australian imports. Buedel Managing Partner & Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, suggests cooking Lamb Racks, Leg of Lamb or Lamb Shoulder and Shanks.

“French cut lamb racks make a beautiful plate presentation and are easy to roast,” Chef Russ recommends. “If you opt for Leg of Lamb, you can select a boneless lamb leg B-R-T, which stands for boned, rolled and tied, or, a French Carving Leg of Lamb, where the leg is boneless except for a small partial part of the bone that is exposed. Boneless Lamb Shoulder or Bone-In Lamb shanks, slowly braised, also make for a tender and delicious meal.”

Chef Russ’ favorite Easter recipe calls for a roasted Leg of Lamb studded with either, a fresh garlic and parsley, or shallot and herb smear. “Simply chop up shallots and herbs, blend with white wine and ‘smear’ it on the lamb before cooking. For something truly unique, try smoking the lamb instead of roasting it.”

Egg-cetera

Bon Appétit says the “grown-up solution” to dyed eggs is deviled eggs, but did you know that decorating eggs dates back all the way to the 1300’s? Or, that the largest Easter egg ever made was 25 feet high and weighed 8,000 pounds? It was built out of chocolate and marshmallow and supported by an internal steel frame. Find more fun facts at History.com.

Happy Easter!

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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New Year, New Ewe!

Healthy eating is at the forefront of most everyone’s mind this month and along with it search for lean meats and proteins. Did you know Lamb delivers both?

A former “fatty”, Lamb has become significantly lean in recent decades due to better breeding systems and trimming methods. Today’s Lamb is low in “bad” (saturated) fat.

You don’t have to be sheepish when it comes to serving Lamb anymore.

Health Stats

►Calorically speaking, a three and half ounce serving of Lamb loin is only 6 calories more than an equal serving of salmon and about 11 calories less per ounce than beef.

►Lamb is a stellar source of protein. A serving of Lamb delivers a whopping 30 grams of protein, 54% of the daily recommended requirement for men and 65% for women.

►Lamb also provides a good resource of iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

►The niacin (vitamin B3) found in Lamb has been reported to provide protection against Alzheimer’s, promotes healthy skin and greatly retards the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

►Lean Lamb is a “selenium-rich food”. A mineral reported raising mood levels from poor to good, selenium is further known for its antioxidant properties which boost the immune system and promote good health.

Cuts & Cooks

► Upwards of 2,000 breeds of sheep have been arguably documented through the ages. Sheep meat is  categorized by age: Lamb, being less than a year old, Hogget, over a year old and Mutton, two years of age and older.

Fun Fact: Mutton fat was used to create macon during the WWII food rationing era as a substitute for bacon.

► Milk-fed, Young, Spring, Sucker, Yearling and Saltmarsh are global distinctions used in describing Lamb.

►Legs, loins, racks and chops are just some of the types of cuts of Lamb available today.

►Lamb can be roasted, grilled, boiled, stewed, skewered, braised (try it in wine with spices) and ground for burgers – yes, burgers!

► French, Mediterranean, and Welsh cuisines are among the most notable for Lamb. Rosemary, garlic, mint, tarragon, apricots, cucumber, nuts, tomatoes and yogurt are typical of the ingredients used in preparing center of the plate dishes and sauces.

Here’s a great recipe for Mediterranean style Lamb Chops adapted from the Niman Ranch cookbook:

Mediterranean Lamb Chops with                                 Cucumber-Yogurt Dip           

Lamb                                                                                                                                      

2 lamb racks, about 1 ½ lbs. each, frenched and trimmed                                                     5 T extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                           ¼ C loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves, chopped                                                            2 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped                                                                                             6 cloves garlic, chopped                                                                                                         1 t kosher salt                                                                                                                           1 t cracked black pepper

Dip

1 C plain whole-milk Greek style yogurt                                                                                  1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated                                                                                 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled                                                                                                    2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                           1 T extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                   Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare Lamb  Place lamb in baking dish. Combine 4 T of olive oil with the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub mixture over the lamb, coating evenly. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Prepare Dip  Combine yogurt, cucumber, cheese, garlic and olive oil in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until the flavors meld, at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.

