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Not a baaaaad meal
Couple starts 220-acre sheep farm
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Mary had a little lamb. And, Jim and Deanna MaLooley have several.
The MaLooleys own a sustainable, 100 percent grass-fed, family owned sheep farm, one of the first in Warren County. The farm is located on McCollum Bend Road.
Katahdin sheep are raised at Yellowbird Farms. Katahdin are a traditional American “hair sheep” breed which produces meat, but not wool.
“The fact the Katahdin sheep do not have wool makes it perfectly suited to Tennessee’s humid, sub-tropical climate and they thrive on our lush pastures,” says Jim.
Great Pyranese livestock guardian dogs help keep coyotes away from the flock and keep the babies with their mothers. The lambs are born in the spring and are processed in the fall in a processing plant located in South Pittsburg.
“This is the most exciting time of year because they are having babies,” said Deanna. “It’s what we’ve worked for all year. We have 150 ewes and they are all having babies. We have 25 or 26 babies already with a lot more to come.”
The business is just over one year old, starting in February 2013. Deanna said they began with practical intentions and didn’t realize they would love the sheep so much.
“We are such sheep fans now,” Deanna said, noting neither she nor Jim had prior experience raising sheep, although they both have agricultural backgrounds. “There are some people who say it’s a good thing we haven’t been around sheep because we don’t have any preconceived notions and we can look at it with a fresh approach. There are others who say you don’t know what you’re doing.”
After processing, Yellowbird Farms lamb cuts are flash frozen to capture peak freshness. The meats are then individually vacuum-sealed, packaged and ready for shipping to the public.
Yellowbird Farms sells lamb chops, rack of lamb, loin chops, leg of lamb and ground lamb, among other cuts.
To be considered lamb, the animal must be under 14 months old. Yellowbird Farms processes its lambs at approximately 11 to 12 months.
Mutton is older sheep and in the Malooleys’ opinion, not as good as lamb.
“Many people in this area mistake the flavor of lamb as what is actually mutton. Mutton has a strong flavor. It is kind of gamey,” said Deanna. “Lamb does not taste like mutton at all. Lamb is delicious, especially when it is grilled. It has a mild, buttery flavor.”
Jim said, “Lamb and goat are eaten all over the world. The United States lamb industry took its biggest hit after World War II because they fed canned mutton to soldiers. Mutton does not taste good, in my opinion. When the soldiers came home, they told their wives and loved ones to never feed them sheep or mutton again. It took a few years for the lamb industry to recover from that. We want people to know that lamb and mutton taste very different.”
The flock of sheep at Yellowbird Farms has been certified as animal welfare approved. This certification and food label lets consumers know the animals were raised in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the United States, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm.
In recognition of their commitment to sustainable farming practices, Jim and Deanna were named 2013 Warren County Conservation Farmers of the Year. The Malooleys recognize the growing consumer interest in how animals are being raised. Raising animals outdoors on pasture or range has known benefits for animals, consumers and the environment.
The sheep are moved daily, which ensures they always have access to fresh pasture and prevents the build-up of internal parasites. The Malooleys do not give their sheep subtherapeutic antibiotics, added hormones, or animal byproducts.
The Malooleys are also planning to start processing beef. Currently, they have 34 head of grass-fed cattle on-site. Cuts available for purchase will include porterhouse, T-bone, sirloin and ribeye steaks and ground beef, among others.
Visitors are welcome to see the farm and can call 931-743-0376 to make an appointment. Visit www.yellowbirdfarms.com for more information.


PAN-FRIED LAMB CHOPS WITH ROSEMARY AND GARLIC

SERVES 6
THESE EASY LAMB CHOPS ARE JUST RIGHT FOR A QUICK DINNER. PAIR THEM UP WITH THE MASHED POTATOES AND SOME BOILED GREEN BEANS.
Ingredients
    •    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    •    1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
    •    1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
    •    18 small lamb rib chop
    •    3 tablespoons olive oil
    •    Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)
Preparation
Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Rub about 1/4 teaspoon mixture over each side of each chop. Sprinkle chops with salt; place on plate. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add 9 chops to skillet; cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter; cover with foil. Repeat with remaining oil and chops. Garnish platter with rosemary sprigs, if desired.