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Lamb - should it be gamey or not?

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On a recent thread, I saw a review that said "the lamb was cooked perfectly, without a single hint of gaminess"...

Pardon the obvious, but isn't that gaminess exactly why we eat lamb? I prefer to cook my lamb closer to medium (vs med rare) in order to get a little more gaminess.

What say you CH?

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  1. It should taste like lamb.

    It shouldn't be gamey like a fully-developed sheep...mutton is truly gamey and IMO unpleasant.

    4 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      Agreed that lamb should taste like lamb!

      Disagree that mutton is unpleasant, although I do find it gamey. I find that mutton is great when it's cooked like mutton, and not so great when it's treated like lamb.

      1. re: caseyjo

        "I find that mutton is great when it's cooked like mutton, and not so great when it's treated like lamb."

        What's the distinction?

        1. re: ns1

          Mutton tends to be tougher, so it needs to be cooked differently (usually low and slow to break down connective tissue). Plus, it's got a stronger flavor, so that needs to be balanced out with spices and herbs (usually not seasoned the same way that I would season lamb). This is all in my experience, of course.

          1. re: caseyjo

            I would eat mutton as an alternative to starvation.

            But I find it overpoweringly strong-flavored -- to the point that when served mutton at a restaurant well-known for its mutton (thus probably prepared correctly) -- and after several bites, just pushed it around my plate and ate the other meats that had been served.

            To each their own.

    2. Hopefully it has a little more game than frenched rack of tofu.

      1. I would hope that lamb would have bit of gaminess because if it didnt why bother with lamb and just buy beef instead.

        Ive stopped buying lamb because the last two times that I have purchased lamb I was very disappointed. It tasted more like generic beef or even veal than the lamb that I remember 20 years ago. I paid $9.00 for a pound of what was claimed to be local(Amish) pasture raised and organic spring lamb and it was utterly tasteless.

        36 Replies
        1. re: Kelli2006

          The flavorless lamb was probably American raised. American lamb is corn fed, grows larger, and has less flavor. Australian and New Zealand lamb has more grass in the diet, is smaller, and more flavor.

          1. re: JMF

            this seriously explains a lot

            1. re: JMF

              And this is why I always ask if the lamb is American. If they say yes, I don't buy it. New Zealand lamb stomps all over American in terms of flavor. To me, it tastes grassy and fresh. American lamb just tastes like beef.

              1. re: Isolda

                Interesting. The UK has long been an export market for New Zealand lamb. I won't usually buy it as it hasn't as much flavour as British lamb.

                1. re: Harters

                  If we could get British lamb here, that's what I would buy!

                  1. re: Isolda

                    Unlikely to happen, Isolda. We're a small country and don't raise enough for our own needs (hence the NZ imports). In some parts of the country, sheep cannot be sold to enter the food market as there is still pasture contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

                    1. re: Harters

                      I see British lamb fairly regularly here in France -- but you're right -- if they put sheep on every available hectare on the island, it still wouldn't be enough to supply the US.

                      British lamb is excellent...and so is pre-salé lamb from Normandie...and the stellar chops we had from the Limousin region last week....

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I hadnt realised that we export to France. Is it particular specialitiies or just ordinary lamb?

                        We occasionally come across British saltmarsh lamb and it's every bit as good as the Normandie lamb. It's raised in Sussex and, I think, in Wales.

                        1. re: Harters

                          just ordinary lamb - I don't see the brand all the time, but I think I bought chops the last time I found the label.

                          The name of the website gives me a giggle: http://www.ilovemeat.fr/

                      2. re: Harters

                        Really? I had no idea. Is that around East Midlands-ish area?

                        1. re: gembellina

                          gem - no. It's mainly hill farms in North Wales (over 300 farms) and a few in the Lake District that are still affected.

                          1. re: Harters

                            How interesting. I assumed it would be on the east coast as boyfriend's mum always talks about how in Lincolnshire they thought they would be first hit if Russia fired a nuke during the Cold War. But it seems like it's radioactive rain falling over the Pennines and into Wales, and lingering (for 26 years) in the peaty soils.

                            But it also looks like the controls on movement of sheep from these areas of Wales were lifted this month, so maybe we'll see more Welsh lamb soon!

                    2. re: Harters

                      "British" is way too broad a term. Most (not all) English lamb is just as bland as generic American. OK, it's grass-fed, but it's grown on rich grass on lowland pasture. Welsh lamb is grown on hillsides with poorer quality grass, which gives it a far superior flavour. The travesty in recent years has been English lowland sheep being shipped over to Wales for slaughter, which magically qualifies them to be sold as "Welsh". You have to have a butcher you can trust, or just drive to Wales yourself and pick up a half-lamb. Lucky for us, my wife's mother used to raise sheep in the Welsh hills, so we had access to the "motherlode" (sorry, I couldn't resist that).

