Looking for Lamb & mutton recipes?
- You'll find our lamb recipe section here
- You'll find our mutton recipe section here
- Our slow roast recipes are here
- If the cost of a whole leg of lamb is restrictive, take a look in the supermarket freezer cabinet.
Domestic sheep (Ovis aries) are four-legged, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over 1 billion, domestic sheep are the most numerous species in their genus. 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.
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. Milk-fed lambs (and kids) are especially prized for Easter in Greece, when they are roasted on a spit.
- 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.
- Salt marsh lamb (also 'Saltmarsh lamb') — the meat of sheep which graze on salt marsh in coastal estuaries that are washed by the tides and support a range of salt-tolerant grasses and herbs such as samphire, sparta grass, sorrel and sea lavender. Depending on where in the world the salt marsh is located, the nature of the plants may be subtly different. Salt marsh lamb has long been appreciated in France and is growing in popularity in the United Kingdom. Places where salt marsh lamb are reared in the UK include Harlech and the Gower peninsula in Wales, the Somerset Levels and Morecambe Bay.
Sheep's milk may have been drunk in antiquity, though today is used predominantly in cheese and yogurt. Sheep have only two teats, and produce a far smaller volume of milk than cows. However, as sheep's milk contains far more fat, solids, and minerals than cows' milk, it is ideal for the cheese-making process. It also resists contamination during cooling better because of its much higher calcium content. Well-known cheeses made from sheep milk include the Feta of Bulgaria and Greece, Roquefort of France, Manchego from Spain, the Pecorino Romano (the Italian word for sheep is pecore) and Ricotta of Italy. Yogurts, especially some forms of strained yogurt, may also be made from sheep milk. Many of these products are now often made with cows' milk, especially when produced outside their country of origin. Sheep milk contains 4.8% lactose, which may affect those who are intolerant.
Connemara Hill lamb
Connemara Hill lamb (Uain Sléibhe Chonamara) is produced in Co. Galway and has PGI protection for the area west of the Corrib Basin including the islands of Inishmaan, Inisheer and Inishmore and represents an area in the west of Ireland known as Connemara.
References to consumption of Connemara hill lamb can be traced to the early 19th century, when the Black Face breed were introduced from Scotland. The breed has since evolved into a distinctive strain and has adapted to survive the rugged conditions of Connemara. It is particularly suited to the terrain of the area given its ability to forage better than other breeds. In order to ensure full traceability from farm to slaughter all lambs are affixed with a special ear tag and carcass swing tag. They graze on
The lambs, which are bred, born and reared in the designated geographical region are light in body-weight and bone and the carcass is lean, rose red in colour and has a solid deep texture. The lambs are born in the spring generally from April onwards (later than other Irish lamb) and are suckled by the ewe throughout their lives. They are left free to graze on mountain grass, heathers and herbs in their hilly habitat and are generally slaughtered at 14 weeks, although some are slaughtered at 10 weeks. It is available in Irish shops from August to November. As there is no approved slaughterhouse in the designated geographical area, the lambs are transported to an approved slaughterhouse located in an adjoining county.
The taste, flavour and colour of Connemara Hill lamb are directly linked to the local flora on which the lambs are grazed. The rugged terrain means that the lambs are more agile than their lowland counterparts hence they are smaller, weighing about 10 kg compared to 25 kg for lowland lambs.
Isle of Man Manx Loaghtan Lamb
Loaghtan PDO sheep, registered with the Breed Society, which have been born, raised and slaughtered on the Isle of Man. The meat is fine grained, less fatty and darker than meat from more commercial breeds. It has a distinct, gamey flavour. Dressed carcase weights range from 13 kg at 6 months to 18 kg at 15 months.
The link to the geographical area can be demonstrated as follows:
- The long established link between the breed and the island. The breed is believed to have been on the island for over one thousand years and are ideally adapted to the unique environment of the island (its topography, soils and climate) being hardy and able to graze the unimproved grass of the higher land. The breed requires little or no supplementary feeding except before lambing. The breed's adaptability to the island climate meant that for centuries they were the only sheep on the island and the animal husbandry and stockmanship skills required to rear these animals have been passed down from generation to generation of Manx farming families. The animals are reared in the traditional way on farms being extensively grazed on the characteristic island vegetation of unimproved pasture, gorse and bracken scrub, and heather moorland. The long tradition of sheep farming on the island has led to high standards of flock management and the production of lambs of a high quality.
- The fact that the meat comes from pure bred Manx Loaghtan sheep which have been born, raised and slaughtered on the island.
