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cooked lamb leg with lots of tiny holes (sponge-like) -- should I be concerned??

Hi all,

I roasted a boneless lamb leg for the first time the other night, and while I manged to avoid my main fear of overcooking the meat, I ran into something unexpected. When I sliced up the lamb, on almost all slices there are very small holes throughout, almost making the lamb look sponge-like (or maybe fried tofu-like, if that makes more sense -- see the attached pics.) I've never seen this before with lamb or any other meat. What's going on, and should I be concerned that there was something wrong with the lamb?? (Mad cow was the first thing that popped into my head, unfortunately...)

Thanks for any advice or guidance!

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  1. lamb are pastured, so mad cow wouldn't be an issue.

    i confess i've never seen anything like it, though.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Prions and sheep go way back. I believe it's called "scrapie". PrPSc can be found in their muscle tissue.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        ya know, i stand corrected. apparently american lamb IS grain fed. yuk.

        that pattern looks like worms or parasites. i am not a nervous nelly about food safety, but i'd chuck it. and contact whomever sold it to you.

        1. I recently had a ham that looked exactly like that. Grossed me out a bit.

          1. Could it be a sign of previously frozen and/or mishandled meat?

            1. flabby, out of shape lamb? Maybe that is what cellulite looks like from the inside!

              1. I would contact an agricultural extension at a University in your state. Ask, they will know!

                1 Reply
                1. re: blue room

                  that is the thing to do -- they can help in a jiffy -- if they are there, though, coming in this holiday period.

                2. We eat lamb more often than any other meat - and I've never seen anything like that in 40 years cooking it. Something is not right - although I havnt a clue what that might be. Weird. Very weird.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Harters

                    i just thought "eeew" -- that doesn't look like anything i've ever seen either.

                      1. re: monavano

                        very clever gal you are, miss ramona! ;-).

                  2. Was the meat prime? Could the holes be fat deposits that melted away during cooking? When I imagine the holes filled with fat, I think of wangu beef.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Joebob

                      lamb is graded by age, not like beef.

                        1. re: Joebob

                          mutton is just older lamb, at least 1 year old, typically slaughtered at 2 years. you almost never see it anymore because it's too expensive to keep animals that long.

                          this animal isn't graded with prime or choice. just by age: baby lamb, spring lamb, lamb and mutton.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            That might depend on where you are in the world. Where I am, mutton is increasingly easy to find.

                            1. re: Harters

                              very true. here in new england, i don't know that i've ever seen it. even in middle-eastern butchers.

                    2. Hmm. Here's an article I found:

                      "The competition to supply that lamb is stiff, especially from Australia and New Zealand, where inexpensive lamb racks are essentially a byproduct of the vast and profitable wool industry. The lambs are slaughtered young so that the flavor of the meat does not get too strong, but many cooks find the texture limp and the fat too wet to roast. Typically wet-aged in Cryovac on its journey to American markets, the lamb tends to be soft and spongy. "

                      Where was your lamb from?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DuchessNukem

                        We also have New Zealand lamb here in the UK. I occasionally buy it if there's nothing home grown but have still never seen anything like this.

                      2. I'm so sorry, but if that was on my plate I couldn't bring myself to eat it.....

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: oooYUM

                          Thanks for all the feedback!

                          @oooYUM - I agree! We cut off a small piece when we first roasted the lamb, so the strange appearance didn't really register. The next day when we sliced up the rest of it, is when we realized it was more pervasive throughout the roast.

                          @DuchessNukem - thanks for the link; very interesting article. I like this explanation (since it doesn't involve us getting sick/dying in the short or long term from BSE, parasites or worms) though the NYT doesn't specify what they mean by spongy - appearance-wise or firmness of the meat (e.g. when you press down on a steak to tell how done it is.) I think the lamb was indeed from Australia or New Zealand.

                          We do plan to chuck the rest of it (keeping a sample for the local university).

                          1. re: newyorker1

                            Please let us know what the U tells you.

                        2. We eat lots of lamb in Australia and although I can't tell you what causes the spongy texture I can tell you I've eaten lamb like this many times before and it's never been a problem.

                          1. We eat lamb regularly too and I've never seen anything like it. I wouldn't eat it either. I'd probably feed it to the dogs though, even though I don't usually feed them cooked meat.