                      We used to sneer at New Zealand lamb, but now we live in CA, we are grateful when we see it.

                      1. re: zabriskiepoint

                        "but it's grown on rich grass on lowland pasture."

                        Actually not so. Much of the English lamb is raised on the hills of northern counties

                        1. re: Harters

                          Harters, please do not selectively quote me out of context. I did not say that no English lamb is produced on upland areas, simply that most of it comes from lowland areas which produce inferior flavoured meat. That is based on living in the UK for well over 40 years, eating a great deal of lamb (our favourite meat), and learning what was worth buying (NOT New Zealand, NOT generic "English", and be bloody careful when buying "Welsh").

                          1. re: zabriskiepoint

                            I wasnt quoting you out of context. Quite the opposite.

                            What you posted was "Most (not all) English lamb is just as bland as generic American. OK, it's grass-fed, but it's grown on rich grass on lowland pasture. "

                            I simply disagree with your suggestion that "most" of it comes from lowland areas. Do you have any evidence to support that speculation?

                            Of course, it makes more sense to consider the production from the whole of the UK, rather than one region as that's how it;s sold here - as British lamb. I would be surpirsed if anyone would doubt that the overwheming majority of sheep raised for food are hill sheep. Lowland areas, such as my own county of Cheshire, where there is good pasture are used for cattle not sheep, generally speaking.

                            1. re: Harters

                              "I wasnt quoting you out of context. Quite the opposite."

                              Bollocks! You quoted a small fragment of my post - omitting the crucial fact that I said "most" - and simply said I was wrong, when the truth is merely that your opinion differs from mine about the relatively subtle question of where the majority of English lamb is raised (which is fine by me). At least, I take it that you are not claiming that all English lamb is full of flavour?

                              "sheep raised for food"

                              What do you imagine happens to all the male lambs born to ewes in flocks raised for wool? Yup - they show up as meat on your supermarket shelf. And not only are those sheep raised in cushy surroundings, they are also of breeds that produce inferior meat.

                              "Do you have any evidence"

                              I already pointed out that my opinion is based on over 40 years eating lamb in the UK and finding that generic "British"/"English" lamb was far too often bland and boring. Plus I traveled widely around England and saw a lot of sheep on relatively lush/lowland pasture.

                              Do YOU have any evidence to support your speculation?

                              I'm not saying there is no good lamb produced in England, just that you won't find it in a supermarket or generic butcher's shop. Time was when telling people to make sure they got "Welsh" lamb would guarantee a quality product, but that doesn't seem to work so well any more, either.

                              Saddest lamb-related tale was eating at Gidleigh Park - the waiter was so proud of the "local Devon lamb", which was beautifully cooked and presented, had a wonderful texture, but tasted of nothing at all to us. Most Americans would have loved it...

                              1. re: Harters

                                And by way of offering evidence of my own assertion about northern hill farming, here's the summary of 2010 sheep stocks by English region, taken from the DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) website:

                                North East - 1.8 million

                                North west - 2.8

                                Yorkshire - 2.0

                                East Midlands - 1.1

                                West Midlands - 2.0

                                Eastern - 0.3

                                South East - 1.1

                                South West 2.9


                                I prefer factual evidence rather than the evidence gained from "travelling" and "seeing a lot of sheep" but each to their own.

                          2. re: zabriskiepoint

                            Zabriskiepoint, you mentioned you live in CA. I don't know if you ever get out to Utah, but if so, I buy lamb from a European who moved to the U.S. and raises lamb as a "by product" of being a raw milk cheese maker. He sells his wares (both cheese and lamb) at the Salt Lake City farmer's market. You order the grass fed lamb and when slaughter time arrives, he meets you so you can pick up your meat. I love the gaminess of lamb (not so much passion for mutton though.) and I buy a whole butchered lamb twice a year from him. To me, his lamb is far superior to the market lamb, including those labeled "New Zealand Lamb". I'm not trying to say American lamb is better than NZ lamb. It's not at all. However, there ARE farmers here who don't sell to market that produce wonderful lamb like you would find in other areas of the world. If you're ever in UT, his name is Stig and his # is 801-891-2355. He'll take your order and let you know when the next pick up dates will be. Trust me... He's an amazing cheese maker and raises exceptional quality lamb!