The breed is thought to have been descended from those introduced in prehistoric times, from the flocks of the native Celts, or from flocks brought to the island by the Vikings. Sheep farming has been long established on the island. One of the earliest written records shows that in the year 1376 Irish invaders defeated Manxmen in a battle and seized large numbers of sheep from Rushen Abbey. Subsequent historical references refer to the breed with respect to both its wool and meat. For example, in 1794 Basil Quayle writes that ‘the ancient flocks are small and hardy, their usual weight is from five to eight pounds a quarter, the meat being particularly good’.
At the end of the 18th century a decline in the Manx Loaghtan breed was linked to social and economic factors, however, a revival came over the course of the 20th century as popularity of the breed increased as sheep farmers on the island recognised how adaptable the native breed is to the unique climate and geography of the Island. This renewed interest in the breed has been mirrored by consumers. To comply with the Sheep and Goats Identification Order 2000, all sheep sent to the meat plant must be marked with a designated flockmark and accompanied by documentation which provides information which identifies the holding of departure, the date of movement and number of animals. It also records flockmarks, or individual identification numbers, which have previously been applied to each animal and is then signed by the owner or agent. It is possible for the origin of each carcase to be traced at the destination by reference to these labels. In addition the Breed Society issues tags to the registered producers which are then attached to the sheep. The sheep are sent to the abbatoir with their tags intact, a list of tag numbers accompanies them. After slaughter, a ticket, with the original tag number is attached to the carcase by the Government meat grader. The carcase is then delivered to the customer with details of the registered producers tag number. Audit procedures provide 100 % traceability.
On the Isle of Man, Manx Loaghtans are reared on farms practising traditional forms of husbandry. Loaghtans thrive on poorer land, which has been basically left to nature — unimproved pasture, gorse and bracken scrub, and heather moorland and are markedly different in size and conformation from the same breed of sheep reared on fertilised, lowland grass pastures in the UK. In the early months of the year, feed supplements may be fed, with preferences given to the use of locally produced grain. Manx Loaghtans are very hardy and thrive in the damp, maritime climate of the Isle of Man where, although the mean winter temperatures are not extreme, gale force winds are common throughout the year. Lambing is unassisted by human intervention and takes place between February and May.
The Breed Society issues tags to the registered producers which are then attached to the sheep. The sheep are sent to the abattoir with their tags intact, a list of tag numbers accompanies them. After slaughter, a ticket, with the original tag number is attached to the carcase by the Government meat grader. The carcase is then delivered to the customer with details of the registered producers tag number. The lambs are slaughtered at between 6-15 months of age. It is required to take place at the EU approved, abattoir on the island. The abattoir is government owned but run by a producer cooperative, The Fatstock Marketing Association. In view of the small geographical size of the Isle of Man, no animal is further than 30 minutes travelling time from the abattoir. Carcass hanging time is a minimum of one week at the abattoir. Marketing takes place via the Manx Loaghtan Marketing Cooperative Ltd. Manx Loaghtan Lamb is sold as whole carcass to local wholesalers and also exported.
Reference:The European Commission
Orkney lamb is a PDO registered lamb which is born, reared and slaughtered in the group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north coast of Scotland known as the Orkney Islands. The lamb may be marketed as a whole carcass or cuts of lamb.
The Orkney Islands have always been known for the production of quality lamb. The unique North Ronaldsay sheep, found only in Orkney, lives on a diet of seaweed and is one of the traditional breeds used to produce Orkney lamb. The geography of Orkney combined with the temperate climate produces high quality grass for grazing.
The distinctive' different texture and flavour of Orkney lamb is largely due to the topography, geology and climate of the Orkney Islands which imparts specific characteristics to the grass and herbage providing the main diet of the lamb.
Only Lambs from the defined area may be slaughtered and dressed in accordance with the set specifications in the designated area. The product is marketed fresh and chilled only.
Reference: The European Commission
Shetland lamb is a PDO registered lamb derived from the native breed of Shetland sheep and its derivatives. Lambs are born, reared and slaughtered in Shetland, which is a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north coast of Scotland. The texture and flavour of Shetland lamb is distinctive and different from lamb derived from other breeds of sheep produced in other areas of the UK due to the topography, geology and climate of the Shetland Islands.
The Shetland sheep is a distinctive breed native to the Shetland Isles. Lambs are produced from either Shetland or the Shetland/Cheviot ewes. Lambs are slaughtered within 12 months of birth and marketed either as a whole or cuts of meat. Only Lambs from the defined area may be slaughtered and dressed in accordance with set specifications in the designated area. The carcass weight should be in the range 7kg - 14kg for pure Shetland and up to 20kg for crossed Lambs.
