Monday, February 26, 2024

The nation is invited to flip over lamb

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National Lamb Day encourages Kiwis to tuck into their favourite lamb dish.
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People who know me quickly realise I have a simple dietary requirement and that’s plenty of red meat. It doesn’t have to be steak or a roast; I’m quite happy with mince and sausages provided they’re made with real meat from animals.

For the record, I’m not big on greens. My simple belief is that if the good Lord wanted me to eat greens, he’d have given me big ears and whiskers which I don’t have meaning meat is where it’s at.

Also, as the Bard was quoted as saying, “intelligent people eat lots of meat”, which I’m sure is true. I put my intelligence down to meat consumption and I believe the country can too as only 1% of us are vegans and that percentage is decreasing.

In addition, my sometime colleague and friend Professor Jacqueline Rowarth told The Country that eating red meat is better for your health and the environment.

She went on to explain how the Australian scientific organisation the CSIRO has recommended increasing red meat consumption. It is better for your general health and your heart.

It was also important to acknowledge that grains, seeds, nuts fruit and vegetables need flattish land that can be cultivated plus they require chemicals and water. Pasture doesn’t.

All that means is that eating naturally produced red meat is an absolute no brainer for good health and welfare.

With all that in mind I was really pleased to learn about New Zealand’s National Lamb Day. It is to run on February 15with celebrations throughout the country.

I’ve been in Australia for its National Lamb Day and it is huge, with sports personalities, entertainers and civic leaders all getting behind farmers and lamb.

The good news is that local co-ordinator Jon Pemberton wants the end goal to be “to do what the Aussies do, only better”. 

That is music to my somewhat cynical ears.

Pemberton adds that Lamb Day is about “reflection and celebration”, adding “sometimes we have to give ourselves a wee pat on the back and say we’ve come a long way”. I totally agree.

The day, February 15, is poignant as it is the 142nd anniversary of our first shipment of frozen lamb departing Port Chalmers. The voyage took three months and the 5000 carcases, we are told, arrived in perfect condition. It also coincides with the Southern Field Days at Waimumu.

It is an initiative of the farmer group Ag Proud, which comes across as a relevant and much-needed part of NZ’s landscape.

Its aim with Lamb Day is to boost the profile of NZ lamb. To get some clear messages out on the importance of lamb to the NZ economy.

Mediaworks is on board as are Port Otago, Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ) and FMG.

There will be 15 lamb barbecues run around the country, mainly in the main centres plus one at Parliament. That will be in the form of a lunch hosted by Associate Agriculture Minister Mark Patterson.

The  barbecues will offer free lamb chops and lamb burgers that will be cooked by local farmers so they will, inevitably, be a culinary delight. I can’t wait. 

BLNZ makes the point that “the day is a celebration of food and the significant economic contribution NZ’s red meat sector generates for Kiwis”.

It then gives credit for “the hard work of our dedicated farmers”.

I spoke with Pemberton, who is a really interesting character. He was a driving force behind Ag Proud NZ, which is an organisation I support.

It has just three core objectives, which get to the heart of rural NZ.

The first is “to create awareness around mental health and wellbeing for those in the ag sector and their families”.

The second is to promote positive agricultural practices, and the third to strengthen the relationship between urban and ag communities.

You can’t argue with any of them.

Ag Proud is based in Southland but has a network throughout NZ. Pemberton is a Southland dairy farmer milking 1200 cows over two farms. As well as Ag Proud he is part of the Three Rivers Catchment Group, on the Board of Thriving Southland and on the Board of Environment Southland.

Last week I wrote about forming a single voice for our sector and welcomed the dialogue between Federated Farmers and Groundswell.

Having Ag Proud in the mix as well with its clearly defined objectives I believe is extremely positive. 

Anyone who agrees with their three objectives can join Ag Proud. I can’t imagine anyone in the provinces who doesn’t.

It isn’t in conflict with any of our current farming organisations but a welcome and relevant addition to them.

So, fellow farmers, we expect you all to be serving lamb on Thursday. Deliciously cooked, with a cheeky NZ chardonnay or pinot. Greens are optional but not necessary.

• An earlier version of this article referred to free lamb barbecues to be held throughout the country to mark National Lamb Day. Unfortunately, the feasts have had to be postponed a year as organisers said they hadn’t realised food safety regulations had changed and they did not have time to ensure they could be adhered to.

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