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What is the difference between lamb and mutton?


Butcher holding rack of lamb
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Question: What is the difference between lamb and mutton?
There is indeed a difference between lamb and mutton, but it is simply a matter of age and flavor.

Is it Lamb or mutton?

Lamb is a sheep less than a year old, typically slaughtered between the ages of 4 and 12 months. Older sheep is called mutton and has a much stronger flavor and tougher meat that many find distasteful. Mutton was a cheap food source for the military, and it was often overcooked and dry. Many American servicemen had their fill of mutton, coming home to declare it off-limits in the family home. This may be another reason why lamb has not become more popular in the States.

The finest lamb

Lamb connoisseurs consider lamb pré-salé to be the finest in the world. The French term means "salty field," and is applied to lamb that graze on meadowlands on the salty shores of Brittany and Normandy. The grass that thrives on the salty land gives the lamb meat a delicate flavor. The most reknowned area for this lamb is near Mont-St.-Michel in France. You might want to question the chef if you find pré-salé lamb on the menu in the United States, as there is a good chance it is not authentic.

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Lamb Photo © 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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