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Lamb, hogget and mutton[1] are the meat of domestic sheep (species Ovis aries) at different ages in its life.

In general, 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 the United States this is also a term for the living animal.[2] The meat of an adult sheep is mutton, a term only used for the meat, not the living animals. In the Indian subcontinent, the term mutton is also used to refer to goat meat.[3][4]

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.[5] Other languages, for example French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic, make similar, or even more detailed, distinctions among sheep meats by age and sometimes by sex and diet, though these languages do not always use different words to refer to the animal and its meat -- for example, lechazo in Spanish refers to meat from milk-fed (unweaned) lambs.

Classifications and nomenclature

Lamb rib chops

The definitions for lamb, hogget and mutton vary considerably between countries. 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.[]

Commonwealth countries

  • Lamb -- a young sheep under 12 months of age which does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear. (From July 1, 2019, the Australian definition is "an ovine animal that: (a) is under 12 months of age; or (b) does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear." [6] The New Zealand definition also allows "0 incisors in wear".)
  • Hogget -- A term for a sheep of either sex having no more than two permanent incisors in wear,[7] or its meat. Still common in farming usage, it is now rare as a domestic or retail term for the meat. Much of the "lamb" sold in the UK is "hogget" to an Antipodean farmer.
  • Mutton -- the meat of a female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear.

United States

The term "hogget" is uncommon in the United States.[8] Federal statutes and regulations dealing with food labeling in the United States permit all sheep products to be marketed as "lamb."[9] Sheep products less than 12-14 months old can be labeled "prime lamb" or "choice lamb" and all other sheep meat can be labeled simply as "lamb."[]

Indian subcontinent

Indian-style mutton biryani.

The term "mutton" is applied to goat meat in most of these countries, and the goat population has been rising. For example, mutton-curry is always made from goat meat. It is estimated that over one-third of the goat population is slaughtered every year and sold as mutton. The husbanded sheep population in India and the Indian subcontinent has been in decline for over 40 years and has survived at marginal levels in mountainous regions, based on wild-sheep breeds, and mainly for wool production.[]

Other definitions

  • Milk-fed lamb -- meat from an unweaned lamb, typically 4-6 weeks old and weighing 5.5-8 kg; this is almost unavailable in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. 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, and fetches higher prices.[10] The areas in northern Spain where this can be found include Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, and La Rioja. Milk-fed lambs are especially prized for Easter in Greece, when they are roasted on a spit.
  • Young 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 1 July (in the northern hemisphere).
  • Sucker lambs -- a term used in Australia[11] -- includes young milk-fed lambs, as well as slightly older lambs up to about seven months of age which are also still dependent on their mothers for milk. Carcases from these lambs usually weigh between 14 and 30 kg. Older weaned lambs which have not yet matured to become mutton are known as old-season lambs.
  • Yearling lamb -- a young sheep between 12 and 24 months old, so another term for a hogget.
  • Saltbush mutton - a term used in Australia for the meat of mature Merinos which have been allowed to graze on atriplex plants
  • Salt marsh lamb (also known as 'saltmarsh lamb' or by its French name, agneau de pré-salé) is 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 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, Morecambe Bay and the Solway Firth.[12]
  • Saltgrass lamb - a type of lamb exclusive to Flinders Island (Tasmania). The pastures on the island have a relatively high salt content, leading to a flavor and texture similar to saltmarsh lamb.[13]

Butchery and cookery

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 kg (12 and 66 lb). 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.[14] 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.

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.

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:

  • a cut from the arm of shoulder, containing leg bone and part of round shoulder bone, and covered by a thin layer of fat and fell (a thin, paper-like covering).
  • a cut from the upper part of the leg.

Mutton barbeque is a tradition in Western Kentucky. The area was strong in the wool trade, which gave them plenty of older sheep that needed to be put to use.[15]

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.[16]


UK, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries

British cuts of lamb.

Approximate zones of the usual UK cuts of lamb:[17]

  • Scrag end (of neck)
  • Middle neck
  • Best End (of neck)
  • Loin
  • Chump (and chump chops)
  • Leg (gigot in Scotland)
  • Shank
  • Shoulder
  • Breast

US and Ireland

  • 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)
  • Neck
  • Breast
  • Shanks (fore or hind)
  • Flank

Production and consumption figures

Sheep meat consumption

According to the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook for 2016, the top consumers of sheep meat in 2015 were as follows:[18] EU countries are not individually surveyed in this list. Among EU nations, Greece is the per capita leader in consumption at 12.3 kg[19], while the UK's annual per capita lamb consumption is 4.7 kg.[20]. Outside of the OECD, the largest per capita consumer overall is Mongolia, with 45.1 kg.[20]

  1.  Sudan - 10.5 kilograms (23 lb) per capita
  2.  Kazakhstan - 8.1 kilograms (18 lb)
  3.  Australia - 7.4 kilograms (16 lb)
  4.  Algeria - 7.1 kilograms (16 lb)
  5.  Uruguay - 5.7 kilograms (13 lb)
  6.  Saudi Arabia - 5.5 kilograms (12 lb)
  7.  New Zealand - 4.4 kilograms (9.7 lb)
  8.  Turkey - 4.1 kilograms (9.0 lb)
  9.  Iran - 3.2 kilograms (7.1 lb)
  10.  South Africa - 3.1 kilograms (6.8 lb)

Sheep meat production

The table below gives a sample of producing nations, but many other significant producers in the 50-120 KT range are not given.

