Although it spans an area roughly the same size as Colorado (just over 100,000 square miles) and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand feels quite big—often larger than life. Across its wide-open spaces, cattle and sheep have plenty of space to roam freely and graze year-round on the lush green grass. And for New Zealanders, preserving nature—or “kaitiakitanga,” meaning guardianship of the land—is a point of pride.
“There’s nature everywhere. You don’t have to go far to be in it,” says award-winning chef Matt Lambert, now executive chef of The Lodge Bar in Auckland and Queenstown.
In this lush country, kaitiakitanga is a word with deep roots, which now encompasses a forward-looking approach to everything from growing grapes to raising cattle and sheep. Among family-run stations like those that supply Atkins Ranch, which was the first lamb producer in the world to achieve Non-GMO Project verification, ranchers see themselves as custodians of the land.
Simply put, New Zealand farmers care about the process from pasture to plate, resulting in a product that is unlike anything else.
In New Zealand, a commitment to raising animals humanely and producing the highest-quality meat naturally has been passed down for generations, and yet it’s completely modern. Among its most progressive leaders, First Light was the first meat company in New Zealand to receive international Certified Humane accreditation. Based in Hawkes Bay, the company started out with pasture-raised venison in 2003, and then 100 percent grass-fed Wagyu beef. Subscribers to First Light’s Steak Club receive humanely raised, GMO-free meat without antibiotics or added hormones. And the choice cuts are so popular, there’s a waiting list.
The hard work that local ranchers and farmers put into raising animals as nature intended produces some of the tastiest cuts of grass-fed beef and lamb on the planet. Beyond care and quality, they also closely watch their impact on the earth. Compared to the global average, New Zealand beef farms produce 75 percent less carbon emissions.
“New Zealand’s reputation precedes it for being very clean and green,” says Lambert. “Our farming standards are revered because everything is pasture-raised 365 days a year. It’s one of the biggest standouts.”
Across the local food industry, New Zealand has invested in research and development, especially when it comes to delivering fresh and safe products efficiently to more than 140 countries around the world. Among global suppliers, New Zealand is a leader in rigorous food safety and biosecurity measures.
Even well-established names in the meat industry, like Silver Fern Farms, founded in 1948, have embraced the value of traceability and cutting-edge technology to improve operations.
Fortunately, you can easily find New Zealand grass-fed beef and lamb throughout the U.S. in local supermarkets, at specialty suppliers, and even online. While many want to savor the best products during the holidays, home cooks are carefully considering the ingredients they choose year-round, placing value on taste, sustainability, and animal welfare.
The world first got a taste of New Zealand grass-fed lamb in the 1880s. New Zealand is one of the most interesting food-producing nations in the world—and home to some of the most talented chefs shaping food culture today. Along with exporting top grass-fed beef and lamb, New Zealanders are leaving their culinary mark, from craft beer-infused stew to savory meat pies.
“Every country has their version of street food,” says Lambert. “Our version would be meat filling in pastry, which is sold everywhere as a quick lunch or snack.” Traditionally, meat pies and rolls were made with steak and ground beef, but now there are variations that include flavor profiles like Thai curry or Indian butter sauce. For a party menu, mini meat pies are an easy appetizer with a flaky, buttery crust.
A holiday roast involves one of the simplest cooking methods for anchoring a fantastic meal—and the higher the quality of the meat, the easier it is to get right. Whether you want to stick to tradition with a lamb roast and vegetables or get creative with a garlic herb tri-tip, there are many different cuts of grass-fed beef and lamb to suit any occasion, including beef sirloin, lamb loin chops, and cutlets.
A beef or lamb roast can be the centerpiece inspiring the rest of your meal, such as a traditional pairing of lamb, spring peas, and mint sauce. “I’ve had the experience of observing cattle grazing on kale or other brassicas and brought those greens into a dish,” says Lambert.
From simple, easy preparations to complex recipes, New Zealand grass-fed beef and lamb set the table for a delicious meal—no matter where you happen to be.
To learn more about the world’s best, most natural-tasting beef and lamb—and to find more recipes—visit beefandlambnz.com.