Borrego do Baixo Alentejo (Lower Alentejo lamb)

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Borrego do Baixo Alentejo

IGP Borrego do Baixo Alentejo are Portuguese lamb carcases which weigh between 8 and 10 kg, have well-developed, firm and compact muscle with minimum adhesion in the fibres and connective tissue . Covering and cavity fat is white and firm and the flesh tender and very succulent because of the presence of fat within and between muscles. It has a unique flavour.

Geographical area

The geographical area of production within which lambs must be born, raised and slaughtered comprises the municipalities of Aljustrel, Almodovar, Alvito, Barrancos, Beja , Castro Verde, Cuba , Ferreira do Alentejo, Mértola , Moura, Ourique , Serpa , Viana do Alentejo and Vidigueira and certain parishes of the municipalities of Alcácer do Sal, Grândola, Mourão, Odemira , Portel and Santiago do Cacem.

Proof of origin

Only carcases from animals born and raised on holdings within the geographical area of production which use a properly updated system of registration (stock book) and identification of breeding animals, comply with all feed and health rules relating to the animals and accept the checks and certification provided for in rules on checks and certification of Baixo Alentejo lamb, which also includes rules on the slaughter, cutting and presentation for market of the carcases and meat, may use the geographical indication.

Method ofproduction

The meat and offal are obtained from the slaughter of lambs from the local breeds Merina and Campanifa and their crosses with other breeds derived from Merino at the age of 3 or 4 months. The animals are brought into the slaughterhouse 12 to 24 hours before slaughter and then eat nothing, although they have free access to water. They are stunned before slaughter. The carcases are chilled at a temperature not exceeding 15 °C in a very strong current of air. The carcases and offal are chilled immediately after the post mortem inspection and kept at a temperature of 7 °C or less in the case of the carcases and 3 °C or less in the case of the offal . Cutting and packing may take place only on licensed premises and at a temperature not exceeding 12 °C. Baixo Alentejo lamb is placed on sale after refrigeration for at least 24 hours with an internal temperature of 7 °C.

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The specific characteristics of this meat as a whole result from the nature of the pasture , feed and woodland in the area, the breeds of sheep used (Merina and Campanifa) and the production techniques developed on the basis of regional preferences for consumption and principally the plant cover, relief and climate in the region, which has a long tradition of stock-raising. This was the way of life of the people who lived here long before the Arabs and Portuguese arrived, as is clearly shown by archaeological remains. Excavations in the area have revealed a large number of artifacts used in weaving. Classical authors (Avienus, Pliny and Polybius) mention the quantity and quality of wool from the 'Conventus Pacencis', the region which includes the Baixo Alentejo. The Arabs developed this way of life, as can be seen from the many words of Arabic origin concerned with sheep raising and cheese-making. Local customs still reflect the longstanding presence of these animals in the Baixo Alentejo, particularly, in haute cuisine, where roast leg of lamb Alentejano style and local lamb stew are only two of the traditional dishes.

Gastronomy

IGP Borrego do Baixo Alentejo must be stored at a temperature of between 2°C-4°C. It cannot be frozen before it is sold but it may be frozen once acquired for domestic use. Once bought, the meat can only be kept in the fridge for a few days. The meat cannot be eaten sooner than 72 hours after slaughter. Lamb is particularly and traditionally eaten at Easter time. IGP Borrego do Baixo Alentejo lamb is used in many traditional local disse in the Alentejo area, among the best known being ensopado de borrego à pastora and perna de borrego assada no forno de lenha. The less noble parts of the animal such as the head, hooves and offal are used in the preparation of estufadas and guisados.

Reference: The European Commission