Which hair-sheep breed has the most tender and flavorful meat?

R.T. MissouriAnswer: On September 20, 2003, the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in conjunction with Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service held a Sheep and Goat Field Day. One of the presenters was Jason Apple. Dr. Apple summarized a large body of research results regarding factors that influence quality and acceptability of goat and sheep meat. In general, he said, there is little difference in sheep breeds with regard to tenderness and juiciness; however, there may be differences among goat breeds, especially with respect to tenderness. Castration tends to improve the tenderness of both goat and sheep meat. Tenderness tends to decline with increased age and slaughter weight for both species. Tenderness is directly related to the amount of back fat. However, flavor of sheep tends to increase with back fat, whereas flavor intensity tends to decrease with back fat in goats. The meat palatability characteristics of sheep raised on grass were not significantly different from those of sheep fed in a feedlot.Below are some articles discussing hair sheep, including meat quality. The Katahdin and Dorper are probably the most common hair-sheep meat breeds, since both were developed for the meat market.ResourcesAnon. 2001. Evaluation of hair breeds of sheep for low input management. Small Farms Research News. Spring. 4 p. http://dorpers.com/newslett.htmBactawar, Basil. 2003. Characteristics and general production parameters of hair sheep breeds. British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fish. Fall. 4 p. www.agf.gov.bc.ca/sheep/publications/documents/hair_sheep_breeds.pdf (PDF 235 kb) Schoenian, Susan. 2002. A cornucopia of sheep breeds: Which one do I pick? Maryland Small Ruminant Page. 4 p. www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/sheepbreeds.htmlSchoenian, Susan. 1999. Perhaps, you should consider hair sheep. Maryland Small Ruminant Page. 3 p. www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/hairsheep.htmlSchoenian, Susan. 2005. Hair sheep research and information. Maryland Small Ruminant Page. 2 p. www.sheepandgoat.com/hairsheep/articles.html