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Lamb vs Mutton: What’s the Difference?

Learn all you need to know about the differences and similarities between these cuts of meat.

It may be tempting to think that there isn’t a difference between lamb and mutton. Both types of meat come from the same animal, a sheep, so why do they both have different names? And is there even a difference between the two?

grilled mutton chops on a plate

It mostly comes down to age and flavor. Lamb tends to be the more popular choice, whereas mutton can be an acquired taste for many.

Let’s take a look at the differences between lamb and mutton to understand why the two types of meat vary in flavor, texture, and popularity.


Are Mutton and Lamb the Same?

No, mutton and lamb are not the same. They are from the same animal – sheep – however, the two types of meat have very different flavors and textures. This mostly comes down to the age of the meat.

Lamb is meat from a sheep that is generally under a year in age. It is succulent and tender, and there is very little fat on lamb meat. The younger the lamb, the tenderer the meat, and the milder the flavor. Lamb tends to be more popular than mutton because of how tender it is when cooked. 

This makes it more versatile meat, as you can use it in a variety of recipes. Younger lamb that is only around 3 months old tends to be referred to as spring lamb. The color of lamb meat can vary from a paler red to a succulent pink.

raw cuts of lamb

Mutton on the other hand comes from sheep that are over the age of a year. The average age of mutton tends to be around 3 years of age. Unlike lamb, there is a larger amount of fat on mutton. It also has a more intense flavor, which isn’t to everyone’s taste. 

It has a rather gamey taste that lends itself well to European and Middle Eastern dishes. Mutton isn’t all that popular in America, with most Americans opting for the milder version of lamb. Mutton meat tends to have a rich, dark red color.


Is Mutton Tougher Than Lamb?

Yes, mutton is tougher than lamb. This is because there is a much larger concentration of fatty acids in the meat which helps to make its flavor more intense. On the whole, lamb is more tender than mutton, which is one of the many reasons that the younger cut of meat is often preferred in America.

Chances are that if you prefer your meat to have a more intense flavor, you will enjoy eating mutton. The cut of meat will likely be tougher than lamb, however, it shouldn’t be so tough that it becomes too chewy to enjoy.


Is Mutton Better Than Lamb?

Trying to decide whether mutton is better than lamb can be a difficult thing to quantify. This is because it will entirely come down to personal preference.

Mutton will be better suited to those who enjoy a more intense flavor from their meat. Lamb is often preferred because it has a much milder flavor, and tends to be more tender than mutton. The younger the lamb, the more tender the meat. 

2 roasted racks of lamb on a cutting board

To get the very best flavor from your mutton, you should opt for a shoulder cut. This is one of the muscles that has had to do more work, so will have a better flavor. You should also opt for grass-fed mutton if given the choice, as this meat will be leaner than mutton that is grain-fed.

If you wanted to opt for a delicate cut of lamb, you should opt for grain-fed. However, grass-fed lamb that is imported from countries like New Zealand or Australia will have a stronger flavor.


Common Cuts of Mutton and Lamb

The most common cuts of mutton and lamb tend to be shoulder, loin chops, rack, and leg. It is worth bearing in mind that because lamb is more popular than mutton in America, it tends to cost more. You will notice that the cuts of mutton meat will tend to be larger than lamb because they are from adult sheep.

The key to getting the very best flavor out of your meat will be in how you choose to cook it. Lamb is a very versatile meat. Because of its more delicate flavor, it can be cooked in a variety of ways and tends to pair well with spices.

mutton stew

Mutton tends to be slow-cooked, as this can help the meat to become less tough. This can also help to bring out that intense gamey flavor. However, you don’t have to just slow cook your mutton. You can also saute or sear it as well, just as you would a venison steak. 


Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Even though both lamb and mutton come from the same animal, they can differ in flavor and texture. This all comes down to the age of the meat, with sheep under a year in age giving you lamb meat, and sheep aged between 1 year and 3 years giving you mutton meat. Anything older than this, and the meat would become very tough and chewy, as well as fatty.

Mutton has a more intense flavor than lamb and has a tougher texture. Lamb aged around 3 months gives you an even tenderer cut of meat that will delight the palate. Lamb is often preferred in America because of its milder flavor and tender texture. Both types of meat can be cooked in a variety of ways to bring out the very best of its flavor.

Do you prefer lamb or mutton? Leave us a comment and let us know down below!

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.