Tastier. Healthier. High quality. Speciality. Seasonal. Known provenance...are all terms that accurately describe meat from Hebridean Sheep. So perhaps it's not surprising that discerning customers are willing to pay a premium price for this gourmet product.
The meat is dark, succulent and distinctly sweet with a subtle gamey flavour. Hebrideans are natural browsers and they prefer land that contains a diversity of plants which in turn adds to their meat's distinctive flavour. Similar to other primitive breeds, Hebridean are slow to mature. This allows the flavour of the meat to develop further and they are often finished as hogget (meat from lambs over 1 year of age) or mutton (from sheep over 2 years old).
Hebridean sheep, like other primitive breeds have relatively slender bones and a low level of fat. This results in a high proportion of lean meat on the carcass. Moreover, a Rare Breed Survival Trust report from the early 1990s showed that Hebridean sheep carcasses had a healthier type of fat with lower levels of free cholesterol combined with elevated levels of healthy polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 DHA fatty acids.
Note. What you feed your sheep will effect the taste and fat content of the meat. Hebridean Sheep do not usually need to be fed concentrates and in general all that is required over winter is an ad lib supply of good meadow hay.
In addition to being a tastier and healthier product, other factors that often make Hebridean sheep meat standout from commercially purchased lamb include
Tasted against locally produced butcher's lamb and some very good Welsh lamb, there was no contest: the Hebridean won hands down. Alex Barker (the Guild of Food Writers)
In 2015 Marian Bruce worked with Seriously Good Butchery (SBG), Perth to create an outlet for Hebridean hogget (animals killed in their second year). SBG have developed a reputation for retailing venison and wanted to add another product with great flavour and a Scottish heritage and Hebridean hogget was a perfect fit.
SGB offered to take the correct age animals from breeders in the Hebridean Sheep Society and five breeders took advantage of this cooperative. The advantage to the breeders was that animals could be delivered into the slaughterhouse lairage at a weekend and avoided the need to put animals through commercial livestock markets.
The hogget sold well and the scheme has been expanded in 2016. The cooperative is open to any HSS member with hogget from pedigree registered stock. Further details can be downloaded here.
Anyone wishing to sell animals this way should first discuss this with SGB