Karoo lamb is the best baa none… and now ewe can get an organic chop too
Emily Rizzo | 2017-04-02 14:54:21.0
Karoo farmer Willie Esterhuizen with his son Jacques, aged four, and one of his Merino sheep.
Image by: Supplied
If you count sheep to fall asleep‚ you can now do it organically.
A Karoo couple have become South Africa’s first internationally certified organic sheep farmers.
Willie and Sonja Esterhuizen‚ of Britstown‚ have spent a year converting their several thousand Merinos into a flock certified organic‚ which means no growth hormones and routine antibiotics are used and the sheep are fed on organic material that has not been treated with herbicides or pesticides.
“The animals’ health and well-being is a top-priority‚” said Willie‚ whose family have farmed Elandsfontein for three generations.
The abattoir used by the farm is also certified organic‚ and the meat — marketed under the name Smartt Karoo — is sold at a certified butchery in Durbanville‚ Cape Town.
The certification awarded to Elandsfontein lamb means it is produced to the same organic standards used in the EU and countries including Australia and Turkey‚ according to Marianna Smith‚ of ECOCERT Southern Africa.
Esterhuizen said organic food was a “growing niche market” and provided export opportunities. And although going organic had not increased productivity‚ it meant the farm could charge more for its meat.
Agriculture students from Stellenbosch University assisted the couple to make their farm organic.
“We still need to convert a small portion of our farming operations to 100% organic standards‚ but because of the valuable relationships with researchers in sustainable agriculture who are studying various aspects of our endeavours we were able to already receive international certification‚” said Esterhuizen.
The next steps are to investigate the production of organic wool and lanolin — a wool byproduct used in cosmetics.
“There is not yet a market for organic wool in South Africa‚ because it is so expensive to wash and process it‚” said Esterhuizen.
((BLOB)) Stellenbosch University student Sarah Erasmus received her PhD in food science this month for research showing Karoo lamb has a unique taste derived from the fragrant indigenous bushes the animals eat.
* Emily Rizzo is on an SIT Study Abroad programme studyabroad.sit.edu and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media‚ RoundEarthMedia.org