                        2. re: Isolda

                          'American lamb tastes just like beef' ...which for me, tastes not much like beef at all! American beef is very tender and you can often cut it with a fork, but just doesn't have the flavour of British/French/Australian beef, once again down to the diet of grass rather than corn.

                        3. re: JMF

                          Correct! You are not going to find gamey American lamb.

                          1. re: scoopG

                            not necessarily. The US industry considers it lamb for three years -- a three-year-old "lamb" will definitely be at the 'gamey' end of the spectrum.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              All the gaminess has been bred out over here.

                              1. re: scoopG

                                I stand by what I said. By the time an animal reaches three years of age, the rest of the world has been calling it a mutton for quite some time.

                                Mutton has a markedly more pronounced flavor than lamb.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Lamb in the USA not gamey and yes, mutton almost always is. In USA we raise them and provide feed, they do not graze and most often slaughter young.

                                2. re: scoopG

                                  Based on the lamb I had last week, I beg to differ. Gamey as hell (american gamey), nothing like the lamb I get from TJ's

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    Americans eat so little lamb and are conditioned to think it is gamey.

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      "Americans eat so little lamb"

                                      That's too broad a generalization. The USA is a wildly diverse place racially and culturally. The anti-lamb element seems to be predominately Caucasian. Hispanic, Middle Eastern, North African, Arab, and Asian (including the Indian subcontinent) Americans eat plenty of lamb (and goat). (I don't know about other groups, such as Native and African Americans.) Even amongst Caucasians, there is no homogeneity - those of Mediterranean origin are likely to be lamb eaters.

                                      1. re: zabriskiepoint

                                        Sure, there may well be families in the USA that eat lamb three meals a day, 365 days a year. Still, the per capita consumption is less than a pound a year. Per these folks. http://www.dailylivestockreport.com/d...

                                3. re: sunshine842

                                  No, USDA regulations specifically state that "lamb" must be under 1 year old. The weight range is 90 to 140 lbs.



                                  Lamb vs. mutton
                                  Lamb is the meat from a sheep that is less than one year of age. Mutton is the meat from a sheep that is older than one year. Yearling mutton is intermediate between lamb and mutton and comes from a yearling, a sheep between 1 and 2 years of age. Mutton has a stronger flavor than lamb and is less preferred by the American consumer.

                                  1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                    Similar age descriptions in the UK. Upto one year, it's lamb. One to two years, it's hogget. And over two, it's mutton.

                                    It's difficult to find hogget as farmers will tend to grow the lamb on to mutton because of the higher prices they can get for the more mature, stornger flavoured , meat.

                              2. re: JMF

                                That's WAY WAY too much of a blanket statement. ALL American lamb is decidedly NOT corn-fed & flavorless.

                                Around here, we have a fair number of local farms that raise absolutely delicious grass-fed lamb & supply both restaurants & farmers markets. It's far superior to anything I've ever dined on that was imported from Australia/New Zealand (which I've found to have a much less desirable bone-to-meat ratio in most cuts).

                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                  I buy delicious grass-fed lamb at the farmers market, and occasionally at a butcher. In the past a group of us have bought a couple of lambs from a CSA that was some of the best lamb I've ever had (and I've eaten lamb in Patagonia).

                                  However, even though it's delicious and tastes like lamb, it's not particularly gamey. My observation is that the gaminess comes from the fat, not the meat. Lamb fat can be very strong, but from good quality lamb, it's more mild.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Our CSA also has very good lamb. Good lamb flavor but not too strong. I have bought chops at the grocery store that were bland.

                                  2. re: Bacardi1

                                    I am not talking about small farms. They produce a very small amount vs. the large industrial ones. So yes, a blanket statement compared to the amounts.

                                    I am on the side of small farms. I consulted to many over the years. But reality is that 98% of all stock is raised on industrial lots.

                              3. Game tastes like game. Lamb tastes like lamb. They are not the same to my palate.

                                That said, I also don't find that there's a single taste of game - venison, rabbit, pigeon, pheasant, partridge all have their own flavours.

                                Lamb is generally a sweet meat and very different from hogget or mutton (which are equally delicious - although still not tasting like game).

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Harters

                                  Harters, such is the nature of the English language...

                                  To an American, "gamey" doesn't mean it tastes like wild game. It means it tastes musky and strong - you've been in a locker room after a sporting match...imagine that sweaty aroma as a flavor -- THAT is what we mean when we say 'gamey'.

