New to Marx Foods & Marx Pantry in July

August 16, 2016

Now on MarxPantry.com

Many New Edible Insects!

We’ve dramatically expanded our edible insect collection with the following varieties:

organic crickets mealworms field crickets

Organic Small Crickets

Mealworms

Large Field Crickets

black scorpion weaver ants june beetle

Black Forest Scorpions

Weaver Ants

June Beetles

orthoptera mix mixed insects locusts

Orthoptera Mix
(Large & Small Crickets, Grasshoppers, Mole Crickets)

Mixed Edible Insects (Grasshoppers, Mole Crickets, Silkworm Pupae, Crickets & Sago Worms)

Locusts

small crickets    

Small Thai Crickets

 

 

More Hot Sauces

Hot Winter Hot Sauce Callahans Hot Sauce Red Chili Lime Haute

Hot Winter Hinklehatz Hot Sauce

Callahan’s Hot Sauce

Red Chili Lime Haute Sauce

New Snacks

Cheesy Puffs Thai Ginger Pickles duck pate

Asiago Black Pepper
Cheesy Puffs

Yes.  Our high end food store now sells cheese puffs.  Ask yourself how delicious these must be to get us to do such a thing.

Thai Ginger Pickles

Duck, Pork & Orange Pate

duck rillettes    

Rougie Duck Rillettes

 

 

New Cocktail Mixers

Falernum Syrup
Extra Bitter Tonic
 

Falernum Syrup

Jack Rudy Extra Bitter Tonic

 

More Sweets

maple cube dark Maple cube golden 76% Chocolate

Dark Robust Maple Cube

Golden Delicate Maple Cube

Marou 76% Ba Ria Dark Chocolate Bars

72% Chocolate Bay Leaf Caramel Sauce Coffee Caramel Sauce

Marou 72% Dong Nai Dark Chocolate Bars
(pod to bar!)

Bay Leaf Caramel Sauce

Chicory Coffee
Caramel Sauce

New Grains, Rice, Seeds & Flours

Einkorn Flour barley flour rye berries

Organic Einkorn Flour

Organic Black Nile
Barley Flour

Rye Berries

Wheat berries dried hemp seeds dried purple corn

Soft White Wheat Berries

Toasted Hemp Seeds

Dried Purple Corn

dried red corn Kermes Rice Brown Arborio Rice

Dried Red Corn

Kermes Rice

Brown Arborio Rice

And More!

Castillo Olive Oil Tomato Basil Sauce BBQ

Spanish Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tomato Basil Sauce

Spiced Molasses BBQ Sauce

Cardamom Rose Hips Sassafras Leaf

Red Cardamom

Dried Rose Hips

Ground Sassafras Leaf (Gumbo File)

Black Garlic Powder couscous Butterfly Pea Flower Powder

Black Garlic Powder

Whole Wheat Middle Eastern Couscous

Butterfly Pea Flower Powder

New on MarxFoods.com
lavender blossoms no photo no photo

Lavender Blossoms

Fresh Mission Figs

Smoked Alligator Sausage



New to Marx Foods & Marx Pantry in June

July 06, 2016

Expanded Wagyu Beef Collection
Our Australian Wagyu beef has been expanded with three top shelf cuts which make excellent roasts or can be easily cut into steaks:

Carolina Reaper Chilies are Here!
Scared?  You should be.  Carolina Reapers are one of the hottest chiles on the block, with scoville numbers at insanity levels.

carolina reaper powder carolina reaper flakes

Carolina Reaper Powder

Carolina Reaper Flakes

New Ayako Jams
Ayako of Ayako & Family keeps discovering new plum varieties to make jam out of, and she’s an expert when it comes to teasing out their unique flavors and colors.  Here are three new choices:

italian plum jam friar plum jam Coral Pink Plum Jam

Italian Plum Jam

Friar Plum Jam

Coral Pink Plum Jam

Other New Items

landsea gomasio Argan Oil

Landsea Gomasio
A delicious blend of kombu kelp, foraged nettles, and toasted sesame seeds, this blend is a unique take on a traditional Japanese seasoning.  It’s packed with umami-nutty-toasty-salty flavor, but also great nutrients from the sea and shore. 
Try it on eggs, salad, vegetables, rice,
meat, popcorn & more!

