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Smithfield farm hosts BaaBaaQ and Bourbon event

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By Taylor Riley

A Smithfield farm is looking to bring back the mutton.

Freedom Run Farm hosted BaaBaaQ and Bourbon on Sunday for industry professionals, lamb and Kentucky lovers.

Valerie Samutin, executive director of Freedom Run Farm was proud of the event, which celebrated the culinary heritage of lamb in Kentucky.

Prior to WWII, Kentucky had close to one million sheep, making it the place to get versatile protein. But, the industry took a huge hit and now there are only 37,000 lambs in Kentucky.

“We are dedicated to bringing these traditional ways of raising lambs and bringing it back to the plate,” Samutin said.

Samutin says the classic dish can be made several ways, which can appeal to many different people. The chop can be served at a fancy party, but lamb can also be served at a laid-back backyard barbeque.

Samutin modeled last weekend’s event after the American Lamb Jam, a chef competition and culinary experience that celebrates the 80,000 family-operated farms that raise sheep in the United States. At these events, chefs compete for the best lamb dish.

“We wanted to show … we know how to throw a party here,” Samutin said, describing the event as “Kentucky on a bun.”

The event brought together five chefs from Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Nashville to compete for the title of best lamb barbeque. In addition, there was a cooking lamb fries demo by Top Chef’s Ouita Michel, lamb butchery demonstration and live Bluegrass music.

Guests tasted each of the chefs’ dishes and were given tokens to vote on their favorites. Chef Mitch Arens at Coppin’s at Hotel Covington was the winner.

“I’m excited for Kentucky,” Samutin said. “We are bringing (lamb) back and bringing back (Kentucky’s) reputation as the best lamb in the world.”

Freedom Run Farm partners with 15 farms that breed sheep like the Appalachian Katahdin that has “excellent marbling, size and flavor.” The farms use genetics, nutrition and management to gear the lamb toward the American consumer.

“We are all united in the same mission … producing quality lamb,” she said.