Lamb as Food: Discover the Best Cuts, Dishes & Health Benefits

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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Lamb, hogget, and mutton (UK, India, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia) are terms for the meat of domestic sheep (species Ovis aries) at different ages. 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. The meat (here are the best meats to smoke) 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.

What is lamb

The World of Lamb and Mutton

Lamb and mutton are types of meat that come from domestic sheep, scientifically known as Ovis aries. Lamb is the meat from a sheep in its first year, while mutton is the meat from an older sheep. Hogget is another term used for sheep meat from animals between the ages of one and two years.

Parts of the Sheep Used for Lamb and Mutton

Different parts of the sheep are used for lamb and mutton, and each part has its unique flavor and texture. Some of the commonly used parts include:

  • Shoulder: This part of the sheep is typically fatty and is often used for stews and curries.
  • Loin: The loin is a tender cut of meat that is often grilled or roasted.
  • Ribs: The ribs are a flavorful cut of meat that is often slow-cooked or roasted.
  • Leg: The leg is a lean cut of meat that is often roasted or grilled.

Lamb and Mutton Dishes from Around the World

Lamb and mutton are used in various dishes around the world, and each cuisine has its unique way of preparing it. Some of the popular lamb and mutton dishes include:

  • Rogan Josh: A spicy lamb dish from Kashmir, India.
  • Moussaka: A Greek dish made with layers of eggplant, potatoes, and ground lamb.
  • Shepherd’s Pie: A British dish made with minced lamb and mashed potatoes.
  • Harira: A Moroccan soup made with lamb, lentils, and chickpeas.
  • Mutton Biryani: A flavorful rice dish made with mutton and spices, popular in South Asia.

Lamb and Mutton in Different Languages

Lamb and mutton are known by different names in various languages and cultures. Here are some examples:

  • Afrikaans: skaapvleis (sheep meat)
  • العربية: لحم الغنم (sheep meat)
  • Azərbaycanca: qoyun əti (sheep meat)
  • башҡортса: карачаҡ ҡойын (sheep meat)
  • беларуская: baranina (sheep meat)
  • Català: xai (lamb) / ovella (sheep)
  • čeština: jehněčí (lamb) / skopové (sheep)
  • Dansk: lam (lamb) / fårekød (sheep meat)
  • Español: cordero (lamb) / carne de oveja (sheep meat)
  • Euskara: ardi (sheep)
  • فارسی: گوشت گوسفند (sheep meat)
  • Français: agneau (lamb) / mouton (sheep)
  • Gaeilge: uan (lamb) / caor (sheep)
  • Gàidhlig: uan (lamb) / caora (sheep)
  • 한국어: 양고기 (sheep meat)
  • Bahasa Melayu: daging kambing (sheep meat)
  • Nederlands: lamsvlees (lamb meat) / schapenvlees (sheep meat)
  • 日本語: 羊肉 (sheep meat)
  • Polski: jagnięcina (lamb meat) / baranina (sheep meat)
  • Русский: ягненок (lamb) / баранина (sheep meat)
  • Simple English: lamb (lamb) / mutton (sheep meat)
  • српски: јагњеће месо (lamb meat) / овчетина (sheep meat)
  • Uyghur: قويۇن گۈۋەسى (sheep meat)
  • 粤语: 羊肉 (sheep meat)
  • 中文: 羊肉 (sheep meat)

People’s Enjoyment of Lamb and Mutton

Lamb and mutton are flavorful meats that people around the world enjoy. However, some people may find the taste of mutton too strong or gamey, while others may prefer it over lamb. Lamb and mutton are also considered acquired tastes, and some people may need to try them a few times before developing a liking for them.

Mastering the Art of Butchery and Cookery for Lamb

When it comes to lamb, there are many kinds of cuts available, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most popular cuts of lamb:

  • Shoulder: This cut is generally fatty and contains connective tissue, making it perfect for slow cooking methods like braising or roasting.
  • Leg: The leg is a lean cut of meat that is best cooked quickly, either grilled or roasted.
  • Loin: The loin is a tender and flavorful cut of meat that is perfect for grilling or pan-frying.
  • Chops: Lamb chops are a popular cut that can be grilled, pan-fried, or broiled.
  • Shanks: The shanks are a tougher cut of meat that is best suited for slow cooking methods like braising or stewing.
  • Ribs: Lamb ribs are a flavorful cut that can be grilled or roasted.