Culinary Argan Oil
Argan oil is a Moroccan delicacy pressed from roasted argan nuts that must be hand harvested in a very labor-intensive process.  It has a tasty toasty, nutty flavor, but is particularly prized for its very high antioxidant content.

Sour cherry Preserves duck fat

Sour Cherry Preserves
Packed with Michigan Montmorency sour cherries, these preserves bring cherry-pie-like flavor to toast, yogurt, ice cream, sauces & more.

Duck Fat
Many chefs consider duck fat the most delicious cooking fat known to man.  Melt a spoonful in the pan and cook with it as you would bacon grease to impart incredible flavor.  Especially nice with potatoes!

Pineapple Tumeric Shrub Incendiary Vinegar

Pineapple Turmeric Shrub
Fruity, tart, sweet & warming, this vinegar syrup is ready to bring the flavor of pineapple, turmeric, citrus & curry to sparkling water or cocktails.  Just in time to bring a taste of the tropics to your summer.

Incendiary Vinegar
Don’t let the name fool you, this vinegar isn’t spicy – it’s an intensely savory, umami-packed, tangy apple cider vinegar inspired by Fire Cider recipes.  Try it in vinaigrettes!

Toasted Corn Worcestershire Sauce

Albina City Toasted Corn
So addictive.  Please buy all these crispy-crunchy kernels of deliciousness before we stuff ourselves to death!

Malt Lager Worcestershire Sauce
This Worcestershire sauce puts most others to shame – it’s very complex with layers of varying umami, tanginess & sweetness seasoned with an intriguing blend of spices.

Cuttlefish Ink  

Cuttlefish Ink
A classic natural food coloring used in paella, pasta, risotto & more to turn it an inky black while imparting some brininess.

 


New Delicious Goodies!

June 13, 2016

Now on MarxPantry.com

Smoked Honey!

Smoked Honey

Sweet, rich, and elegantly smoky – this honey blends the floral characteristics of wildflower honey with cold white oak smoke – a fascinating addition to cocktails, dressings, sauces, desserts, fruit salads & more!

New Cooking Sauces

Madras Cooking Sauce Masala Cooking Sauce Mole Cooking Sauce

Madras Cooking Sauce

Masala Cooking Sauce

Mole Poblano Paste

Super easy & super tasty – these sauces let you take weeknight meals to India or Mexico with minimal fuss.

Tastes of Morocco

Argan Almond Butter Saffron Threads

“Amlou” Argan Almond Butter
Amlou butter is Moroccan-style almond butter made with argan oil and wildflower honey.  It’s sweet, creamy, toasty, and intensely nutty.  Argan oil is a highly prized superfood packed with antioxidants that’s a hand-harvested Moroccan delicacy.

Moroccan Saffron Threads
Though until recently it hasn’t been marketed by origin, Moroccan saffron is some of the world’s finest.

Exotic Caramel Sauces

White Sage Caramel Sauce Smoky Caramel Sauce

White Sage Caramel Sauce

Smoky “Campfire” Caramel Sauce

We’re big fans of Hotcakes, a local Seattle dessert institution renowned for their take & bake molten chocolate cakes.  They also make some really exciting caramels.  Check these new flavors out!

New Element Shrubs

Honeydew Jalapeno Shrub Chai Pear Shrub Mint Lemon Shrub

Honeydew Jalapeno Shrub

Chai Pear Shrub

Mint Lemon Shrub

We love shrubs in the summer as crisp non-alcoholic coolers or cocktail mixers in the summer.  Element is making varieties with clean-yet-complex flavor profiles.  We’re excited to welcome them to our collection – check them out!

Other Pantry Items

Organic Kaniwa Granulated Lemon Peel Chimi Rub

Organic Kaniwa

Granulated Lemon Peel

Elvio’s Chimi Rub

Green Serrano Powder No Photo  

Green Serrano Chile Powder

Dried Lupini Beans

 

New on MarxFoods.com

Maple Buds

maple buds

Sweet, floral maple buds are the young growths of big leaf maple trees.  They’re prized by foragers for use in fritters, teas & syrups.

We’ve missed the season this year, but keep an eye out for them next spring!



New Link Lab Sausages & Marx Pantry Goodies!

