know your lamb

Lamb is the meat of sheep that is under a year and is a milder counterpart to its older form mutton. Lamb has a distinct earthy flavour that pairs well with an assortment of herbs and is a robust presence on any menu.

If the phrase "Spring Lamb" is on a meat label, it means the lamb was produced between March and October, but lamb is available all the time.

A lamb weighs about 120 pounds and yields approximately 60 to 72 pounds of retail lamb cuts, which include bone and fat.

Mutton is meat from sheep more than a year old. It is likely to be less tender than lamb and have a stronger flavor.

Lamb is the oldest domesticated meat species. It has been raised by humans beginning about 9,000 years ago in the Middle East. In many countries, lamb is the major source of meat eaten. Many people think of lamb as a springtime food, but it can be enjoyed year round.

square cut shoulder

This cut consists of the arm, blade and rib bones but can be cut into smaller chops which are equally flavourful but less expensive than chops cut from the loin. It is best prepared by long, slow and moist cooking methods such as braising and stewing which help to tenderise it. Smaller cuts can be pan-fried.  


The whole roast contains the rib bones and ribeye muscle and comes from the front/middle section of the lamb. ‘Frenched’ lamb rack has had the fat tissue removed from between the bones. Rack cuts are excellent roasted or grilled; the chop and riblet cuts can also be pan-fried, broiled and braised.


Cut from the shoulder, rib and loin, loin cuts are among the most tender and versatile. The loin can be boned, rolled and tied or cut into loin chops. because the meat is so tender, cooking time is minimal. Roast, broil or pan-fry the chops. 


Cut from the neck portion with a small, round central bone, neck slices are full of flavour. The lean meat is interspersed with connective tissue and is usually prepared by braising.  


Lamb breast is cut from the forequarter – because there is more connective tissue in the forequarter of most animals, this cut of meat is best slow-cooked so that moisture is retained. this can be achieved by braising, slow roasting or stewing. 


From the hind quarter of the lamb, the leg roast is tender but firm and avails itself to a variety of cooking methods. prepared whole roasted, it is great for entertaining, and very economical as it can serve six. Cuts from the leg can be boned, rolled and tied, cubed for kebabs or butterflied.  


Cuts from the more mature mutton are generally less tender and stronger in flavour and as such make for good slow cooking in stews, casseroles and curries.  


These can be cut from either the upper leg, or the arm of the shoulder with part of the leg bone. A papery layer of thin fat generally covers the meat. Very flavourful, it is best prepared by slow cooking methods such as braising or moist cooking until the meat falls away from the bone.