Lamb, hogget and mutton are the meat of domestic sheep at different ages.
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 USA this is also a term for the living animal. 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.
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. Other languages, for example French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic, make similar, or even more detailed, distinctions between sheep meat by age and sometimes by gender 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
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.
- Lamb — a young sheep under 12 months of age which does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear. (The Australian definition requires 0 permanent incisors, whereas the New Zealand definition allows 0 incisors 'in wear'.)
- Hogget — A term for a sheep of either sex having no more than two permanent incisors in wear, 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.
The terms "mutton" and "hogget" are uncommon in the United States. Federal statutes and regulations dealing with food labeling in the United States permit all sheep products to be marketed as "lamb." 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."
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.
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 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.
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:
- 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, paper-like covering).
- Lamb shank is a cut of meat 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.
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.
Approximate zones of the usual UK cuts of lamb:
- Scrag end (of neck)
- Middle neck
- Best End (of neck)
- Chump (and chump chops)
- Leg (gigot in Scotland)
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)
- Shanks (fore or hind)
Mutton Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.