June 01, 2016

New to Marx Foods:
Link Lab Sausages!
Link Lab Sausages

We love Link Lab Sausages at Marx Foods.  They’re handmade, chef-quality sausages produced by a Seattle company in small batches from local, responsibly-raised meats.  The level of quality is top notch, and you can tell due to their more tender texture, the pronounced “snap” of natural casings, and superior flavor.

Watch our behind-the-scenes producer spotlight video (below) to learn more about them, and check out the varieties to pick out your new favorite!


Venison Cheeks!

Sure, it’s not braising season right now, but our new venison cheeks will be here for you later on.  They’re packed with delicious venison flavor and become meltingly-tender when slow braised in a flavorful sauce.  Something to look forward to!

New to Marx Pantry:

First the Sweet…
Marsala Pop Popcorns

We now carry popcorn. We thought we’d never say that, ever…but Marsala Pop changed our minds.

Their popular Marsala Chai Popcorn probably gets gobbled by staff the most, but their two limited-release flavors: Saffron & Rose Popcorn (a lovechild of American kettle corn & Indian desserts) and Spicy Pineapple & Cardamom Popcorn set this food writer’s heart aflutter.  They challenge (and fascinate) the palate in remarkable ways.

Shiro Plum & Mint Jam

The label says it all, but it doesn’t do the flavor of this plum & mint jam justice.  The balance between the tangy, fruity, sweet plum & herby, fresh spearmint is spot on, and that makes all the difference.  Jam of this quality isn’t just for toast.  Try it with fine cheeses, in sauces, on desserts or stirred into yogurt, or shake/stir some into your next vinaigrette.

Quince Cutting Preserves

Quince Cutting Preserves

Membrillo (Spanish quince paste) is a must-have for fancy cheese plates and some tapas and desserts.  The tawny, fruity, deep, honeyed flavor of stewed quince does amazing things to the rest of the food on the plate.  These quince cutting preserves are in the same style, but a tad softer with a flavor that’s richer & better balanced.  They’re handmade in small batches on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington.

Pasteli Sesame Bar

Sesame Bar

Snack like ancient Greek warriors (seriously, this stuff was mentioned in The Illiad) with Greek pasteli bars.  These delightful treats have only two ingredients: sesame seeds & Greek honey.  They’re super-duper tasty and were used as energy bars by Greek athletes & soldiers.

Then the Savory…

Red Boat Chef’s Cuvee Fish Sauce

Cuvee Fish Sauce

Red Boat is the chef’s favorite fish sauce brand, offering superb flavor for the price.  Their chef’s cuvee fish sauce is even more special.  After the sauce comes out of Red Boat’s traditional cask-fermenting process, it gets aged again in bourbon barrels, making its flavor incredibly smooth.  It’s amazing stuff.

Full Size Haute Sauces

We’ve offered Haute Sauce’s delightfully gift-able hot sauce sampler for a long time, but have now added full size bottles of the same flavors.



Lots of Tasty New Products!

April 14, 2016

New to Marx Pantry:

Superbites!
super bites super bites

Superbites are packed with protein, energy, and simple ingredients. They’re gluten, wheat, yeast & soy free and have none of the junk found in some other energy bars.  They’re remarkably good for you, and remarkably tasty.  We now carry almond superbites & cashew superbites.

St Jude Tuna
St Jude Tuna St Jude Tuna

We love St Jude tuna here at Marx Foods.  This local, family owned & operated tuna fishing boat brings in excellent catch & cans it with care.  The level of quality is far superior to the mass market stuff.

We now offer two varieties: Solid White Albacore (in its own juices) & Solid White Albacore in Olive Oil.

Italian Honey

Italian Honey

Italian Honey Italian Honey Sampler
Wild Carrot Honey

Rhododendron Honey Honey Gift Tube Sampler

Mieli Thun is a small Italian honey company selling the wares of Andrea Paternoster, a nomadic beekeeper.  Andrea moves his bees around Italy in tune with the flowering seasons of various plans, collecting superb monofloral honey varieties with unique characteristics.

Vegan Caramel Sauce
Vegan Caramel
Whether you’re vegan or not, this sauce is still worth checking out for its unique flavor profile, which evokes the burnt sugar on the top of a perfect crème brulee.  Tasty!
Organic Date Syrup
Organic Date Syrup

This sweetener is made from organic dates, nothing else.  Sweet, thick & packed with rich tangy/fruity date flavor, the use of date syrup may date back to ancient Mesopotamia and is still common in the Middle East.  Give it a try!