The Best Cooking Methods for Lamb

The key to cooking lamb is to choose the right cooking method for the cut of meat you have. Here are some of the best cooking methods for lamb:

  • Grilling: Grilling is a popular way to cook lamb, especially for lean cuts like the leg or loin. Lamb can be grilled as chops, strips, or even whole.
  • Roasting: Roasting is a great way to cook larger cuts of lamb like the leg or shoulder. Slow roasting at a low temperature will ensure that the meat stays tender and juicy.
  • Braising: Braising is a slow cooking method that is perfect for tougher cuts of lamb like the shanks or shoulder. The meat is cooked slowly in liquid until it becomes tender and flavorful.
  • Slow Cooking: Slow cooking methods like stewing or slow roasting are perfect for tougher cuts of lamb like the shanks or shoulder. The meat is cooked slowly in liquid until it becomes tender and flavorful.

Tips for Butchering and Cooking Lamb

Butchering and cooking lamb can be a bit intimidating, but with a few tips, you can master the art of lamb cookery:

  • When buying lamb, look for meat that is a bright pink color and has a firm texture.
  • Lamb is generally sold by the cut, so be sure to choose the right cut for the cooking method you plan to use.
  • Older sheep, known as mutton or hogget, have a stronger flavor and tougher meat than younger lamb. They are best suited for slow cooking methods like braising or stewing.
  • Lamb fat has a higher concentration of fatty acids than other meats, which gives it a stronger flavor. If you prefer a milder flavor, trim off some of the fat before cooking.
  • Lamb can be a great substitute for bacon in many recipes, as it has a similar flavor and texture.
  • When cooking lamb, be sure to let it rest for a few minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute and keep the meat tender.
  • Slow cooking methods like braising or stewing are perfect for tougher cuts of lamb, as they will become tender and flavorful over time.
  • Lamb is best suited to moist cooking methods like braising or slow roasting, as it can tend to dry out if cooked too quickly.
  • Lancashire hotpot is a traditional British dish made with lamb that is sorted into the forequarter and hindquarter. The forequarter is used for the base of the dish, while the hindquarter is used for the top layer.
  • The chine, or backbone, of the lamb is an inferior cut that is best suited for slow cooking methods like braising or stewing.
  • Lamb breast is a flavorful but tough cut that is best suited for slow cooking methods like braising or roasting.

The Art of Cutting Lamb: A Guide to the Different Cuts

When it comes to lamb, there are a variety of cuts to choose from, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most popular cuts of lamb:

  • Lamb Loin Chops: These are considered the best lamb cuts for their perfect balance of price and amazing eating experience. They are ideal for roasting or grilling and are usually sold bone-in.
  • Lamb Shoulder: This is a tougher cut of meat that is suitable for slow cooking or braising. It consists of two parts: the blade end and the shank end. The blade end is usually sold bone-in and is excellent for roasting, while the shank end is perfect for stews and curries.
  • Lamb Neck: This cut is generally tougher and has more fat than other cuts, but it is still worth trying. It is ideal for slow cooking and can be served in strips or chopped into cubes for stews.
  • Lamb Rib: This cut is similar to pork ribs and is perfect for grilling or roasting. It is usually sold as a rack or as individual ribs.
  • Lamb Shank: This cut is ideal for slow cooking and is perfect for stews and curries. It is tougher than other cuts but has an excellent flavor.

