THE search for Australia's best lamb is over and has been won by a family-owned Murraylands-based grain fed brand.
Paul and Alex McGorman and their father John from Thornby Grain Fed Lamb at Sanderston claimed the coveted title of Australia's Best Lamb out of 66 entries from across Australia.
The inaugural competition - held in conjunction with LambEx 2014 - was open to producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers with a branded lamb product commercially available.
The winning lamb rack, announced at last night's AWI Grandslamb dinner, ticked all the boxes for top quality lamb with flavour, juiciness, aroma, tenderness and overall liking.
It was a Prime SAMM-cross lamb which had been in the McGormans' AUSMEAT accredited feedlot for 50 days and hung as a carcase for 10 days.
Thornby Grain Fed Lamb is available at Thornby Fine Meats, Tanunda, which the family owned until two years ago.
Paul said he was keen to also supply their award-winning lamb to more restaurants and butcher shops.
Paul said it was a "real shock" to win the top award.
"It is nice to have industry acknowledgement we are on the right track," he said.
"We drafted them off into the right weight categories. Then we selected about half a dozen and then just picked the best."
"I looked at the head because it tells you a lot about the body."
The family began branding their product five years ago, building their profile at the Barossa Farmers Market and supplying some local restaurants, but restructuring their business they decided to concentrate on pushing their 7000-head capacity feedlot.
In the feedlot the McGormans finish 2500 lambs from their grazing property at Coonalpyn and also finish around 25,000 lambs from across SA, sourced mainly on-farm through a network of stock agents.
Between 25 and 30pc of their lambs are Prime SAMM crosses which Paul says have high dressing percentages and make good quality lamb.
The majority of their lambs are sold to Thomas Foods International, supplying around 400 lambs per fortnight to their high value Japanese market.
Thornby entered all three grain fed classes but it was their gold medal winner in the grain fed 26kg plus which won them bragging rights.
Paul dedicated the win to his mother Helen who had passed away two months ago.
"For her it was not just about doing it to make money but getting nutrition right and a whole series of quality attributes," he said.
Australia's Best Lamb competition was a new initiative of the Australian Meat Industry Council, tafeSA and Elders with judging taking place on Wednesday at tafe SA Regency Park campus by a panel of judges. It featured six categories - three weight classes (18-22kg, 22-26kg and 26+kg) from grain fed and grass fed systems.
* Full report in Stock Journal, July 17, 2014 issue.