Organic Curry Ketchup
Curry Ketchup

This duck knows what’s up.  Ketchup with curry spices instead of corn syrup.  Grilling season is coming, you should have this on hand.

Ssam Korean Chili Sauce
Ssam Sauce

Made famous by restaurants in Chef David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group, this version of classic Korean ssamjang chile sauce blends sweet, sour, spicy and intensely savory into an addictive general purpose condiment.

Dried Butterfly Pea Flowers
Dried Pea FLowers

These unique flowers make a mild herbal tea when steeped in hot water.  Much more exciting however is how they color the water, turning it a gorgeous blue.  Stir in an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, and it shifts before your eyes into a deep royal purple.

Use butterfly pea flowers to make tea, simple syrup for cocktails, colored ice cubes, rice & more.

Wiri Wiri Chile Powder
Wiriwiri powder

Ground from fiery chilies commonly found in the cuisines of Central America, the Caribbean & the Yucatan.

Poblano Chile Powder
poblano Chilie Powder

Grassy & a touch spicy, green poblano chile powder brings different flavors to your dishes than mulato chilies & ancho chilies (both made from poblanos).

Zinfandel Verjus

Verjus

Verjus is an ancient ingredient that is used similarly to vinegar.  Instead of being wine changed by bacteria into vinegar, this is juice pressed from under-ripe grapes (a byproduct of winemaking) that is similarly bright & acidic.

Water Balloon Plum Jam

These plump plums with a funny name make fantastic jam, and Ayako of Ayako & Family knows just how to make it.

New to Marx Foods:
Iberico Back Fat

We added a full line of succulent Iberico pork cuts to the store last month, but we have one more to add to the collection: back fat (aka fat back).  Iberico pork fat is sweet, creamy, and highly prized by chefs in-the-know.

Paw Paws

Paw Paws aren’t in season yet, they typically show up in September…but we’re ready for when they do!  Check out the new product page for more information about this unique native American fruit!



Announcing New Wild Squab!

April 01, 2016

We’re super excited to announce that our new wild squab program is ready to launch!  As you probably all know, we’ve offered squab meat for years, but it’s always been farmed.

For a while now we’ve been lining up a network of independently contracted trappers across the US to be able to bring you a consistent, reliable supply of truly wild squab meat in a range of cuts: whole, semi-boneless & frenched legs.

All wild squab are captured using a humane net-gun & chloroform method that avoids stressing the animals.  Because exposure is so brief, no anesthetic residue is present in the meat.

Even more exciting, we’ve found that the flavor of wild squab can vary widely based on its habitat and diet.  Thanks to the breadth of our trapping network, we’re able to launch with a variety of origins you can select at checkout, enabling you to experience the true terroir of the major production regions.

Currently available options include:

Manhattan

Perhaps the most well-rounded of our squab varieties, manhattan squab forages across a wide variety of ethnic cuisines ranging from thin crust pizza to chow mein & the occasional cigarette butt (giving the meat a subtle smokiness).

Santa Monica Pier

SMP squab is essentially the pigeon equivalent of wagyu beef, extra well-marbled with a pronounced “butteriness” due to a diet primarily consisting of coconut oil-infused popcorn and cotton candy.  SMP squabs are hotdog-finished after capture.

Seattle

Lining up staff to bring in the Seattle catch was difficult, but the results are worth it. Seattle squab are higher in omega-3 fatty acids thanks to the salmon eyes & tail meat that make up a large portion of their forage feed. Competing for food sources with the local seagull population keeps them lean & scrappy!

If you are interested in being one of our first orders, or contracting with us as a trapper, APRIL FOOLS!



New Iberico Pork, Snails & More!

March 22, 2016

Some really exciting new products just hit the Marx Foods & Marx Pantry stores.  Check them out!

 

New to Marx Foods:

Iberico Pork from Spain

Iberico Pork is considered amongst the world’s finest pork.  You’ve probably heard of Iberico ham, but it turns out the rest of the hog is also incredibly delicious.  “Chefs are telling us it’s the best pork they’ve ever worked with” kinda’ delicious.

If you want to party like Spaniards do, go for the secreto or pluma (end loin), season simply with salt & pepper, then sear or grill it to an internal temperature of 125°F (more rare than Americans normally would).*

You’ll be amazed by how succulent and tasty it is.

