Halfway between Cortina d'Ampezzo and Venice, a few kilometres from Belluno, the Alpago basin has always been an ideal place for sheep farming, the main activity in the municipalities of Alpago, Chies and Tambre until after World War II. And the Alpago has given its name to an autochthonous sheep breed of small to medium size, with curious dark spotting on the head and lower limbs, and a thick, fine, wavy coat that covers it completely, from the knee and hock to the frontal region. Antlerless, with short ears and a slightly mound-like profile, it is a hardy breed, well-suited to the alpine environment, but equally well-suited to stabling. Like most indigenous breeds, it has declined drastically over the last century: today there are around 3,000 head in the area, a slight recovery from the early 1990s, when the European Community listed it as a local endangered species. Considered to be a triple-purpose sheep, i.e. valid both for meat and for milk and wool production, today the Alpagota is reared almost exclusively for its excellent meat: tasty, tender and compact at the same time, it can hold its own against the more famous pre-salted meats from beyond the Alps. The best lambs are those slaughtered at 55 to 65 days after birth and with a live weight of 18 to 25 kilograms.
Alpago lamb has a very tender meat, which melts in the mouth, the right balance of fat and lean, and sensations that never taste of the wild, at most of aromatic herbs.
It is also perfect with traditional local dishes such as patora, a corn and legume soup, or bagozia, a kind of polenta made with potatoes, corn, legumes and even salami and bacon.
Lamb meat can be found throughout the year, depending on the breed's reproductive cycles and, in particular, between December and April.
Natural feeding is indispensable for obtaining excellent meat: rearing in the wild, with feeding based on meadow fodder, or semi-wild with the addition of locally produced hay and cereal meal. The use of sheepfolds is only permitted on condition that the animals' welfare and healthy, balanced growth are guaranteed. The Presidium has registered its own trademark, "Agnello d'Alpago", and guarantees full traceability of the product: the label on the meat bears the trademark, the name and address of the farmer and the codes of the slaughterhouse and herd. The Alpago sheep has a thick, fine and warm coat, from which a fine wool is obtained, soft and compact, pleasant to the touch, capable of maintaining warmth and at the same time lightness. It is used to make unique products: blankets, tabards, hats and slippers.
Conca dell'Alpago, (province of Belluno).