                                  It's unfortunate that it gets branded with a name that is so similar to lovely things like venison and pheasant...but it's a quirk of the usage of the language, not a shortfall in intelligence or taste-recognition on our part.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Ahhh. Thanks for the explanation. I've often seen Americans post about "gamey" and simply couldnt understand how they were comparing lamb with the game that I also eat. I'd sort of assumed that they weren't actually used to eating game and were using "gamey" as a way of describing "a taste I'm not familiar with".

                                    On the basis of your explanation, then I'll still stick with my original answer - lamb shouldnt be "gamey". It is a lovely mild sweet meat, milder and sweeter than, say, beef or pork (and different from hogget or mutton which are both stronger flavoured)

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      To this American, "gamey" means that it tastes like wild game. Lamb should taste like lamb, not like venison, or elk, or wild duck.

                                      And not all American lamb is corn fed and tasteless.

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      Maybe this is true sometimes, but I've also seen a poster ask why pork is sometimes "gamey". It seemed they were talking about tougher/darker cuts like shoulder (vs tenderloin for example). From this, and other instances, I gathered that some people use "gamey" to mean "has a flavour I don't like" or simply, "has flavour".

                                  2. Maybe it's due to the seasonings or prep, but I don't notice any real difference when eating mutton kebabs vs lamb kebabs.

                                    I guess it's the taste "distinction" between lamb and mutton that I don't quite understand yet.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ns1

                                      I have eaten a lot more wild game than lamb. Lamb tastes like lamb and I love it. Some tastes stronger of lamb than other. Would really like to try a nice mutton chop.

                                    2. The worst lamb I have ever had was in the Cotswolds but found out later it was indeed mutton. Old, tough mutton. I find very, very few things inedible unless undercooked, etc. but this was bad. I just could not finish it. That is unusual in my experience. My palate definitely does find a distinct taste between lamb and mutton as I've had both many, many times. We enjoy lamb so much we buy a whole one (only about 25 kg) each year from a local farmer who raises happy organic sheep. She also makes her own cheeses commercially - the Pecorino is absolutely amazing. She learned her craft in Italy. Anyway, back to the meat itself. My husband and I have lamb about once a week or at least biweekly. Good lamb is vastly different from beef and pork and anything else for that matter.

                                      As mentioned up thread, I too believe that there is not a single taste of game. I think lamb tatstes like lamb. It has a unique flavour all its own. The end.

                                      1. Most lamb in the US tastes like generic meat. When we visited New Zealand about 15 years ago, we did a few home or farm stays. We were given dinner, invariably lamb, and it was always delicious. We learned that they serve is closer to 2 years old - they called them two-twos, and they have much more lamb flavor than the very young lamb that's exported to the US. I wish we could find them here.

                                        1. Somewhere, I came across a recipe that specified trimming all the fat and silver sinew off a lamb roast before roasting it. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I did it. That lamb had the least lamby flavor I have ever had! Never again will you see me do that- so much of the flavor leaches into the meat when you roast the lamb, same as the bone-in pork chop on another thread.

                                          1. my understanding is that lamb comes with a particular lymph node, and chemical in the fascia, which imparts a _really_ distinctive flavor to the meat. By the time lamb has grown to mutton, this fat has well infused everything, so it's difficult to get rid of; with young lamb, you can remove the fell and the lymph node (behind the knee) and you're left with a mild meat.

                                            Some folks call the distinctive flavor "gamey," although I wouldn't. In this case, I suspect "gamey" means "tastes like something other than grain-fed beef or chicken," rather than "tastes like venison."

                                            Some folks prefer the distinctive sheep-y lymph-node flavor; some folks (me) prefer the mild, "clean," "springtime" flavor of de-lymphed lamb.

                                            Expensive restaurants, in my experience, tend to de-fell the meat.

                                            I'm pretty sure that in the US, anything under 1 year is sold as "lamb," anything above three years is "mutton," and anything in the middle used to be called a "yearling," but nobody bought yearlings, so it's basically unused today.

                                            15 Replies
                                            1. re: enhF94

                                              in the US, I believe it's anything under *three* years is mutton -- which is why a lot of people think lamb is pretty funky -- because it's not lamb.

                                              See my mention upthread to Harters -- "gamey" doesn't mean it tastes like wild game -- "gamey" means it tastes like a locker room smells after a big game.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Exactly. And if your lamb tastes like this, it is not lamb. It is mutton. I once paid a premium price for lamb at a farmer's market - when I got it home and tasted it, it was obviously from a very very old sheep. When I talked to a friend who had recommended this grower to me, I discovered he had no idea what lamb ought to taste like - he just thought ALL lamb tasted strong and gamey like that. I'm still baffled as to why he thought that was good, except possibly for snob appeal. I suspect this grower got away with this misrepresentation of inferior meat because the clientele, by and large, were yuppies with more money than sense in a big city who's sole exposure to an actual farm was limited to having learned to sing "Old MacDonald" in kindergarten.

