Taste the Quality
Lamb is a delicious meat that makes for a mouth-watering meal, but don’t just take our word for it!
Meat specialist, Jeff D Wood, Emeritus Professor of Farm Animal Science at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Science, has dedicated his career to researching the growth of meat animals, fat deposition and the factors which affect the quality of meat.
He explains that lamb, and sheep meat generally, has much more consistent quality than beef or pork. The final pH level in lamb after slaughter is slightly higher than in beef and pork and this helps the retention of moisture in the muscle, improving juiciness and tenderness.
Levels of internal muscle fat measured by standard procedures are also slightly higher in lamb, although the visual appearance of marbling is less. Lamb tenderises during the post-mortem period like beef and pork, but extremes of toughness are less likely.
The flavour of lamb and mutton is more sophisticated than in other meats. This is partly down to some of the unusual fatty acids found in lamb fat while skatole, which is responsible for boar taint in pork, is another positive contributor to the taste.
Lamb & Mutton
There are significant quality, taste and pricing differences between lamb and mutton, all of which is to do with the age of the animal.
Lambs are younger sheep aged up to a year old that are normally slaughtered between the ages of four and twelve months. The colour of lamb ranges from a pale shade of pink to a pale red, with the common perception being that lambs lighter colour makes it seem more appealing.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is mutton, with the general consensus being that mutton refers to sheep above the age of two years old. Mutton is darker and and has a stronger flavour than lamb but is tougher and needs a different cooking method. Because of its tenderness lamb is the more expensive of the two.
In between is a third ‘adolescent’ cut known as hogget which is aged between one and two years old. It is worth noting that the words mutton, sheepmeat and ewemeat are used interchangeably and can vary depending on the region.
The maturation (or ageing) of meat after slaughter is widely used to enhance meat eating quality, tenderness and flavour. With lamb and sheep, the maturation process can last from 7 days with the optimum amount of time generally believed to be 10 days.
The typical method of maturation is by ‘hanging,’ which involves keeping the whole carcass under chilled storage. Many people consider this method to improve the flavour of the meat, and consequently there is large demand for meat that is matured in this manner.
Taste For Yourself
Indulge in the glorious taste and texture of premium British lamb that’s seasoned to perfection with these delicious recipes!