When Cretans talk about meat, they almost always mean lamb (or mutton)! Goat is also a very popular meat type. And this does not come as a surprise given the number of sheep and goats grazing on the slopes of this really diverse island. Although the authentic Cretan diet contains meat in moderation, it certainly contains some meat based meals once or twice a week. There is no celebratory or festive meal in Crete without one or more dishes based on lamb. If you give a try to the Cretan lamb you will immediately know why; it tastes gorgeous and cannot be compared to the taste of mass bred lambs originated elsewhere.
Cretans eat lamb in a multitude of ways. Cuts of it can be barbecued, such as the famous Cretan lamb chops (“paidakia”) or grilled around open fire (the unique Cretan “antikristo”). It can also be boiled and its broth converted to the famous wedding risotto (“gamopilafo”). It can also be oven baked or cooked in a casserole with olive oil and wine (“tsigariasto”). Last but not least a healthier version of lamb or goat is cooked as a stew together with wild bitter greens (“arni me xorta”).
Note that when lamb is consumed in moderation is not so bad for health. It is a very good source of protein and iron, defending the body against anemia. Many parts of the lamb, such as the shank, loin and leg, have comparable fat contents with beef or pork. Although some parts of it can be fatter, the fat can be easily trimmed. Note also that free grazing Cretan lambs receive far less medication than massively bred cows. Furthermore, most of the times Cretans combine their lamb with vegetables and salads. Consequently delicious Cretan lamb has its important nutritional value and is not to the detriment of a healthy lifestyle when consumed in moderation, which is always the case in the authentic Cretan diet.