 

American-Grown Escargots

In an announcement has been a long time coming (that’s a snail joke), we’re super jazzed to now be carrying American escargots.  They’re farmed here in Washington State and sold shelled & frozen – ready to saute or bake in some butter, garlic & parsley.

Because they’re frozen, not canned, and are the smaller, more tender petit gris variety, their texture and flavor are significantly better than most on the market.

Take your time savoring them (also a snail joke) and you’ll be rewarded.

 

New to Marx Pantry:

Portuguese & Spanish Tinned Fish

We’re not talking about run of the mill canned tuna here.  Portugal and Spain both produce some of the world’s finest tinned fish in a tradition referred to as conservas.  We’ve tried a bunch over the years, and the ones we finally decided to carry are by far the best.

They’re so good that you can simply serve them with crusty bread, maybe some leafy greens or a lentil salad, and you’ve got instant high-class tapas.  Yum!

Check them out!

 

Coffee Flour

You’ve probably never heard of coffee flour before, but that’s about to change.  This exciting new food represents the cutting edge of sustainable super foods & is already starting to garner a lot of press & praise.

Coffee Flour is made from the fruit that grows around coffee beans.  It has a fruity flavor, a little caffeine, and is naturally very nutritious & also gluten free.  It can be used in baked goods or as a seasoning.

 

Paella Kit

Our new Paella Kit contains everything you need to make the delicious Spanish one-pot classic, besides a pan and some fresh meats (we recommend chicken, rabbit, or the aforementioned snails), seafood, or vegetables.

We’ve picked out just the right rice, the right base broths, and the right pimenton (also new).  All of which were made in Spain for real Spaniards, then imported for you. (we know a guy)

What are you waiting for?  It’s paella time!

 

Fresh As Freeze Dried Fruits

We know you’ve seen freeze dried fruit before.  This is not that fruit.

Fresh As produces freeze dried fruit that’s been painstakingly hand-cut & processed for use in fine dining restaurants.  It also happens to make a very tasty snack, with much better flavor, texture & appearance than the other stuff.

We now offer their mandarin segments and strawberry slices.  Lychees are coming soon!

 

Orgeat Syrup

Stop giggling.  It’s pronounced “orzaht.”  The word’s French…which means it’s fancy.

Orgeat is a nutty, creamy, floral syrup infused with almonds, orange blossom water and, in this instance, apricot kernels.  It’s an essential ingredient in tiki drinks like the Mai Tai.

We’ve tried several, and Small Hand Foods’ Orgeat is the best.

 

Dried Saffron Milk Cap Mushrooms

The latest addition in our epic quest to bring you all the mushrooms worth eating, saffron milk cap mushrooms are earthy & smoky with a slightly crunchy texture after you rehydrate them.

 

That’s all the stuff that’s new now, but we’re constantly adding more.  Stay tuned!

 

* We’re obligated to mention that the USDA says you should always cook pork to an internal temperature of 145°F with a 3 minute rest for safety.



New Spanish & Peruvian Products!

February 25, 2016

We’ve just added a whole slew of artisan Spanish pantry goods, along with a few Peruvian ingredients to MarxPantry.com.

From Spain

Spanish Sweets:
hazlenut 33% cocoa chocolate blanxart hazlenut almond chocolate blanxart 33% milk chocolate

Blanxart Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts

Blanxart Dark Chocolate with Marcona Almonds

Blanxart 33% Milk Chocolate

blanxart 65% dark chocolate organic 76% brasil chocolate organic filipinas chocolate

Blanxart 65% Dark Chocolate

Organic 76% Brasil Dark Chocolate

Organic 71% Filipinas Dark Chocolate

organic 82% congo chocolate organic 77% peru chocolate organic spanish cookies

Organic 82% Congo Dark Chocolate

Organic 77% Peru Dark Chocolate

Organic Spanish Cookies in 4 Flavors

More Spanish Ingredients:

paella sofrito all i oli garlic spread orange blossom honey

Paella Sofrito

All i Oli Garlic Spread

Organic Orange Blossom Honey

native forest honey olivar de la luna evoo first day evoo

Organic Native Forest Honey

Olivar de la Luna Organic EVOO

First Day Arbequina EVOO

spanish paella broth gran reserva sherry vinegar

Spanish Paella Broths
All the base flavors of paella (stock, meat, seafood, vegetables & saffron) in convenient, natural broths.

