This Easter, Texans eat more lamb instead of pork

Before the plague, the main part of the lush spread on the Easter table was probably the glittery roast pork, its shiny skin and the vigorous fat that dared you to pull out a slice before Grandpa had a chance to find his carving knife.

But more and more, the lamb pushes that pig to the wings and demands the spotlight for itself – and not just at Easter.

During the plague, home cooks across the country sparked a culinary renaissance in their private kitchens to drive away the debilitating slump. And as they became more curious and experimental, these cooks began to collect lamb at an impressive rate.

Aries’ retail sales jumped 28 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to marketing research firm Nielsen, and that’s good news for Texas.

While most of the state’s lamb goes to the East Coast, where demand is strong in immigrant and minority communities, according to a U.S. Sheep Council spokeswoman, appetite is growing in Texas. Of the 10 cities in the U.S., the American Lamb Board followed sales numbers for 2021, Houston (the only city followed) led the way with a 14.6 percent increase in sales from 2020.

And this demand is strongest now, with the Easter and Passover seasons at the door. Lamb farms and lamb processors really push every spring to meet the demand for Seder and Easter tables.

At the western end of Hill Country, David Fisher oversees a herd of sheep and sheep on his 25,000-acre HF4 farm in Sonoma. While interest in his product, which is sold at Whole Foods and HEB stores in San Antonio, is the best in years, it has never been harder for him to bring it to market with ongoing supply chain problems caused by the plague.

“We want to sell 20 sheep a month, but I can only sell five at the moment,” Fisher said. “There is not enough space in the processing plants to do things. I think the supply is there and the demand is there, but there are only a few places in the country that are slaughtering sheep at the moment.”

These supply chain problems are troubling the entire sheep farm industry, Fisher said. Combine that with a sharp jump in demand, and lamb prices have skyrocketed significantly. The average cost per kilogram of lamb increased from $ 8.25 in 2020 to $ 8.92 in 2021. Lamb chops, the finest cuts, rose from $ 9.09 per kilogram to $ 10.22 per kilogram in that period.

Home cooks are not the only ones jumping on the lambing trend. Several restaurants in San Antonio have also added this to their post-epidemic offerings.

When Ocho with the glass walls at the Havana Hotel on the Wok River reopened after the obligatory shutdown in 2020, senior chef Jesse Kuikendel was looking for some new and fun ways to stimulate their tired creativity. Kuykendall found it in juicy lamb chops, which got a Mexican flavor with a mole sauce made from the tropical fruit Mami.

Kuykendall’s latest version of the dish finds the same crusty ribs with crushed papita with a drizzle of reduced honey sauce and chipotle chili. It was such a hit, Kuykendall now sells about 60 to 80 orders a week.

But chefs using expensive chunks of premium lamb are still competing with home cooks, who have continued to buy lamb in supermarkets, raising prices and creating a shortage of restaurants. Lamb prices have risen so much that Kuykendall is now simply breaking a tie in every order. But as a showcase that puts customers in the door, it is not coming off the menu anytime soon.

“We all had the same idea,” Kuikendel said with a laugh. “I have to stop selling it for three or four days at a time at a restaurant. Finding a supplier who can meet the necessary requirements is the key.”

Chef Jason Daddy has found a solution to the problem of cutting the expensive premium at his Jardín restaurant, which he opened in 2020 at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The lamb appears there in three forms: in a hamburger dressed in feta stuffed with feta, as patties served with a refreshing shepherd’s salad and a rich brago with chickpeas and fennel. These dishes are made with minced lamb and a stew cut from lamb and shoulder.

Seasoned cumin lamb ribs are one of the first dishes that can be shared at Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar.

Seasoned cumin lamb ribs are one of the first dishes that can be shared at Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar.

Mike Sutter / Staff

“The ability to use some of the other slices allows us to give our customers the flavors they require at a price point that suits them and us,” he said.

Whether you are eating out or eating out, there will be a desire for your Easter or Passover to be a holiday full of lamb.

pstephen@express-news.net | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen

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