                            1. My Mr. blue room just took a look at this, and is mystified too, but did suggest maybe it was frozen, thawed, and improperly *re*frozen -- the temperature change causing stretching and distorting the fibers (like a bridge shrinks and "grows" in hot/cold weather.) ??

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: blue room

                                So I exchanged emails with someone from UMass (despite my moniker, I no longer live in NYC), and he said he consulted a meat expert who said the holes were from the purveyor tenderizing the meat by using a needle (series of needles??) to break up the tough fibers in the lamb meat. (This was all via email; I had sent the same pictures I posted in this thread.)

                                1. re: newyorker1

                                  Most steak houses "jaccardize" their meat (mainly their beef steaks etc.) but that doesn't give it such consistency

                                  1. re: honkman

                                    as somebody who has done my time working in some high-end steak joints, it DOES NOT make holes that size. nor does it make the meat spongy. it's also not done to lamb.

                                    1. re: newyorker1

                                      This still grosses me out but the tenderizer idea might be right, it looks like there are tenderizers with much bigger bore size than a typical Jaccqard http://www.ebay.com/itm?itemId=190878...

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        If it was from getting poked with tenderizer, would the holes be so haphazard? Would not it be machine done? Or some low skilled guy jabbing it as it goes by on a conveyer belt? And if so, wouldn't the holes be from the sides it, rather than from the ends? Hmmm, maybe it is injected along the grain....

                                  2. if you want more feedback, you might contact some lamb industry associations…or check their sites: http://www.google.com/search?client=s...

                                    and i agree with hotoynoodle's comment.

                                    1. I found this pattern in a pork loin I cooked for Easter. I had never seen it before in any piece of meat in many decades of cooking. I plan to call USDA food safety.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: TunaNow

                                        I called the USDA Food Safety folks who will be investigating this incident based on info from the pork loin package. They said NOT to eat the meat or even the vegetables that I cooked with it.

                                        1. re: TunaNow

                                          good for you. anxious to hear report.

                                      2. Hey @newyorker1, did you get any definitive info on this? We are currently staring at some lamb chops with the exact same formation after we cooked it. So far, this is about the only thread I found online addressing this specifically. Can you advise?

                                        1. contact the american lamb council and ask. http://www.americanlamb.com
                                          they also have a facebook page you could post on.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Much appreciated. I sent them a note.

                                          2. I just found the same thing in a pork loin. I hope this isnt worms or parasites. I ate it anyway. Tasted fine.

                                            4 Replies
                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                "regular" meat does NOT look like this.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    hotoy - yes.

                                                    I have never, ever seen anything like this (and I have eaten some desperately cheap cuts in low places)

                                              2. My favorite butcher says it's a sign of well marbled tender meat, the fat deposits melted away

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  fldh - I respect a lot of what you say, I really do. but does your butcher also piss on your head and tell you it's raining?

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    Yea, I kept asking if that really was what he thought and he kept repeating it. I didn't really believe him since I've had well marbled meats and never seen that before but would have been awkward to argue and I thought I should at least offer another opinion here. I even pointed out that one picture was of a pork loin which generally is not known for being particularly well-marbled to the extent that it has visible fat deposits. Don't worry I'm still Googling for an answer to this.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      OK. Apparently this is an issue under research by the meat industry. Genetic in some pigs (lamb too?) or possibly caused by solution used for tenderizing (not needles). Google 'pore formation pork loin' or check out this scholarly article. Bottom line...safe but undesirable to look at.

                                                      1. re: cporre22

                                                        Awesome, thanks! I did ponder whether it could be a myopathy but then would expect the entire cut to be much smaller. Thanks for the link.

                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                          Didn't you purchase deli meat that looked similar?

                                                          My last purchase of Costco NY Steaks looked similar, maybe Jun 2013.

                                                          The package was labeled tenderized

                                                          There is information on the web regarding this.

                                                          There has been E. coli contamination from this type of tenderizing.

                                                          1. re: Alan408

                                                            Yes, the deli meat did look similar but that's clearly a processed, mashed together meat. I assumed the lamb and pork here were not processed and actual whole cuts.

                                                    2. re: hill food

                                                      does anyone else find it odd that fldhkybnva hasn't responded in a long long time? I hear a distinct small and informed voice in the wee hours, I sense the absence of a presence. the diction is faint yet precise.

                                                      oh lord I'm an ass. I do wonder if your butcher may have been just "moving product".