Gran Reserva Sherry Vinegar

From Peru

elderberry spread goldenberry spread pussac punay beans

Elderberry Spread

Goldenberry Spread

Pussac Punay Beans



New to Marx Foods: More Wild Produce!

February 21, 2016

We’ve been very busy adding new products to the stores for you to enjoy! Here’s a bunch of new Spring produce (most of it wild foraged!) that we’ll be offering as soon as it comes into season.

white yacon root spruce tips

White Yacon Root

Crisp & juicy like jicama, but quite sweet, this unusual root stores its starches as inulin, which our bodies can’t break down, so it’s lower calorie than you’d think.  Everyone in the office really liked it.

Wild Spruce Tips

Piney, herby, and citrusy, spruce tips are becoming all-the-rage in fine dining restaurants and high end cocktails. They’re typically in season from mid April to mid May.

wood sorrel wild onion


Wild Wood Sorrel

Wild sorrel has a very tart flavor (with mild lemon notes) that really gets the saliva going. It’s typically in season from March to May.


Wild Onions

Not to be confused with delicious, delicious ramps. Wild onions have a much more mild onion/leek flavor and a crisper texture. They’re mild enough to be enjoyed raw, if you’re in the mood. Typically in season from March to Mid-May



New to Marx Pantry in January

February 18, 2016

We added a ton of new pantry products to the store in January…here’s just about half of them!

New Crackers

bespoke chile crackers bespoke rosemay crackers

Bespoke Chile Crackers

Bespoke Rosemary & Lemon Crackers

New Salts

black garlic salt admiralty sea salt

Black Garlic Salt

Admiralty Sea Salt

New Sweets

cranberry pumpkin seed chocolate tiles

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Tiles

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Tiles – Limited Edition, get them while you can!

rakka bourbon chocolate rakka 85% poco 5 spice chocolate bar

Raaka Organic 82% Barrel Aged Chocolate

Raaka Organic 85% Unroasted Chocolate

Poco Dolce Five Spice Bittersweet Chocolate

poco olive oil chocloate poco hazelnut chocolate poco sea salt

Poco Dolce Olive Oil & Salt Bittersweet Chocolate

Poco Dolce Hazelnut Bittersweet Chocolate

Poco Dolce Sea Salt Bittersweet Chocolate

omnom chocolate bar

70% Papua New Guinea Chocolate

New Honey

shipwreck honey shipwreck honey

Shipwreck Wildflower Honey

Shipwreck Raspberry Honey

More New Products

caraway pickles real dill bloody mary scrappy bitters mix

Caraway Garlic Dill Pickles

Real Dill Bloody Mary Mix

Scrappy’s Classic Bitters Mini Sampler

rosemay pork clouds pear quince marmalade cherry sherry fennel jam

Rosemary Pork Clouds

V Smiley Pear Quince Orange Ginger Marmalade

V Smiley Cherry Sherry Fennel Jam



The History of Merino Sheep in New Zealand

November 22, 2015

Merino lamb meat has a unique, more elegant & subtle flavor than conventional lamb without the typical gameyness.  Here’s some information about the breed’s history.

The Original Spanish Merino – A National Treasure

The Merino sheep breed originated in Spain – appearing in records as far back as the 12th century.  The prevailing belief appears to be that it probably developed from sheep brought to Spain by the Moors.

Merino have been renowned for their superior wool for centuries.  The Spanish government considered them such a precious resource and economic advantage that for a long time exporting Merino sheep from the country was an offense punishable by death.

 

Merino Spread Across the World
At some point the Merino stopped being such a dominating economic force in Spain, and the rules were relaxed to allow export.  The breed spread throughout Europe and was bred for different characteristics in different areas.  There are now a wide variety of Merino types spread across the world.

 

Merino Sheep Arrive in the Colonies

In the 19th century the breed was exported to North America and Australia.  In the 1840s through the early 1860s Merino were brought across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand in large numbers to establish the NZ Merino industry.

Before the advent of refrigerated shipping containers, it wasn’t possible to export lamb meat from Australia and New Zealand to major markets in Europe and the US without it spoiling.  Wool doesn’t spoil, so the primary economic impetus for farmers to raise sheep was for the wool export market – making Merino the breed of choice.

