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Lamb, hogget, and mutton (UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia) are the meat of domestic sheep (species Ovis aries). The meat of a sheep in its first year is lamb; that of a juvenile sheep older than one year is hogget; and the meat of an adult sheep is mutton.
Distinct from the meat, a lamb (singular with the indefinite article) or lambs (plural) also describes live juvenile sheep, which may or may not be used for meat. In Australia, the term prime lamb is often used to refer to lambs raised for meat.
The definitions for lamb, hogget and mutton vary considerably between countries.
In New Zealand, they are defined as follows:
Under current United States federal regulations, only the term 'lamb' is used:
The term 'mutton' is rare and 'hogget' unknown in the United States.
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.
Other definitions include:
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. 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.
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.
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 the national dish. 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.
Lamb's liver, known as lamb's fry in New Zealand and Australia, 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), 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. Split grilled lamb kidneys are a popular breakfast item in Ireland.
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