                                                1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                  I firmly believe then that the lamb kebabs I got from this middle eastern mart were a little bit on the older/mutton side, thus had a much more pronounced flavor than say the lamb racks I get at Trader Joe's or Costco

                                              2. re: enhF94

                                                Two things -

                                                Americans tend to like all meat to taste the same - a little bland - Domestic lamb is the least tasty - and in my opinion, New Zealand lamb is the most tasty with Australian falling somewhere inbetween the two - however, I believe that Australian farms are now raising their lamb to taste more like domestic lamb. I'm sure we can blame corn and soy for this lack of flavor!

                                                Also - as stated above - lamb has a fat covering called the "fell" if not removed it can give the lamb a much more intense flavor - also, there are glands in the leg of lamb (they may be in more cuts, but I haven't seen them) they should also be removed - as a person who likes lamb to taste like lamb - I have been put off when I forgot to remove them - they look like little fatty globs.

                                                1. re: harryharry

                                                  Being from New Zealand, I'm pretty familiar with eating sheep in various stages of development!
                                                  Here, that 'sheepy' flavour is called 'lanolin taint' when it's bad and 'dinner' the rest of the time...
                                                  I'm aware many North Americans don't like it; most Asian people, particularly Japanese find it revolting.
                                                  I much prefer well-grown mutton to lamb, but actual lamb is quite uncommon, and what we get is often, shall we say, a generous misunderestimation of the animal's age.

                                                  1. re: pippimac

                                                    Interesting discussion, particularly as I had Chinese style lamb for lunch (grilled lamb skewers with cumin, and cold tripe in vinegar).

                                                    I do think that North Americans, in general, prefer meat that doesn't taste like anything much. By the time you get to freezer packs of saline injected boneless skinless chicken breasts from industrially raised chickens, you might as well be eating tofu, for the amount of flavour you get.

                                                    Personally, I like the lamb taste of lamb, but I also like mutton and goat, which stand up well to strong seasonings (mutton vindaloo, jerked goat). If you can't tell the difference between lamb and beef, it's not worth the extra money.

                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                      In one respect, you are correct: Americans tend to eat bland meat (as well as too much processed foods and sweets). I get it. However, there is a growing number of folks here in the U.S. That don't eat like the "typical American". We are generally from Mediteranean

                                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                        Sorry, I spelt a word wrong & tried to correct it, but it posted it instead!
                                                        So, anyways, I was about to say we are generally from Mediterranean, South or Central American,Middle Eastern, or other decent and our families have raised us eating quality foods that are full of flavor and seasoned properly.

                                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                          If you don't include the "minority" of people in your statement, although you are "correct" in what you are saying, you will lead people to believe that America does not have the diversity that we so stand for. My family is from Italy, and I was raised on foods that many of my neighbors never ate in their lives. BUT, I always try to "enlighten" their palate when we invite them to dinner, by making foods they are not accustomed to. Most of the time they leave with a recipe and some leftovers and can't wait to prepare the "new" dish.I'm sure that is what my Venesuelan friends do for us, and my German friends living here do too. That's what makes the U.S.a great place: not the government. not the economy. Not the prideful attitude of so many rude people here. It's the wonderful amount of diversity in one place. All those differences equal lots of opinions about food quality and preparation. The markets here only reflect the least common denominator; so you get crap unless you buy from a private source or visit a farmer's market or whatever.the statistics may make the norm here seem pitiful, but we minority are growing and we have a passion for quality that will change the majority's tastes... One meal at a time!

                                                        2. re: pippimac

                                                          "what we get is often, shall we say, a generous misunderestimation of the animal's age"

                                                          Definitely not an issue, as such, in the UK. Hogget and mutton are both regarded as premium products and carry higher prices so no-one is going to try and pass them off as the cheaper lamb.

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            Not in Europe, either -- the carcasses of the animals are on display in the stall or shop -- and there's no question whether the animal in question is a lamb or a full-grown sheep. Mutton isn't rare on the Continent, but it's really not all that common, either.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              I usually think of the Mediterranean countries using goat when they want a fuller flavour than lamb.

                                                              The brother in law, if he's home in Spain during the hunting season, shoots what he calls "mountain goats" which, he claims, are wild and have no owners. I suspect they actually have owners and he's just poaching. Damn tasty though.

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                it exists, but lamb is the meat of choice in most of Europe.

