According to Statistics Canada, almost a quarter of BC sheep are located on Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands (between the mainland and Vancouver Island). Sheep production is spread throughout the islands with 14,000–15,000 sheep on nearly 500 farms. The Gulf Islands are unique in that large predators are either absent or rare, with only flying predators such as eagles and ravens to worry about. Vancouver Island has cougars and bears, but no coyotes. Livestock is transported on and off the islands by ferry or, for those islands without ferry service, by barge. The mild coastal climate allows sheep to remain outdoors most of the year.
Some say the famous flavor comes from the sea breezes that carry salt. The salt then settles onto the land that the sheep feed on, giving them a unique texture. Another theory is the top grade food that the farmers feed them, a combination of grains, whole barley, local dry hay and grass. When the ewes have their lambs they are fed alfalfa. Farmers like their sheep to be really lean as well, trying to keep them around 45 pounds; anything over 55 pounds is too fat.
No one really knows why Salt Spring lamb tastes so good that even the Queen of England prefers it. Perhaps it’s the salt breezes or the grains or perhaps island life simply agrees with sheep as it does for almost everybody who lives in this paradise.