The Best Cuts of Lamb for Different Cooking Methods

Different cuts of lamb are suitable for different cooking methods. Here are some of the best cuts of lamb for different cooking methods:

  • Roasting: Lamb Loin Chops, Lamb Shoulder (blade end), Lamb Rib
  • Grilling: Lamb Loin Chops, Lamb Rib, Lamb Flank
  • Slow Cooking/Braising: Lamb Shoulder (shank end), Lamb Shank, Lamb Neck, Lamb Breast, Lamb Scrag
  • Stewing: Lamb Shoulder (shank end), Lamb Shank, Lamb Neck, Lamb Breast, Lamb Scrag
  • Frying: Lamb Flank

The Different Names for Lamb Depending on Age

Lamb is a term used to describe the meat of a sheep that is less than a year old. However, depending on the age of the sheep, the meat may be referred to by different names:

  • Hogget: This term is used to describe the meat of a sheep that is between one and two years old. It is slightly tougher than lamb but has a more developed flavor.
  • Mutton: This term is used to describe the meat of a sheep that is over two years old. It is tougher than lamb and has a stronger flavor.

The Importance of Choosing a Licensed Butcher

When it comes to buying lamb, it’s important to choose a licensed butcher who can provide you with high-quality meat. A licensed butcher will have the necessary skills and knowledge to properly process the meat and provide you with excellent service. They will also be able to let you know which cuts of lamb are in season and which are worth trying.

Delicious Lamb Dishes You Need to Try

If you’re a meat lover, lamb is a must-try. This tender and flavorful meat is a popular ingredient in many dishes around the world. Here are some traditional lamb dishes you should definitely try:

  • Shepherd’s Pie: This classic dish originated in the United Kingdom and consists of lamb cooked with vegetables and gravy, topped with mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown.
  • Roast Lamb: A fine recipe that varies according to the country, but usually consists of a rack of lamb roasted with potatoes and served with a sauce consisting of black pepper and other spices.
  • Kebab: A common dish in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans, lamb kebab is prepared with little pieces of lamb that are marinated and grilled on skewers.
  • Curry: A popular dish in India and the Indian subcontinent, lamb curry is a spicy and flavorful stew made with lamb, potatoes, and a variety of spices.
  • Fårikål: A traditional Norwegian dish that consists of boiled lamb and cabbage, usually served with potatoes.
  • Jameed: A unique dish from Yemen that consists of dry, hard laban (milk) that is prepared with lamb and wheat.

Unique Lamb Dishes

If you’re feeling adventurous, here are some unique lamb dishes that are sure to impress:

  • Lamb Tagine: A Moroccan dish that is prepared with lamb, vegetables, and spices, and cooked in a tagine pot.
  • Lamb Biryani: A flavorful Indian dish that consists of lamb, rice, and a variety of spices.
  • Lamb Gyro: A Greek dish that is made with lamb that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served with pita bread and tzatziki sauce.
  • Lamb Kleftiko: A traditional dish from Greece that consists of lamb that is slow-cooked with garlic, lemon, and potatoes.
  • Lamb Shank: A hearty dish that is commonly enjoyed in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, lamb shank is slow-cooked with a variety of spices and served with vegetables.

Lamb is a delicious and versatile meat that is enjoyed by people all over the world. Whether you prefer traditional dishes or something a little more unique, there’s a lamb dish out there that’s sure to satisfy your taste buds.

The Nutritional Value of Lamb: More Than Just a Tasty Meal

Lamb is an excellent source of protein, which is essential for the body to build and repair tissues. In fact, lamb meat is composed mainly of protein, providing approximately equal amounts of protein as beef. Depending on the cut, lamb can contain up to 25 grams of protein per 100-gram serving.

Fat Content

While lamb is known for its slightly higher fat content compared to other meats, research has found that the fat in lamb is mainly composed of healthy, essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are key to a healthy diet and have been linked to a range of health benefits, including improved heart health. In fact, lamb is known to be a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fatty acid that has been found to have significant health benefits.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Content

Lamb is a low-carbohydrate food, making it an excellent choice for people who are watching their carbohydrate intake. While it does contain small amounts of carbohydrates, the fiber content in lamb is fairly low. However, lamb cuts that include more fat, such as lamb chops or leg of lamb, may contain a small amount of sugar.

Vitamins and Minerals

Lamb is a rich source of many key vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, zinc, and iron. In fact, lamb is one of the best food sources of vitamin B12, a nutrient that is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system. Additionally, lamb is a good source of selenium, a mineral that has been linked to improved immune function.

