Lamb and mutton

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"Mutton" redirects here. For goat meat used interchangeably with mutton, see Goat meat. For other uses, see Mutton (disambiguation).
Leg and rack of lamb

Lamb, hogget, and mutton (UK, India, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia)[1] are terms for the meat of domestic sheep (species Ovis aries) at different ages. In the Caribbean, and South Asia, the word “mutton” is often used to describe both goat and sheep meat, despite its more specific meaning (limited to the meat of adult sheep). A sheep in its first year is called a lamb; and its meat is also called lamb. The meat of a juvenile sheep older than one year is hogget; outside North America this is also a term for the living animal.[2] The meat of an adult sheep is mutton, a term only used for the meat, not the living animals.

Lamb is the most expensive of the three types, and in recent decades sheep-meat is increasingly only retailed as "lamb", sometimes stretching the accepted distinctions given above. The stronger tasting mutton is now hard to find in many areas, despite the efforts of the Mutton Renaissance Campaign in the UK. In Australia, the term prime lamb is often used to refer to lambs raised for meat.[3] Other languages, for example French and Italian, make similar, or even more detailed, distinctions between sheep meat by age and sometimes by gender, though they generally lack the particular habit of English in having different terms for the living animal and its meat.

Classifications and nomenclature[edit]

Lamb rib chops

The definitions for lamb, hogget and mutton vary considerably between countries. Younger lambs are smaller and more tender. Mutton is meat from a sheep over two years old, and has less tender flesh. In general, the darker the colour, the older the animal. Baby lamb meat will be pale pink, while regular lamb is pinkish-red.

Commonwealth of Nations[edit]

United States[edit]

Under current federal regulations, only the term 'lamb' is used:

The term 'mutton' and 'hogget' are rare [6] in the United States.

Chuletillas of milk-fed lamb in Asturias
Lamb shanks of a young lamb

Other definitions include:


Despite being classified as red meat, lamb is leaner and contains less cholesterol, fat, and protein than beef,[9] and less energy than beef or chicken.[10]

Butchery and cookery[edit]

Mutton rogan josh from Kashmir
Lamb chuanr (Chinese Islamic barbecued lamb sticks)

The meat of a lamb is taken from the animal between one month and one year old, with a carcase (carcass in American English) weight of between 5.5 and 30 kilograms (12 and 65 lbs). This meat generally is more tender than that from older sheep and appears more often on tables in some Western countries. Hogget and mutton have a stronger flavour than lamb because they contain a higher concentration of species-characteristic fatty acids and are preferred by some.[11] Mutton and hogget also tend to be tougher than lamb (because of connective tissue maturation) and are therefore better suited to casserole-style cooking, as in Lancashire hotpot, for example.

Lamb is often sorted into three kinds of meat: forequarter, loin, and hindquarter. The forequarter includes the neck, shoulder, front legs, and the ribs up to the shoulder blade. The hindquarter includes the rear legs and hip. The loin includes the ribs between the two.

Lamb chops are cut from the rib, loin, and shoulder areas. The rib chops include a rib bone; the loin chops include only a chine bone. Shoulder chops are usually considered inferior to loin chops; both kinds of chops are usually grilled. Breast of lamb (baby chops) can be cooked in an oven.

Leg of lamb is a whole leg; saddle of lamb is the two loins with the hip. Leg and saddle are usually roasted, though the leg is sometimes boiled.

Forequarter meat of sheep, as of other mammals, includes more connective tissue than some other cuts, and, if not from a young lamb, is best cooked slowly using either a moist method, such as braising or stewing, or by slow roasting or American barbecuing. It is, in some countries, sold already chopped or diced.

Lamb shank definitions vary, but generally include:

Thin strips of fatty mutton can be cut into a substitute for bacon called macon.

