Lamb, hogget, and mutton are the meat of domestic sheep. The meat of an animal in its first year is lamb; that of an older sheep is hogget and later mutton.
Classifications and nomenclature
Because of dramatically differing economic values of each type of animal (lamb being the most expensive), classification systems have developed to ensure consumers receive the product they have purchased. The strict definitions for lamb, hogget and mutton vary considerably between countries. In New Zealand
for example, they are defined as follows:
- Lamb — a young sheep under 12 months of age which does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear
- Hogget — a young male sheep or maiden ewe having no more than two permanent incisors in wear
- Mutton — a female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear.
In Australia the definitions are extended to include ewes and rams, as well as being stricter on the definition for lamb which is:
- Lamb — 0 permanent incisors; female or castrate entire male ovine 0-12 months (note that the Australian definition requires 0 permanent incisors, whereas the New Zealand definition allows 0 incisors 'in wear'.)
The younger the lamb is, the smaller the lamb will be, however, the meat will be more tender.
Sheep mutton is meat from a sheep over two years old, and has a 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:
- Lamb — a young sheep that is less than one year old
- Baby lamb — a milk-fed lamb between six and eight weeks old
- Spring lamb — a milk-fed lamb, usually three to five months old, born in late winter or early spring and sold usually before July 1st
- Yearling lamb — a young sheep between 12 and 24 months old.
- Milk-fed lamb — meat from an unweaned lamb, typically 4 to 6 weeks old and weighing 5.5 to 8 kg; this is almost unavailable in countries such as the USA and the UK, where it is considered uneconomic. The flavour and texture of milk-fed lamb when grilled (such as the tiny lamb chops known as chuletillas in Spain) or roasted (lechazo asado or cordero lechal asado) is generally thought to be finer than that of older lamb. The areas in northern Spain where this can be found include Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, and La Rioja.
- Sucker lambs — a term used in Australia — includes young milk-fed lambs as well as slightly older lambs up to about 7 months of age which are also still dependent on their mothers for milk. Carcases from these lambs usually weigh between 14 and 30kg. Older weaned lambs which have not yet matured to become mutton are known as old-season lambs.
In many eastern countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore the term mutton refers to goat's meat (which is also called chevon) and usually not to sheep's meat. Often, the so-called mutton curries of the Indian cuisine use goat meat when cooked at home, although in Indian restaurants sheep meat is often used.
Butchery and cookery
The meat of a lamb is taken from the animal between one month and one year old, with a carcass 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.
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 chop 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. Roasted leg and saddle may be served anywhere from rare to well-done.
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 pre-chopped or diced.
Lamb shank definitions varies, but generally include:
- Lamb shank is cut from the arm of shoulder, contains leg bone and part of round shoulder bone, and is covered by a thin layer of fat and fell (a thin, paperlike covering).
- Lamb shank is a cut of meat from the upper part of the leg.
According to Jewish Kosher law, sheep may be eaten, but, as with cows, they must be killed while conscious, and the sciatic nerve as well as certain types of fat on the back half of the animal may not be eaten; this makes certain cuts, such as leg or steaks, very difficult to produce in some countries. Similar rules apply for the Islamic dietary code, known as Halal.
Cuts of lamb
British & Canadian
Approximate zones of the usual British cuts of lamb:
- Scrag end (of neck)
- Middle neck
- Best end (of neck)
- Chump (and chump chops)
Square cut shoulder – shoulder roast, shoulder chops and arm chops
Rack – rib chops and riblets, rib roast
Loin – loin chops or roast
Leg – sirloin chops, leg roast (leg of lamb)
Shanks (fore or hind)
Meat from sheep features prominently in cuisines of the Mediterranean
, the Basque culture both in the Basque country of Europe and in the sheepherding areas of the Western United States, North Atlantic islands
, North Africa
, Central Asia
, the Middle East
, South Asia
, and certain parts of China
because other red meats are eschewed for religious or economic reasons. Barbecued mutton is also a speciality in some areas of the United States