Finish Lamb  Remove lamb from the fridge and let set for at least 1 hour. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over high heat. Wipe the marinade from the lamb and season the meat with salt and pepper. Add lamb to skillet meat side down and cook, turning once, for about 2 minutes per side until browned.

Transfer to oven and roast for about 12 minutes, or until thermometer inserted into the center away from bone reads 130ºF for medium rare.

Transfer the racks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut each rack into individual chops and arrange on a platter. Serve the dip on the side. Makes 4-6 servings.

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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‘Tis the Season to be Braising

When the weather begins turning colder, at least here in the Midwest, we stow away our back yard barbeque grills before winter rolls in. It’s a change that signifies many things – warmer clothes, winter sports and the start of Braising Season!

Professional Chefs already know the culinary delights of braising meats. Here’s a primer for the rest of us, and some potential new ideas for your menu.

The  4-1-1

Braising is a slow cooking method that combines moisture and heat to break down connective tissue and collagen which makes the meat soft and tender. When combined with your favorite mixture of stock, spices and rubs, the end result is a delicious hearty meal that will warm up your winter. Braised meats are comfort food.

Any type of meat can be braised: beef, pork, veal and lamb – even poultry can be braised. Meat is best braised with tougher and bone-in cuts.

Rule of thumb: Fattier is better for braising, where leaner is worse. If a cut is served as a steak on the menu, it’s probably not the best meat for braising.

Best Cuts to Braise

The best cuts for braising are the locomotive muscles from the animal; they are the muscles that are most moved by the animal.  Think: Shoulder, Tail, Cheeks, Ribs (Short), Shank, Feet. These muscles are fattier with more connective tissue that is rich in collagen. When slowly cooked to about 185°F, the intramuscular fat and collagen break down and melt, tenderizing the meat and making it more flavorful and juicy.

The best cuts for braising are:

Beef – Chuck, Brisket, Top Round Roast, Bottom Round Roast, Short Ribs, Cheeks, Shanks (Osso Bucco), Ox Tails

Veal – Shanks (Osso Bucco), Neck, Chuck (shoulder), Round, Short Ribs, Breast

Pork – Blade Roast, Picnic Roast, Shanks, Cheeks

Lamb – Shanks, Shoulder, Arm, Chuck

Cost Wise & Plate Beautiful

Braised meats are also an economical menu choice. They are typically indicative to less costly cuts, yet plate rich and hearty – the perfect marriage. Go for the “wow” factor and try having your bone-in meats “French Cut” to expose the bone; the affect makes for a beautiful plate presentation.

My favorite cuts for braising are beef short ribs. Buedel Fine Meats fabricates a variety of beef short ribs from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.

Enjoy the Braising Season, before you know it we’ll be breaking out the grills again.

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What Makes Meat Natural?

Many consumers assume that when a meat label says “Natural”, it is better for you, better for the environment and that the animals involved were raised without growth hormones or antibiotics in their natural environments.  However this is not necessarily always the case.  Many national brands loosely use the term “Natural” on their products without any of the above attributes being met – and it is perfectly legal to do so.

The USDA provides clear and specific definitions for “Natural” and “Organic” product labeling. It is important to understand that foods which meet USDA organic certification are authorized to use the “USDA Organic” seal, which has the word ‘organic’ on it. “Natural” labeling requirements per the USDA are quite different.

What the USDA Means by Natural

The definition of “Natural” according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency responsible for ensuring truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products is as follows:

NATURAL  A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means the product is processed in a manner which does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).

Food labeling can be ambiguous and tough to digest at times (pardon the pun). The easiest way to grasp a firm comprehension for industry terms is to connect the dots between definition and application.

The USDA definition of Natural for fresh meats, such as beef, pork, veal and lamb, means the meat is processed (harvested at the packing plant) without using food additives during processing such as: flavor enhancers, food colorings, binders, nitrites, phosphates, and the like.  Again: USDA Natural means that meat was harvested at a packaging plant without using food additives.

Fresh meat packing plants that harvest beef, pork, veal or lamb and fabricate them into sub primal cuts for retail and food service, do so without fundamentally altering the meat with artificial ingredients or added colorings – this is standard practice today.

Technically then, meat packers can label many of their brands Natural and many do. This is evidenced by the plethora of brand names in the market today making natural claims on their labels poised with pictures and stories of beautiful farms and green pastures making you feel warm and fuzzy about the product you’re purchasing.

