October 24, 2002 New York, New York Slow Food U.S.A. announces the selection of the Navajo-Churro sheep for Ark U.S.A., Slow Food’s program to protect food threatened with extinction. The Navajo-Churro sheep breed is North America’s earliest domesticated farm animal. Spanish explorers and colonists first brought them into New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley in the 16th century. Once numbering two million, the breed was dissipated by a federally-imposed interbreeding initiative and a government-mandated livestock reduction program. By the 1970s, only 450 Navajo-Churro sheep were left in the United States.
Characteristics of Navajo-Churro sheep:
– The meat is lean with distinctive, sweet lamb flavor.
– The breed is of regional importance to the Hispanic and Native American cultures of southwestern United States.
– Navajo-Churro sheep provide excellent meat, abundant milk and highly desirable fleece.
– The breed is extremely hardy and lives lightly on the land, requiring less water and grass than other sheep.
Now aboard Ark U.S.A., the Navajo-Churro join other foods identified by Slow Food as endangered: Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Bourbon Red and American Bronze turkey breeds, Tuscarora or Iroquois white corn, the Blenheim apricot and others. Slow Food’s Ark project identifies and promotes high quality foods that reflect the history and culture of a region. Food selected for the Ark differs significantly from food produced by modern, standardized industry and agriculture.