Lamb is the meat of a sheep that is typically less than one year old, with a carcass weight of between 5.5 and 30 kg. It does fall into the red meat category because of the amount of high myoglobin content, which is a protein found in muscle that changes to red when it’s mixed with oxygen. This meat generally is more tender than older sheep and appears more often on tables in some Western countries. There is a tiny amount of fat on lamb, and the meat can vary in color from a tender pink to a pale red. As a red meat, lamb inherently contains more zinc and iron than non-red meats.
- More men than women prefer lamb, and women are more likely to have never eaten lamb.
- There are about 70,000 sheep farms & ranches in the US.
- May 7th is National Roast Leg of Lamb Day.
- The average weight of a market lamb is 134 pounds.
- American Lamb travels up to 10,000 fewer miles and about 30 days less than imported lamb.
- The average American eats less than a pound of lamb a year!
- In 2002 American meatpackers produced 222 million pounds of lamb and mutton.
Hogget – a term for a sheep having no more than two permanent incisors in wear, or its meat.
Mutton – the meat of a female or castrated male sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear.
Milk-fed lamb – the meat from an unweaned lamb, typically 4–6 weeks old and weighing 5.5–8 kg
Spring lamb – a milk-fed lamb, that is usually three to five months old and born in late winter or early spring and often sold before July 1st
Young lamb – a milk-fed lamb that is between six and eight weeks old
Yearling lamb – another term for a hogget, a young sheep between 12 and 24 months old.
Saltgrass lamb – it is a type of lamb that is exclusive to Flinders Island (Tasmania).
Lamb Buying Guide
When buying lamb meat, remember that freshly cut lamb should be a dark cherry-red color. Look for a fair use-by date and packs that are well-chilled, undamaged, and properly sealed so the juices can’t escape.
When it comes to the perfect cut, price doesn’t necessarily mean the best. Lesser-known cuts like ribs are smooth on the pocket, full-flavored and worthy of their slow-cooking hype. Meat that has a large amount of bone can be the most flavorsome and tender, where the collagen and marrow from the bone are released when cooking, tenderizing, and flavoring the meat.
Lamb Production & Farming in Texas
Lamb farming requires daily care of sheep that may include feeding, shearing wool, giving medication orally or via injection, maintaining farm buildings and fences, monitoring the flock for any signs of illness or disease, assisting with difficult births, and managing waste.
Sheep farms can vary widely in size and specialty. They can be raised in a range of temperate climates, including arid zones. You may build fences, housing, shearing sheds, and other facilities on the property, such as for water, feed, transport, and pest control.
If you want to raise sheep for their meat, milk, wool, or skin, you are also responsible for breeding the sheep, transporting, harvesting hay or other forages, and maintaining farm equipment.
Lamb is an ancient food, and sheep were domesticated about 12,000 years ago. There is specific evidence that sheep were domesticated by 8,900 BC in Iraq and Romania.
Ten thousand years ago, a man discovered that the sheep was a good source of not only food but clothing in Central Asia. Lamb has long been a dietary staple as well as a textile source in Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
In the US, inventory data on sheep began in 1867, when 45 million head of sheep were counted in the United States. The numbers of sheep peaked in 1884 at 51 million head and then declined over time to almost 6 million head.
Since the 1990s, US sheep operations declined from around 105,000 to around 80,000 due to shrinking revenues and low rates of return. According to the Economic Research Service of USDA, the “sheep industry accounts for less than 1 percent of US livestock industry receipts.”
Lamb is a very versatile meat, and it is easier to find in regular markets. Its mild flavor is preferred in most Western countries. And since Americans prefer the more delicate taste of lamb, it is more expensive than mutton. Common cuts in the US are shoulder roast, rack, loin chops, and leg of lamb. Quality grades for lamb include prime, choice, excellent, utility, and cull.
Once you get home, lamb should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator immediately because the growth of harmful bacteria on the meat will be accelerated if it is not properly refrigerated. Most cuts can be safely stored at temperatures between 33°F and 40°F for 2 or 3 days. Lamb that will not be cooked within a few days should be stored in the freezer with a temperature of 0°F or less for 6 to 9 months.
If the lamb is frozen for only 1 to 2 weeks, you can store it in its original packaging. But if it requires long-term freezer storage, the meat should be rewrapped with heavy-duty protection to prevent freezer burn. A storage method that works well is by using vacuum packaging. It helps to keep the meat fresh for more extended periods if properly refrigerated or frozen.
Lamb features prominently in several cuisines of the Mediterranean, like Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East. It is commonly marinated and roasted on a skewer or cooked with local vegetables. One of the classic Middle Eastern dishes is “kibbe,” a mixture of ground lamb and cracked wheat.
In America, the three most common cooking methods for lamb are grilling, braising, and roasting.
Grilling – Grilling or Barbecuing over hot coals is excellent for burgers and lamb chops. It is recommended to salt the lamb for about 40 minutes before cooking to help break down the proteins.
Braising – Lamb meat is browned in fat and then simmered in a closed pan with a tiny amount of liquid. This method can be done on the stovetop or in the oven, and it is best for tougher cuts such as the shoulder.
Roasting – The dry heat of oven roasting is best for more tender cuts like the rack or the leg. Searing the meat on the stovetop before roasting is also a proper method of killing surface bacteria, and creating a flavorful browned crust.
Traditional guidelines say that lamb cooked very rare, rare, or medium-rare should have an internal temperature between 115ºF to 140°F.
Because of serious concern over bacteria that may be present in the inner portions of meat, it is recommended that whole lamb cuts be cooked to an internal temperature of not less than 140°F, even though bacteria are usually only on the surface of the meat.
Lamb is rich in high-quality protein and various vitamins and minerals, which can be an excellent component of a healthy diet. It has been a part of recipes endorsed by the American Diabetic Association, who view it as lean meat that is high in protein.
Vitamins and Minerals
Lamb is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, including:
Vitamin B12: Essential for blood formation and brain function.
Selenium: Lamb is a rich source of selenium, though this depends on the feed of the source animal.
Niacin: Also called Vitamin B3, it serves a variety of essential functions in your body.
Zinc: An essential mineral necessary for growth and the formation of hormones, such as insulin and testosterone.
Phosphorus: It is essential for body growth and maintenance.
Iron: Lamb is rich in iron, which is highly bioavailable and absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron found in plants.