Comparison to Other Meats

When compared to other red meats, such as beef and pork, lamb is known to have a slightly lower fat content and a higher protein content. Additionally, lamb is known to be a good source of CLA, a fatty acid that is not found in significant amounts in other meats.

Cuts and Serving Size

The nutritional value of lamb can vary depending on the cut and serving size. For example, a 3-ounce serving of lamb shoulder contains approximately 200 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat. On the other hand, a 3-ounce serving of lamb leg contains approximately 170 calories, 24 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat. When choosing lamb cuts, it’s important to consider the nutritional value and serving size to ensure that you are getting the most out of your meal.

Overall Health Benefits

In addition to its nutritional value, lamb contains a variety of natural compounds that may help improve overall health. For example, research has found that the compounds found in lamb may help improve the body’s ability to process and utilize nutrients. Additionally, some studies have suggested that the compounds found in lamb may have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help lower the risk of chronic disease.

Why Lamb is a Nutritional Powerhouse

Lamb is an excellent source of high-quality protein, which is essential for the maintenance and repair of our bodies. It contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. Additionally, lamb is rich in essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are important for proper bodily function.

Healthy Fats and Heart Health Benefits

Lamb is a red meat that contains a significant amount of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can help improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Research has shown that regular consumption of lamb can benefit heart health and protect against certain diseases.

Rich in Nutrient-Dense Compounds

Lamb is also rich in a variety of nutrient-dense compounds, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and heme iron. CLA has been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including improved body composition, increased performance, and a reduced risk of certain diseases. Heme iron is the type of iron found in meat and seafood and is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron found in plants.

Complete and Versatile Protein Source

Lamb is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids needed for our bodies to function properly. It is also incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from wet stews to dry rubs (here are the best BBQ rubs). Lamb is a common ingredient in many cuisines around the world, including Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian.

Low in Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Lamb is one of the best meats to choose if you’re looking to reduce your intake of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These compounds are formed when sugars bond with proteins or fats during cooking and have been linked to a variety of health problems. Lamb appears to have lower levels of AGEs compared to beef and seafood, making it a healthier option.

The Environmental Impact of Lamb Production

When it comes to the environmental impact of lamb production, the carbon footprint is a major concern. According to research, lamb meat generates 13 kg CO2 equivalents, making up nearly 30% of the environmental impact of lamb meat. This is due to the fact that lamb belongs to the ruminants, which produce methane, a gas that is 28 times more impactful than CO2 on climate change over a 100-year time period.

The Impact on Water and Land

In addition to the carbon footprint, lamb production also has a significant impact on water and land. Lamb production requires a large amount of water, and the intensive farming methods used to produce lamb can lead to soil degradation and erosion. This can have a negative impact on the quality of the ground and the ability of the land to hold water.

The Importance of Sustainable Farming

To prevent the negative effects of lamb production on the environment, it is important to consider sustainable farming methods. Regenerative agriculture, for example, focuses on improving the health of the soil, increasing biodiversity, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Organic farming is another way to improve the sustainability of lamb production. Organic farms use natural inputs and work with the natural systems of the environment to produce high-quality products.

The Benefits of Knowing Your Lamb

One way to improve the sustainability of lamb production is to know where your lamb comes from. By getting to know the farms and farmers that produce your lamb, you can ensure that the lamb you are consuming is produced in a sustainable way. Additionally, knowing the different types of lamb and how they are produced can help you make better choices when it comes to the environmental impact of your food choices.

The Future of Lamb Production

As demand for lamb continues to increase around the world, it is important to find new and better ways to produce lamb in a sustainable way. This may involve using different farming methods, such as regenerative or organic farming, or developing new products that have a lower environmental impact. By working together to improve the sustainability of lamb production, we can ensure that this important food source continues to be available for generations to come.


So, there you have it- everything you need to know about lamb as food. It’s a delicious meat that can be prepared in so many different ways, and it’s a great way to get some protein into your diet. 

So, don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.