A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What's the difference between mutton and lamb?

Dear Straight Dope:

I have a friend who loves leg of lamb with mint sauce. Unfortunately, his favorite TV show touts an Indian dish called "mutton vindaloo". I've eaten mutton and know how greasy, fat laden and generally foul it is. But I can't convince my friend. Can you explain in simple terms the difference between lamb and mutton? I know it's the age of the animal but he doesn't believe it. Thank you for solving one of the world's most pressing problems.

Some of 'em take research, and some are just too easy. The Settlement Cookbook defines:

Lamb is the meat of a the sheep under 1 year of age. It is firm-textured but tender, pink to dark red in color, with a considerable amount of firm white fat. Most lamb is marketed when it is about 6 to 8 months old. Mutton comes from sheep over 1 year of age. Its texture is softer and its flavor is distinctly stronger than that of lamb. Mutton is less popular in this country (the U.S.) and thus less widely available than lamb. Where it is sold in any substantial quantity, as in England, it is actually cheaper than lamb.

As to lamb or mutton being greasy, fat laden and foul, I suspect that depends on the cut of meat... just as with beef, one can have various cuts with various fat content, so with lamb/mutton. I've had excellent mutton dishes in the U.K., not any fatter nor greasier than anything else.SDSTAFF Jill adds, "Oh man. That guy hasn't had Navajo mutton stew. Great stuff." Don't knock it till you've tried it, brother.

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