The Difference Between Mutton And Lamb

Published: 28th April 2009
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The term mutton is usually applied to the flesh of a sheep that is 1 year or more old, while lamb is the flesh of sheep under 1 year of age. The popularity of these meats varies very much with the locality. In the United States, a preference for lamb has become noticeable, but in England mutton is more popular and is more commonly used. Both of these meats, however, are very palatable and nutritious, so that the choice of one or the other will always be determined by the taste or market conditions.

Lamb that is 6 weeks to 3 months old is called spring lamb, and usually comes into the market in January or February. The meat of sheep 1 year old is called yearling. Good mutton is cut from sheep that is about 3 years old. Lamb may be eaten as soon as it is killed, but mutton requires ripening for 2 or 3 weeks to be in the best condition for food. Mutton differs from lamb very much as beef differs from veal, or as the meat of any other mature animal differs from a young one of the same kind. In mutton there is a smaller percentage of water and a larger percentage of fat, protein, extractives, and flavoring substances.

There is also a difference in the appearance of these two meats. Lamb is pink and contains only small amounts of fat, while mutton is brick red and usually has considerable firm white fat. The bones of lamb are pink, while those of mutton are white. The outside of lamb is covered with a thin white skin that becomes pink in mutton. The size of the pieces of meat often aids in distinguishing between these two meats, mutton, of course, coming in larger pieces than lamb.

If there is any question as to whether the meat from sheep is lamb or mutton, and it cannot be settled by any of the characteristics already mentioned, the front leg of the dressed animal may be examined at the first joint above the foot. In lamb, the end of the bone can be separated from the long bone at the leg, as indicated, while in mutton this joint grows fast. The joint is jagged in lamb, but smooth and round in mutton.

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