'It's what you eat that counts' - Proof that Karoo lamb is special

15 March 2017 - 09:16 By Petru Saal
"To many South Africans it is common knowledge that Karoo lamb has a unique taste because of the fragrant Karoo bushes the animal eats‚ but reliable evidence was needed to give substance to these claims."
"To many South Africans it is common knowledge that Karoo lamb has a unique taste because of the fragrant Karoo bushes the animal eats‚ but reliable evidence was needed to give substance to these claims."
Image: Bruce Gorton

Stellenbosch university student Sarah Erasmus receives her PhD in Food Science on Tuesday for research showing that lamb from the Karoo is unique.

Her research helped to ensure that Karoo lamb received exclusive geographic "naming rights" last year in terms of European Union marketing legislation.

"To many South Africans it is common knowledge that Karoo lamb has a unique taste because of the fragrant Karoo bushes the animal eats‚ but reliable evidence was needed to give substance to these claims‚" said Erasmus.

Geographical Indications (GI) recognise that a particular name‚ which is usually derived from some place name‚ is for the exclusive use of products that come from that area. Well-known international examples are among others Parma ham‚ French champagne‚ Mexican tequila and port.

Having its own unique geographic indicator status makes Karoo lamb competitive on a global level and adds further value to the product associated with the name.

Erasmus’s research confirmed that Karoo lamb has unique sensory qualities‚ and also that it differs from lamb meat from other regions in South Africa.

It was proven that it has a more prominent and favourable lamb-like and herbaceous taste compared to lamb from the Free State.

"The sensory differences that were picked up were more prominent in the fat‚ which suggests that fat plays an important role in the overall taste of Karoo lamb‚" says Erasmus.

According to Professor Louw Hoffman from Stellenbosch University‚ the meat science work done by Erasmus was an example of how research could provide real benefits to farmers and producers in the South African meat industry.

Erasmus started her postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch University in 2013 at a time when no legal protection was provided to local South African products such as Karoo lamb‚ rooibos and honeybush being marketed overseas.

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