Reference: The European Commission
PGI Scotch Lamb is derived from cattle finished in Scotland which have been slaughtered and dressed in abattoirs located in Scotland. The area in which the lambs are finished, slaughtered and dressed for subsequent marketing is defined as the mainland of Scotland from the border with England including the islands off the West Coast, Orkney and the Shetland Isles.
At least since the turn of the century, Scotch lamb has enjoyed a reputation for eating qualities based on freshness, flavour and tenderness. These qualities are attributed to the extensive systems of farming based on grass feeding which predominate in Scotland. The sheep breeds have been developed for meat production (rather than milk or wool) and these farming systems are matched to an efficient processing sector which ensures the lamb is marketed in an optimum condition.
- Whole Carcase; Whole body excluding all inedible offal, skin, head, feet and all edible offal except
- Cuts of Lamb; Lamb carcases may be divided into a number of different cuts, the cutting lines of which vary in accordance with regional preference but typically they may include hind, saddle, fore, leg, loin and shoulder. The cuts may be presented bone in or boneless as required by the customer.
The unique worldwide reputation and qualities enjoyed by Scotch lamb come from traditional feeding on abundant grazing attributable in large part to the Scottish climate. Scotch Lamb continues to be marketed in the traditional way - sold as fresh carcases or cuts. The meat sector has always played an important role in the economy of Scotland and it provides employment for a significant number of people. There is therefore a high level of commitment to maintaining the reputation of Scotch meat and to meet growing consumer demand for Scotch lamb. This has led the industry to initiate quality assurance schemes which are aimed at selecting superior carcases which have been produced, dressed and cut by fully trained people.
Each farmer controls his own flock of sheep and lambs are sold for slaughter when they reach a suitable stage of finishing. The lambs may be sold on a deadweight and grade contract or by auction. In each case the producer is required to certify that the lambs were finished in Scotland for a period of not less than 2 months as required by the Commission Regulation on determining the origin of the meat and offal, fresh, chilled or frozen of certain domestic animals. Abattoirs are required to maintain records to ensure traceability of each lot purchased. The lambs are slaughtered and subsequently dressed in accordance with the relevant specification defined in the Standard Conditions for Deadweight Purchase of Cattle, Sheep and Pigs - published by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC). The slaughter number, the date of slaughter, the classification details and the cold weight of the carcase is recorded on the carcase or on a label attached to it. After dressing the carcases are transferred to a temperature controlled environment where they are held until they are dispatched to customers or transferred to a cutting area for breaking down into cuts.
If the carcases are to be divided into cuts, the cuts will be prepared and packaged in accordance with customer requirements. After which they will be held in a temperature controlled environment until despatch to customers.
Reference: The European Commission
PGI Welsh Lamb are carcases or cuts of meat from lambs bred, born, reared in Wales and slaughtered in approved abattoirs. Extensive sheep production plays an important role in the Welsh rural economy and historical references date as far back as the 14th century. Welsh lamb enjoys a unique worldwide reputation which is derived from the traditional extensive farming. Farms are often family owned and over the generations a great deal of expertise in producing Welsh lamb has accumulated.
The unique character of Welsh lamb arises from the influence of the traditional hardy Welsh breeds that dominate the Welsh flock and also by the lambs feeding on the abundant natural grassland in Wales, which flourishes as a result of the wet and mild Welsh climate and topography.
Each producer controls his own flock of sheep, lambs suckle the ewe and graze outdoors on the grass. Lambs are all slaughtered at up to one year old in approved abattoirs. All abattoirs are scheme approved and are required to maintain records to ensure traceability of each batch of lambs purchased, to guarantee the integrity of supply as being Welsh lamb.
Minimum requirements with regard to the traceability of the product are:
- sheep raised extensively on grassland;
- veterinary records according to government requirements;
- traceability compliant to Farm-assured Welsh Livestock Protocol. All lambs are tagged with producer's flock number printed on the tags;
- transport and slaughter identification according to government regulations.
Reference: The European Commission
In British cuisine a cutlet is usually unbreaded. It can also be called a chop.
Lamb cutlets can be served French trimmed for decorative purposes.
How much does one cup of lamb weigh?
Estimated US cup to weight equivalents:
|Lamb||raw - minced/ground||
|225 grams||8 ounces|
|Lamb||cooked - shredded/diced||
|150 grams||> 5 ounces|
Every ingredient has a cups to ounces or grams conversion table. Search for the ingredient, cup to weight conversions are at the end of each ingredient page.