                                                        3. re: harryharry

                                                          "Americans tend to like all meat to taste the same"

                                                          I assume that "Americans" here means "US citizens". I believe this prejudice is largely confined to white Americans of Northern European origin. Lots of US Citizens are none of those (being Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Arab, North African, etc.), and enjoy a wider variety of flavors, including organ meat, goat, etc., according to their varied cultural heritages.

                                                          1. re: zabriskiepoint

                                                            even trying to apply it to "white Americans of Northern European origin" would be a mistake -- it's far too easy to find too many exceptions.

                                                      2. I had never eaten lamb until I was on a field trip in my teens, and got a lamb chop at a museum cafe in Chicago. It was one of the nicest things I'd ever eaten. When I got home I asked why we never had this, and Mom explained that my dad had been fed mutton in the army during WW2, and couldn't abide anything from a sheep after that.

                                                        Since then I've made up for that childhood deprivation as often as I can. I do prefer the cuts that tend to be most "sheepy", especially foreshanks, neck and shoulder, and the stronger the taste the more I like it. I've never had any mutton but the barbecued kind that used to be common in Kentucky - which was delicious - but if I found myself in a restaurant that served mutton chops I'd have to try one.

                                                        12 Replies
                                                          1. re: ns1

                                                            While mutton sold as lamb might be a problem elsewhere, I've been seeing a lot of lamb labelled as mutton here in the L.A. area … and according to the reviews the "mutton" in these kebabs is actually lamb. I guess it's a cultural thing; the Mideastern/Armenian/Russian-leaning Super King Market in Altadena has "mutton shanks" in their flyer this week, and the Latino Baja Ranch market on Orange Grove most confusingly advertises their lamb chops as either lamb, mutton or chivo - which is goat!

                                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                                Anyone used to eating mutton is going to know if a trader has passed off lamb as it - and isnt going to be a happy customer.

                                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                                  Lamb has always been my favorite meat since I was a (baaa!)kid. My birthday dinner was always lamb chops. I love the strong flavor of it andI agree that "gamey" is not really le mot juste. In general one does not see mutton for sale here in NYC except at higher end butchers and the farmers' markets, but lamb and goat are common even in supermarkets. The lamb/mutton/goat confusion you talk about is something I do experience here all the time, especially in halal markets and restaurants.

                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                    Can you elaborate on the "halal" part as it pertains to lamb/mutton?

                                                                    The market I've been going to has a lot of halal product.

                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                      It's a translation thing, as per zabriskiepoint's post below. Goat is often labeled as mutton here because that's how it comes up in some dictionaries (i.e, no intentional deception is involved). Once I discovered this I have learned to ask which is which by making a fool of myself with finger horns, etc. to determine what meat was actually being sold.

                                                                  2. re: Will Owen

                                                                    FWIW, we have seen goat listed as "mutton" in several local Indian restaurants (San Francisco Bay Area).

                                                                    Speaking of goat - never mind their views on the edibility of lamb, most* white Americans would not even consider eating goat. Fortunately, we have large Latino (aka Hispanic) and Indian (subcontinent, not country) communities around here, so it is fairly readily available.

                                                                    * - Cue Harters with some government statistics to show me I should only have said "many". :)

                                                                    1. re: zabriskiepoint

                                                                      Per capita consumption of lamb in the U.S. is very low. I have polled my 11 office mates and 9 out of 11 of them have NEVER eaten lamb and the other two don't much care for it. I was an adult before I tasted it for the first time and my mom was a fairly adventurous cook relative to her environs.

                                                                      It is either not available in rural areas or very expensive in more urban areas here in the South East U.S.

                                                                      1. re: kengk

                                                                        i never ate lamb as a kid due to cost.

                                                                      2. re: zabriskiepoint

                                                                        It is so unfortunate that goat meat is seen as a meat only to be eaten as "curried goat" or other strongly flavoured dish to mask any offending tastes. Just as with mutton, strongly flavoured goat meat comes from old goats, often uncastrated male bucks.

                                                                        We raise meat goats, and just as with lamb, goat kids under a year of age are tender and mildly flavoured, more mild than American lamb, as many would describe here. When we serve a grilled and simply marinated leg of goat with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and herbs and we don't tell guests what they are eating, they think it's pork or veal, sometimes lamb. People are often converted immediately since they expected something stronger than lamb.

                                                                        1. re: earthygoat

                                                                          Last weekend we had some delightful goat tacos (Bravo, Woodside Road, Redwood City, CA) - no strong seasoning, generous chunks of tender tasty goat - YUMM!

