Why it is important to know the differences between mutton, lamb and goat meat; and why goat meat is the healthier option.
This post has been updated with a clearer comparison table (see below)
It is important to understand the differences between mutton, lamb and goat, to be able to select between them for flavour, preparation, and their varying nutritional values.
Goat meat is enjoyed by many throughout the world from Asia to Africa, South America, parts of Europe, and is increasing in popularity in the UK and America.
It is a red meat, with a fine-grained flesh and ranges in colour from light pink to bright red. The tender cuts have a sweet but only slightly gamey flavour.
Goat meat around the world
Goat meat is something of a delicacy in France, Italy and Spain, and it is also very popular in the Central and South Americas where it is usually slow roasted.
In Asia, Africa and the Caribbean it is often prepared in the form of stews or curries.
In India so-called ‘mutton’ dishes are usually made with goat meat.
In fact, many South Asian countries, prefer using goat meat over lamb as it is leaner and tastes less gamey.
In the UK, goats are mainly bred for their milk so their meat is not commonly sold in supermarkets, but can be found in specialist butcher shops or some farmers markets.
Varieties of goat meat
Goats bred for their meat are usually castrated when they are around six to nine months old. After castration they are known as wethers. Most are slaughtered when they are under a year for a tender, juicy meat with delicate flavour.
Meat from an un-castrated goat tends to be tougher, with a rather strong ‘goaty’ smell and flavour.
Nutrition in goat meat
Goat meat is lower in calories, saturated fats, and cholesterol than beef, pork, lamb and chicken. It also contains a higher amount of protein and iron than beef (see comparison chart below).
This means goat meat is the leaner and healthier option, compared to equal servings of chicken, lamb, beef or pork.
While some antibiotics might be present in goat meat, hormones are not approved for growth promotion in young goats.
How to cook goat meat
Goat is a surprisingly lean meat with little fat or marbling, so high temperatures will make it tough.
Less tender cuts are better suited to long, covered, slow cooking or roasting over low temperatures with a small amount of liquid, to preserve the moisture and break down the collagen in the meat.
Most sheep meat sold in the UK and US is lamb, because mutton is not as popular.
Varieties of lamb meat
A sheep in its first year is a lamb. Fresh lamb meat varies in colour from light pink to a pale red. Generally the darker the shade of pink, the older the animal.
Spring lambs, are milk-fed lambs. They are born in the winter and sold in Spring (around Easter). Baby lamb meat will be pale pink, while regular lamb is a darker pinkish-red. The flavour and texture of this lamb is the mildest and most tender, therefore fetching higher prices than that of cuts of older lamb or mutton.
How to cook lamb meat
Lamb is more fatty than goat meat. The fat tastes more gamey than the meat, so if you are not keen on the flavour, trim off as much fat as you can and drain away the excess while cooking.
Some cuts of lamb have more marbling than others. One of the fattiest cuts is the shoulder which makes it ideal for slow-roasting.
Lamb is best seared at high temperatures and then slow-cooked, or grilled/braised, barbecued or roasted.
Lamb chops are an expensive cut with some fat. They are best suited to barbecuing or grilling on a high heat till they are brown on the outside and slightly pink inside.
Leg of lamb is probably the leanest cut and therefore the least ‘gamey’. It is great for slow roasting, taking care not to let it become too dry.
The meat of an adult sheep is mutton. The adult sheep is typically slaughtered when it is around two to three years old.
Varieties of mutton
Mutton has a deep red colour and is fattier than lamb. It is also tougher and the flavour is stronger and more gamey. This is because it contains a higher concentration of fatty acids which intensify as the animal becomes older.
The flavour tends to appeal more to those who prefer stronger tasting meats such as deer, wild boar and rabbit.
Mutton is now considered a slightly old fashioned meat as lamb and goat meat are more commonly consumed.
How to cook mutton
As Mutton is a tougher and fattier meat it is best slow-cooked, or stewed to soften and break down the connective tissue.
It is also a stronger tasting meat, so it works well in sausages or other dishes where strong spices/flavours are used.
Red meat recipes to try
Goat meat is not easily available in the UK but these recipes with lamb meat can be made using mutton or goat meat.
How to store red meat
The USDA states that for best quality, ground or cubed meat should be stored at 4℃/40℉ or below in the fridge and used within 2 days of purchase, and larger cuts within 3-5 days.
Red meat cuts will remain safe for years when wrapped properly and stored in the freezer at -18℃/0℉ or below.
Read more about how to store meat & poultry and their colour changes.
Comparison chart of cooked meats
The Nutritional values below are for 100 g of roasted meats:
|Per 100g of meat||Goat||Lamb||Pork||Beef||Veal||Chicken|
|Total fat (g)||3.03||16.48||9.44||7.72||3.39||13.39|
|Saturated fat (g)||0.93||6.89||3.30||2.773||1.22||3.74|
From U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Nutrient Data Laboratory
Craving more? Sign up > SUBSCRIBE to never miss another post from End Of The Fork.
This post was UPDATED March 25th, 2019 with a new photo and additional information.