• Chef, where is your lamb from?

    Location, menu composition, quality of the ingredients, style, plating, wine selection and ambiance – these are all elements through which restaurateurs compete and use to differentiate their offering from the competitors. Increasingly the story about the food – the origin, the culture and the hands that prepared it – serves as another way to distinguish restaurants from the pack. These stories are more than often embedded in the culinary heritage of nations. The heritage is embedded in local foods and foods that are associated with different regions and different cultures. Think about the traditional meal from a typical restaurant in the Rhône valley where you will have traditional French cuisine and wines from the region.

    Tourists to South Africa also hope to experience our traditional foods and those foods, for which South Africa is known, such as: springbok, kudu, ostrich, snoek, waterblommetjiebredie, bobotie, and Karoo Lamb. In reaction to tourists’ needs restaurants respond by presenting these true South African foods as part of their menu offering. The real concern is that many of the restaurateurs do not offer the ‘real’ product to their restaurant guests. It is quite shocking to see how ill informed (or ignorant) restaurant staff, management and some chefs are when you enquire about the origin of a product that is portrayed on the menu. The question about Karoo Lamb is often telling: ‘So where in the Karoo is the lamb from?’ “from Caledon” or “from Gouda” or even “from Malmesbury” is the answer you often get. Or even better: “it is definitely from the Karoo because our supplier is XYZ and they buy from abattoir BCA”. But then we know abattoir BCA is not in the Karoo and XYZ is a supplier that cannot guarantee origin. So there is no guarantee that the product is from the Karoo veld or from an abattoir and farm that passes all government rules in terms of food safety and animal health or traceability.

    To avoid the situation in which restaurants are not sure about the origin of the lamb they buy and to prevent other lamb meat being offered for sale as “Karoo Lamb” the farmers of the Karoo asked the government to protect the name of Karoo Lamb. This was done by introducing a set of rules for the use of the name Karoo Lamb and to introduce a certification mark (Certified Karoo Meat of Origin) to guarantee the origin of the lamb. Now you can make sure that suppliers do not provide you with false or unsafe products. Check out the website www.karoomeatoforigin.com to find the list of certified abattoirs and butcheries that can supply your restaurant with real and certified Karoo Lamb.

    South Africa’s top chefs are already seeing the benefit of offering the certified product to their customers. At the recent Eat Out Awards, Karoo Lamb was offered as the main course to the 700 guests present. But more interesting was the fact that 10 of the 20 nominated restaurants have ‘real’ Karoo Lamb on their menus while 5 from the Top 10 restaurants serve Karoo Lamb, which they buy from certified butcher outlets. These chefs are all proud of the South African heritage, they are aware of the quality of real Karoo Lamb and they are certain it is from the Karoo. They all answer with pride: “Our lamb is from the Karoo and we are sure about it because we can track it to the abattoir and the farm”.

    Look out for the certification mark stamp, roller mark and labels.

    Carcass roller mark:


    Carcass meat stamp (on the legs):

    Meat packet labels (used by packers and butchers)