                                                                          That said, goat does make an exceedingly good curry.

                                                                2. We wanted to try mutton (home prep). My small farm "country" butcher - from whom I buy lamb - told me that the Federal meat inspectors impose complicated standards (leading to endless inspection processes) re classification of mutton, so everything she sells is labeled lamb. since true mutton can be "an acquired taste," she also said, she does not sell lamb that would meet the
                                                                  "older sheep" criteria. Tried to research the FDA classification standards myself (primary source), but got buried in pages of the Congressional Record with arguments about labeling meet for export. Did find an interesting Wiki page detailing a Prince Charles campaign to reboot interest in mutton. Apparently, British sheep farmers were having trouble selling their older lambs. Gotta love Charles and his quaint ways.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: patj03

                                                                    Indeed. Mutton had fallen out of fashion, in the years after WW2, in favour of the milder tasting young lamb. Charlie Wales has played a very significant part in urging its revival - or renaissance as the campaign has it.

                                                                    Guaranteed to be over 2 years old and often coming from the rarer breeds of sheep (like Herdwick - a delicious, well flavoured, hill sheep raised exclusively iin north west England). The meat I buy online is a minimum of 3 years old and is a world away from the comparitively tasteless New Zealand lamb that gets into our supermarkets. It's ideal for slow roasts or casseroles and stews.


                                                                  2. Regardless of what Americans might regard as "gamey", the OP suggest that gaminess is the reason to eat lamb.

                                                                    So, is it the case in America that "gamey" is a good thing or a bad thing? Or is it a matter that tastes just differ?

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                      The "gaminess" of American lamb is a reason why some seek it out and pay a premium price for it, and it is also a reason why others avoid it. Totally a matter of taste.
                                                                      Curiously, in Texas, where beef cattle is king and sheepeaters are second class citizens, many markets don't even display lamb in their premium meat cases. In contrast, Colorado's spring lamb is prized and prominently featured in Colorado. I'm back in Florida now, and I'm very satisfied with the lamb from Australia I can buy.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        Exactly, Veggo! It's all a matter of taste. As for the original poster, like any "review" the opinion you draw from it should be based on the actual characteristic being described, not whether the reviewer thought it was a positive or negative characteristic. If I say a restaurant is noisy then I may mean it as a negative, but to some people it means "fun" and "lively." So if the review says the lamb wasn't gamey, whether or not that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you to decide.

                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                          I had Colorado lamb on our recent trip to New England and thought it was very good

                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                            I had some stellar lamb @ Picaso in LV that was from Colorado.

                                                                            I think my current problem is buying the lamb from markets. Easy to determine source if it's from Costco or TJ, but very difficult from the middle eastern meat markets I've been going to lately.

                                                                        2. For me, lamb tastes like lamb, not mutton. I grew up on it as my Mom's family we're sheep headers. If you like the gamey flavor, try the recipe for marinated lamb in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is supposed to make it taste like venison. While I don't necessarily agree with the intended result, it does increase the gamey flavor.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mike0989

                                                                            Julia's recipe for marinated lamb in Mastering the Art of French Cooking specifies "a large well-aged leg of lamb or young mutton". then says it should be marinated for several days in her cooked wine marinate, which she says will result in the finished dish tasting very similar to venison. My point is that she does call for "well-aged" lamb or young mutton to begin with. Which only leaves me wondering what she means by "well-aged"? Does she mean at the upper age just before it is old enough to be called "mutton," or does she mean "well aged", as in having hung in a curing room for three or more weeks the way beef is dry aged? I do know the lamb in Greece and Turkey tastes "lamby" the day it is slaughtered and dressed, but maybe dry aging American lamb would bring the flavor up.

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              I would assume Childs was referring to "well aged" meaning that it had been properly hung - 7 - 10 days. I'd regard it as a key step for sheep products, wherever raised. It is my main comaplint against supermarkets that, in the attempt to maximise profits, they sell meat insufficiently hung so it doesnt lose as much moisture.

                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                I used to think that too, Harters. And by the way, my childhood love for lamb came from my mother's parents (I lived in an "extended family", so we were all in the same big house), who were English. Originally from the far north, as in Sunderland, which made them damned near Scots! I was ALWAYS my grandmother's "wee canny bairn!" A favorite family meal was roast leg of lamb with mint sauce. Back then, you could even buy a bottle of mint sauce off a grocer's shelf!

