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Lamb and Mutton

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Buying Tips

Check the “Sell By” date on the package. This date indicates the last day the lamb or mutton should be offered for sale. Meat and poultry should be prepared as soon as possible after the date of purchase, and used beyond the Sell By date only occasionally, if at all. Fresh lamb has creamy white fat and firm, pinkish-red meat. Fresh mutton has creamy white fat and springs back to the touch. Mutton turns cherry red when cut, then darkens with age. Darker mutton may still be good, but should be cooked and eaten immediately.


Lamb comes from sheep less than one year of age, and often as young as five to seven months. Special varieties include baby or hot house lamb, which is only six to ten weeks old, and French pré-salé lamb that is raised on salt meadows near the sea. Imported New Zealand lamb, fed on grass rather than grain, has a somewhat stronger taste. Most mutton sold in the United States comes from sheep between one and two years old. It has a more robust taste than lamb.

Lamb and mutton are available in many different cuts: legs, roasts, chops, stew meat, breasts, spareribs, foreshank, and ground lamb. Tender cuts come from the ribs and loin; tougher cuts from the legs and shoulders.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.