 

The History of Merino in New Zealand

Because the Merino brought over from Australia were sometimes of questionable quality, New Zealand farmers looking to improve the quality of their herd genetics started importing small numbers of animals from Europe and the US.  As a result of these breeding programs by the 1880s New Zealand Merino could be considered a distinct variety from the sheep raised in Australia.

Unfortunately as time went on various economic factors encouraged New Zealand farmers to move away from the Merino breed.

Merino sheep were originally adapted to Spain’s more arid climate.  It turned out that in New Zealand’s more moist environment the breed was prone to an illness known as “footrot”, an infection of the tissue inside the hoof.  This made them less suited to being raised in the lowlands that make up the majority of New Zealand’s sheep country.

A wool production system known as machine worsting was also on the rise – where machines gin & comb long wool to remove abnormally short fibers and force the long ones to lie parallel.  The resulting wool is much more uniform than the kind typically used in sweaters.  Unfortunately, while Merino wool was still considered a superior product in general, its fibers were too delicate for the worsting machines of this era.

Finally, advancements in shipping eventually made meat export possible.  While British sheep breeds were developed for meat production, Merino sheep weren’t considered a meat breed.  Their wool was so superb that breeders had remained singularly focused on improving it for centuries.

As a result of meat export becoming possible and industry demand for wool that was stronger rather than softer, many New Zealand farmers started cross-breeding their Merino herds with British breeds to produce mixed breeds that were less lean, had meat qualities demanded by the primary markets, and coarser wool.

As of the early 2000’s, pure Merino sheep had become a minority breed in New Zealand, accounting for just 3 million of the 39 million sheep raised in the country.  These Merino are primarily raised in New Zealand’s cooler high country, where footrot isn’t a concern.

 

The Discovery of Merino Meat

Merino continued to be raised exclusively as a wool breed until the 1990s, when tougher farming conditions forced the farmers to diversify into the meat market.  Merino meat was simply sold into the commodity meat market as “lamb” without any special fanfare.

Merino lamb’s unique flavor and texture were well known to Merino famers, who dined on it themselves and served it to guests to their farms as a special delicacy.  At some point, all off their guests’ exclamations clicked, and the farmers realized Merino’s unique eating qualities were something that should be trumpeted to the world, not hidden behind a generic label.

In 2011 a special partnership was formed between the Merino farmers’ wool company & meat processors to start the world’s first breed specific program for lamb.  SILERE merino lamb is hand selected for the best eating qualities and showcases the best attributes of this very special breed.

Through the SILERE program, New Zealand chefs have discovered modern Merino’s cleaner, leaner, more elegant flavor and silky texture.  It is quickly becoming a fixture on fine dining menus there.  We are proud to introduce this new delicacy to the American market.

 

Sources:

Hugh Stringleman and Robert Peden. ‘Sheep farming – The Merino – the earliest breed’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12

URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/sheep-farming/page-3

Encyclopedia Britannica ‘Merino’, Encyclopedia Britannica, updated 04-Jul-08

URL: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/376088/Merino



What’s the Difference Between Merino & Conventional Lamb?

November 20, 2015

Conventional/commodity lamb is generally a crossbreed, whereas Merino is a specific breed of sheep cultivated for its premium wool and meat.  In this respect it’s analogous to premium beef breeds (like Black Angus) and heritage pork (Kurobuta, Iberico, etc).

When compared to common lamb, Merino produce softer, leaner, finer textured & clean flavored meat prized by chefs and finer wool (used in high end apparel).  They tend to be slaughtered at an older age than conventional lamb.

 

Shearing Practices:

Conventional lambs are usually sheared only once, at 4-6 months, producing a coarse wool used in carpets and other similar applications.

Merino are sheared at 9-12 months, when their fleece has grown to its full length (75mm or longer).  Depending on their wool growth, they may be sheared a second time before being processed for meat.

Each Merino produces approximately two kilograms (4.4lbs) or more of wool per shearing.

In between their full shearings, they may be brought in for a brief localized shear around the groin area (a practice referred to as “crutching”) to help them stay clean and healthy.

 

Habitat & Diet:

Conventional lamb is often raised in the lowlands, but Merino have thicker fleeces and prefer the cooler temperatures in high alpine ranges.

Merino lambs roam freely in massive pastures up in the mountains.  They dine on alpine herbs and native grasses.