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The Story of Karoo Lamb

During our Evening of Vintage Wine and Venison, Professor Johann Kirsten, the mastermind behind the certification of Karoo Lamb, shared his journey with the heritage of South African food and what has been done to protect this unique and valuable resource. In celebration of Heritage Month, he tells more about the processes that were involved in establishing the Karoo Lamb certification. It is clear that the conservation of our culture involves much more than sentiment!

In the true tradition of champagne, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmagiano cheese, South Africa can now boast authentic certification for one of its prime culinary products, namely Karoo Lamb. The process took many years, but now, if you buy certified Karoo Lamb, you are guaranteed that the authentic taste will be part of your enjoyment. The unique taste is, of course, the result of free-roaming sheep grazing on particular Karoo vegetation – that’s your quality guarantee.

The Karoo Meat of Origin certification mark with the easily identifiable windmill provides consumers with a certification they can trust and enables retailers, restaurateurs or chefs to identify the unique quality and taste of meat of distinction from the Karoo.

Karoo Meat of Origin originates from a strictly specified Karoo region. The boundaries of the production region were determined based on the natural occurrence of the indigenous shrubs that give Karoo meat its distinctive flavour. Karoo Lamb is as good as organic since the animals are free from added hormones and no routine antibiotics are used.

If there was ever any doubt about the unique taste of Karoo Lamb it has now been confirmed by scientific tests – sensory tests as well as chemical analyses of the meat and fat. Sophisticated techniques such as solid phase microextraction (SPME), followed by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to time of flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS), were developed to identify differences between lamb meat (including fat) from the meat of animals grazing on grass and Karoo veld. Other researchers used stable isotope ratio-analysis whereby they could link the isotopes in the vegetation and the different plants to the meat and fat composition of the lamb. These techniques showed scientifically how lamb from the Karoo differs significantly in taste, aroma, fat and meat composition from lamb sourced from other regions in South Africa, such as the Overberg, Rüens, Kalahari, Swartland and the Free State.

These techniques can help to protect the unique reputation and identity of Karoo Lamb and catch potential fraudsters who try to misappropriate the name of Karoo Lamb. Armed with these investigative techniques and with the certification mark you can now be sure to buy the ’real deal’ – real lamb from the Karoo.

The official Karoo Meat of Origin certification mark guarantees that the certified Karoo lamb meat of origin is free range and that the whole chain from farmer to consumer is fully traceable.

The traceability is enforced by auditing the farmer, the abattoir and the packer up to the point where the meat is available in its final packaging. This audit and monitoring system is performed by a third-party independent auditor. All certified members are allocated a specific number to enable the identification of the origin of the mutton and lamb as well as that of the packer.

Customers can scan the QR code on the packaging with a mobile phone or visit the website to enter the certification number and learn more about the packer or the tracking number to learn more about the Karoo farm/farmer from where the meat originated.

Stockists of Karoo Lamb


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