Sheep meat production (kt)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
World 8,415 8,354 8,229 8,348 8,470
 Algeria 179 197 205 253 261
 Australia 660 635 556 513 556
 Brazil 79 80 82 84 85
 China 1978 2044 2070 2050 2080
 European Union 985 934 892 895 880
 France 130 126 119 115 114
 Germany 38 38 38 39 36
 Greece 91 90 90 90 90
 India 275 286 289 293 296
 Iran 170 114 90 104 126
 Indonesia 113 128 113 113 113
 Kazakhstan 110 116 123 128 128
 New Zealand 598 478 471 465 448
 Nigeria 145 149 171 172 174
 Russia 156 164 167 171 173
 Turkey 278 262 240 253 272
 Turkmenistan 124 128 130 130 133
 United States 81 80 76 69 72
 United Kingdom 326 307 277 289 275

Source: Helgi Library,[21] World Bank, FAOSTAT


Lamb legs grilling over an open fire at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate.

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 Jordan, 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 Iceland and of the United Kingdom, particularly in the western and northern uplands, Scotland and Wales. Mutton used to be an important part of Hungarian cuisine due to strong pastoral traditions but began to be increasingly looked down on with the spread of urbanisation. 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, Kentucky) and Canada. However, meat from sheep is generally consumed far less in the US than in many European, Central American and Asian cuisines; for example, average per-capita consumption of lamb in the United States is only 400 grams (14 oz) per year, with half the population never having tried it.[22]

In Australia, the leg of lamb roast is considered to be the national dish.[23] 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 sprigs pushed inside incisions cut in the leg, and rosemary leaves sprinkled on top. The lamb is then roasted for two hours at 180 °C (350 °F) and typically served with carrots and potato (also roasted), green vegetables and gravy.

In Indonesia, lamb is popularly served as lamb satay[24] and lamb curry.[25] Both dishes are cooked with various spices from the islands, and served with either rice or lontong. A version of lamb and bamboo shoot curry is the specialty of Minang cuisine, although similar dish could also be found in Thai cuisine.

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.[]

In Medieval India, the armies, unable to cook elaborate meals, would prepare a one-pot dish where they cooked rice with mutton. This dish led to the famous Biryani.

In Japan, although lamb is not traditionally consumed in most of the country, on the Northern island of Hokkaido and North-eastern Tohoku regions, a hot pot dish called Jingisukan (i.e. "Genghis Khan") is popular. In that dish, thin-sliced lamb is cooked over a convex skillet alongside various vegetables and mushrooms in front of the diners, then dipped in soy-sauce based dipping sauces and eaten. It was so named because lamb is popular in Mongolia (see "Sheep meat consumption" above).

Lamb's liver, known as lamb's fry in New Zealand and Australia,[26] is eaten in many countries. It 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. It is a major ingredient, along with the lungs and heart (the pluck), in the traditional Scottish dish of haggis.

Lamb testicles, also known as lamb's fries (a term also used for other lamb offal),[27] is another delicacy.

Lamb kidneys are found in many cuisines across Europe and the Middle East, often split into two halves and grilled (on kebabs in the Middle East), or sautéed in a sauce. They are generally the most highly regarded of all kidneys.

Lamb sweetbreads are a delicacy in many cuisines.[28]

See also


  • K.F. Warner, "Boning Lamb Cuts", Leaflet 74, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry, June 1931. full text
  • Bob Kennard, "Much ado about mutton". Ludlow: Merlin Unwin, 2014 [29]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Third edition, August 2010; online version November 2010
  2. ^ OED "Hogget"; The term 'hogget' was only added to the U.S. National Agricultural Library's thesaurus in 2009
  3. ^
    • "Whose goat is it anyway?". Hindustan Times. 11 February 2012. Retrieved 2015.
    • "Mutton/Goat meat dishes". Retrieved 2015.
    • "10 Best Indian Mutton Recipes". NDTV Food. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 2015. Read 5th point
    • "Bengali Mutton Curry(Goat meat)". A Home Makers Diary. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "Do you know the benefit of eating the mutton?". PakkaTv. 13 June 2018.
  5. ^ Australian Prime Lamb Industry, 2000 Archived 13 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Australia's New Definition of Lamb - What You Need to Know" (4 July 2019). Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  7. ^ Delbridge, Arthur, "The Macquarie Dictionary", 2nd ed., Macquarie Library, North Ryde, 1991
  8. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. hogget: "chiefly British"
  9. ^ 7 C.F.R. 65.190
  10. ^ "Speleogroup - sg2012".
  11. ^ "Australian Sheep CRC".
  12. ^ Keating, Sheila."Food Detective: Salt Marsh Lamb." The Times Online, 28 June 2008.
  13. ^ Bastick, C. H. and Walker, M. G, Extent and impacts of Dryland Salinity in Tasmania. "[1]" Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, August 2000.
  14. ^ Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh. "What Is Mutton - Understanding the History." Mutton Renaissance.
  15. ^ "Owensboro Kentucky Mutton Barbecue".
  16. ^ "Lebanese Recipes, Lamb Tongue Salad, oregano, pepper, salt ginger".
  17. ^ Montagné, Prosper (2001). Larousse Gastronomique. Third Edition. Éditions Larousse: France. ISBN 0-600-60235-4
  18. ^ Meat consumption, OECD Data. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  19. ^ "2018 Red Meat Market Snapshot" (PDF). Meat and Livestock Australia. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Is the UK unusually fond of lamb and potatoes?". 2 September 2014 – via
  21. ^ "HelgiLibrary - Sheep Meat Production".
  22. ^ "Is the UK unusually fond of lamb and potatoes?". BBC News. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  23. ^ "Roast lamb rules as Australia's national dish". 2 February 2010.
  24. ^ Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery By Sri Owen. Retrieved 2010.
  25. ^ Susilowati Primo. "Lamb curry (gulai kambing)". Food.
  26. ^ Delbridge, Arthur, The Macquarie Dictionary, 2nd ed., Macquarie Library, North Ryde, 1991
  27. ^ OED
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Much Ado About Mutton".

External links

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