The World's Healthiest Foods

What is the best lamb?

The best, most tender lamb is milk fed lamb which is lamb that is less than 6 months old. They do not contain any hormones or antibiotics. Most of what we usually call lamb is between 6 months up to 1 year old. Yearling is meat from an animal that is between 1 and 2 years of age and mutton is the meat from an animal that is older than two years. Mutton has a stronger flavor than lamb and is less tender with red meat and yellow-colored fat. It is difficult to find mutton in the United States.

"Spring lamb" means that it is brought to market during the spring and summer months which was formerly the peak season for fresh lamb. However, lamb is now available throughout the year, and the label "spring lamb" does not necessarily connote additional quality.

Lamb falls into three categories:

Milk fed: They are very young and found primarily in the spring. They are the best quality, free of hormones and antibiotics, but are also very expensive.

Grass-fed lamb: Grass-fed lamb can be fed grass for 3 months or 6 months after they are taken off of milk. The meat from lamb that has been grass-fed until they are a year old and have never been fed any grain will not contain any hormones or antibiotics.

Grain-fed lamb: Most lamb is fed grain before they are sold. Grain fed lamb can be graded as USDA 'select', 'choice' and 'prime' but these are indications of quality only in respect to their fat content. Only lamb that is fed organically grown grain can be considered organic and free of hormones and antibiotics.

For the best lamb select milk fed lamb, lamb that has only been grass-fed or "certified organic" lamb.

Grass-fed lamb is much more widely produced in New Zealand and Australia and your chances of getting grass-fed, hormone-free lamb increases when they have come from these countries. Search "Australian lamb", "New Zealand lamb" or "grass-fed lamb" on the internet for names of that produce grass-fed or organically grown lamb.

* Range-fed lamb does not necessarily mean it has only been grass-fed or that it is organic.