Lamb tongue is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine both as a cold cut and in preparations like stews.[12]


Commonwealth countries[edit]

British cuts of lamb

Approximate zones of the usual UK cuts of lamb:[13]

US and Ireland[edit]

National cuisines[edit]

Meat from sheep features prominently in several cuisines of the Mediterranean, for example in Greece, where it is an integral component of many meals, including religious feasts such as Easter (see avgolemono, magiritsa); Turkey, in North Africa, the Middle East, in Pakistan and Afghanistan; in the Basque culture, both in the Basque country of Europe and in the shepherding areas of the Western United States. In Northern Europe, mutton and lamb feature in many traditional dishes, including those of the Iceland and of the United Kingdom, particularly in the western and northern uplands, Scotland and Wales. It is also very popular in Australia. Lamb and mutton are very popular in Central Asia and in certain parts of China, where other red meats may be eschewed for religious or economic reasons. Barbecued mutton is also a specialty in some areas of the United States (chiefly Owensboro, KY) and Canada. However, meat from sheep is generally consumed far less in North America than in many European, Central American and Asian cuisines.

In Australia, the leg of lamb roast is considered to be the national dish.[14] Commonly served on a Sunday or any other special occasion, it can be done in a kettle BBQ or a conventional oven. Typical preparation involves covering the leg of lamb with butter and rosemary springs pushed inside incisions cut in the leg, and rosemary leaves sprinkled on top. The lamb is then roasted for two hours at 180 °C (360 °F) and typically served with carrots and potato (also roasted), green vegetables and gravy.

In Mexico, lamb is the meat of choice for the popular barbacoa dish, in which the lamb is roasted or steamed wrapped in maguey leaves underground.[citation needed] In Medieval India: the armies, unable to cook elaborate meals, would prepare a one-pot dish where they cooked rice with mutton. This dish led to the famous Biryani

Lamb's liver, known as lamb's fry in New Zealand and Australia,[15] is eaten in many countries and, along with the lungs and heart (the pluck), is a major ingredient in the traditional Scottish dish of haggis. Lamb testicles, also known as lamb's fries (a term also used for other lamb offal),[16] is another delicacy. Lamb's liver is the most common form of offal eaten in the UK, traditionally used in the family favourite (and pub grub staple) of liver with onions and/or bacon and mashed potatoes.

Lamb kidneys are found in many cuisines across Europe and the Middle East, often split into two halves and grilled (on kebabs in the Middle East), or sautéed in a sauce. They are generally the most highly regarded of all kidneys. Lamb sweetbreads are a delicacy in many cuisines, though generally ignored in the traditional national cooking of English-speaking countries.

Sheep meat production[edit]

Sheep meat production (kt)
 New Zealand598478471465448

Source: Helgi Library,[17] World Bank, FAOSTAT

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Third edition, August 2010; online version November 2010
  2. ^ OED "Hogget"; The term 'hogget' was only added to the U.S. National Agricultural Library's thesaurus in 2009
  3. ^ Australian Prime Lamb Industry, 2000
  4. ^ Delbridge, Arthur, "The Macquarie Dictionary", 2nd ed., Macquarie Library, North Ryde, 1991
  5. ^ Code of Federal Regulations 7:XI:1280.111
  6. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. hogget: "chiefly British"
  7. ^ Sheep CRC
  8. ^ Keating, Sheila."Food Detective: Salt Marsh Lamb." The Times Online, 28 June 2008.
  9. ^ Kunkle, Fredrick; Dwyer, Timothy (November 13, 2004). "Long an Ethnic Delicacy, Goat Goes Mainstream". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  10. ^ Cite error: The named reference wp20110405 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh. "What Is Mutton - Understanding the History." Mutton Renaissance.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Larousse Gastronomique(2001), ISBN 0-600-60235-4
  14. ^ "Roast lamb rules as Australia's national dish". February 2, 2010. 
  15. ^ Delbridge, Arthur, The Macquarie Dictionary, 2nd ed., Macquarie Library, North Ryde, 1991
  16. ^ OED
  17. ^ | Sheep Meat Production | 12 February 2014

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