What You Expect from Natural …is probably missing

The USDA’s definition of “Natural” does not speak to the exclusion of growth hormones and antibiotics, or humane animal treatment or sustainable farming practices. But that’s what most consumers, Restaurateurs and Chefs are looking for when they want truly “Natural” meats.

How to Find the Natural You (Really) Want

For those looking for a more complete natural product, there are stricter label definitions for “Natural”  to keep watch for. Highly defined all Natural meats usually come with one or more of the following package statements:

Never/Ever Growth Hormones or Antibiotics  Animals raised in this program were never, ever, given growth hormones to accelerate weight gain and speed to market, nor were the animals given antibiotics during their lifetime. These animals are raised on an all natural 100% vegetarian diet up to harvest.

Humanely Raised  Animals are raised outdoors in open pastures where they are free to roam with plenty of access to food and water.  As compared to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, “CAFOs”, where animals are raised in confined indoor industrial farming pens.

Sustainably Raised  These animals are raised in harmony with farming practices that preserve the land and water for future generations such as seasonal crop rotation and fewer animals per acre.  (The Chipolte restaurant chain presented an excellent illustration of sustainable practice in their last Super Bowl commercial.)

Quality, Cost & Satisfaction

One of the easiest ways to shop for high quality Natural meats is to become familiar with the brands which produce at this level.  Niman Ranch and Tallgrass Beef  are two industry leaders who employ the stricter definition of Natural. These types of brands do cost more than commodity meats and those brands claiming the lesser USDA definition of “Natural” on their label because it costs more to raise the animals these ways.

There is a growing trend for “Farm to Fork” foods and meats.  To make sure your values and needs are being met when choosing “Natural” meats, match your desires to the appropriate label definitions.

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From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

 

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Which Lamb is the Best: American, Australian or New Zealand?

Lamb is a very subjective item. Many people feel that New Zealand or Australian is the best and others feel there is no lamb other than American and are willing to pay the premium price for it.

Lamb from each region has its own distinguishing characteristics including flavor, size and price. What are the differences then?

American Colorado Lamb

American Lamb:
American lamb is just that, it has been raised in the U.S. Most quality American lamb comes from Colorado and the Midwestern States and is grain fed. This breed is the largest in size and many say is the highest in quality and consistency.

American lamb has grain in its diet and thus tastes less “gamey” compared to imported lamb which is typically grass fed. It is also the most expensive available. American lamb is very sensitive to market conditions which makes availability and size variable. Lamb farming is a small industry in the U.S. which is why supply and demand is a major issue.

Australian Lamb

Australian / Austral-American Lamb:
“Aussie” lamb has become a very popular item today. It has been cross-bred with American lamb to create a larger more consistent product. Not too many years ago Aussie lamb was very undesirable. The lambs were raised primarily for their wool and the meat was almost a by-product of that industry. This meant a very inconsistent product in size and quality.

Today Aussie lamb is also raised for consumption to a specific size and weight which produces a quality product that is less expensive than American domestic lamb. It is of a medium size and resembles that of American lamb the most.

New Zealand Lamb

New Zealand Lamb:
New Zealand has long produced lamb for its wool industry. This breed is of small stature and many believe is of the least quality compared to American and Australian lamb. Consequently it is also the least expensive lamb. Many customers use this product because of its attractive cost and consistent sizing. When compared to American and Aussie lamb, the price is right.

Popular Lamb Cuts
Lamb can be purchased a few different ways, “Primal”, “Sub-Primal” and “Portion Control”. Most customers purchase “Sub-Primal” or “Portion Control”. Unlike beef, when lamb is portioned, they become “Chops” not “Steaks”.

Popular Primal Cuts – Bone-In
Leg, Loin, Hotel Rack, Shoulder, Saddle

Popular Sub Primal Cuts
Rack Split Chine Off, Loin Boneless Trimmed, Leg Boneless, Shank, Shoulder Boneless

Popular Portion Control Cuts
Lamb Rack, Frenched, Lamb Rib Chop, Frenched, Lamb Loin Chop, Lamb Shoulder Chops, Lamb Leg, Frenched Carving

So, which Lamb is the best: American, Australian or New Zealand? Perhaps all of them, depending on your specific needs. Try them and decide for yourself!

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From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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