                                                                                Anyway, yes, I USED to think American lamb was so flavorless because of the rush to market, but I've revised my thinking on that issue. I live in a section of Dallas with a large enough Moslem population that we have a mosque, and very near the mosque is a butcher shop where I buy my lamb. It is HALAL lamb! "Halal" (for those who may not already know) basically means the animal MUST be killed humanely by a hojah (priest) who slits its throat, and the name of God must be invoked the moment the lamb is slain, AND the lamb must be hanging upside down so that all of the blood possible is drained from its body. The tradition of Halal also means, at least in fundamentalist Moslem practice, that the entire lamb must be eaten on the day it is killed and anything left at sun down should be buried. I don't think modern Islamic traditions still insist on the bury at sundown part, but as far as I know, the rest pretty much holds true to gain the "Halal" certification for lamb.

                                                                                So... thinking all of this through, I think there is a leap of joy in American industrial lamb raising to treat their lamb as if it was Halal. NO AGING...!!! When I lived in southern Turkey, Halal was practiced fully and fundamentally in the butcher shops and I can tell you that true lamb is not very tough, even when not aged for ten days or so. And the Halal lamb I get from the Halal butcher shop up near the mosque DOES taste more like lamb than the supermarket/butcher shop lamb from USA, NZ and Oz...

                                                                                But I do have another theory:: In both Turkey and Greece, the tials of lambs are NOT docked at birth, but the lamb is allowed it keep it's HUGE PENDULOUS tail all of its life. American raised agribusiness lambs all have their tails docked at birth, when a special tool slips a VERY tight rubber ring over the tail, which cuts off circulation and the tail drops off. It's much the same process used in the birth of human babies for "docking" their belly buttons. I suspect this is responsible for American agribusiness lamb being so mild. However, I have no idea whether the lambs of NZ and Oz keep their tails throughout their lives or not. I've been asking people who I expected would know this question for at least a half century, but so far no one has been able to answer in a way I felt was definitive. If I could, I'd take two lambs at birth, have one's tail docked, the other's not, then eat them when they were old enough. It's the only way I know of to find out for certain! '-)

                                                                                As a further aside, for me "Irish stew" made with beef instead of lamb is a travesty!

                                                                          2. I do love lamb, but have pretty much given up on it because all I can get in markets is either American raised or from New Zealand or Australia, and I find ALL of it about as tasty as true milk fed veal. I had great lamb AND mutton as a kid in California, butt as an adult, I have had to move to Turkey and Greece to get good lamb again. A local cab driver who is an immigrant from Syria told me that the only way he can get flavorful lamb is by buying a whole lamb from a farmer friend and having it slaughtered and dressed. My freezer isn't THAT big...!!!!

                                                                            1. Nope. love lamb but I hate it when it's overly gamey tasting.

                                                                              1. It would be really interesting if fast-food places added lamb burgers to their menu. I made lamb burgers for my daughter when she was in her teens, and she loved them.

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                  Another HUGE lamb burger fan here! Here's my favorite recipe for them. (I've also made this with ground goat meat, which is equally as delicious.)

                                                                                  BACARDI1 GREEK LAMB BURGERS

                                                                                  1 pound ground lamb
                                                                                  Approx. ¼-1/2 cup chopped red onion
                                                                                  Approx. 12 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
                                                                                  Approx. ½-3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese (plus extra for topping if desired)
                                                                                  Approx. ½-1 tablespoon dried oregano
                                                                                  Approx. 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
                                                                                  Approx. 10-20 “grinds” of coarse black pepper
                                                                                  Approx. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
                                                                                  Creamy Feta salad dressing (optional)
                                                                                  Baby Arugula for topping (optional)
                                                                                  Toasted crusty rolls (optional)

                                                                                  Using your hands, combine all ingredients (except for Creamy Feta salad dressing & Arugula) thoroughly. Form into 2 large or 4 small patties, making the centers a little thinner than the edges to help prevent the sometimes inevitable “burger bulge” that can occur during cooking.

                                                                                  Broil, grill, or pan-fry to desired doneness. Serve on toasted crusty rolls topped with Creamy Feta salad dressing & baby Arugula, or – especially if making the larger patties – serve plated minus the rolls with a nice mixed green salad on the side.

                                                                                  Notes: No salt is needed in or on these burgers, as that’s pretty well taken care of by both the Feta cheese & the Kalamata olives. There are several commercial brands of Creamy Feta salad dressing available (Trader Joes has/had a good one), both shelf-bottled & jar-refrigerated, & the ones I’ve tried so far have been quite tasty & versatile.

                                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                    One of the burger chains in the UK offers two lamb burgers. One with cucumber raita, salsa, hummus and salad. The other with mint relish, mayo and salad.

                                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                      Bacardi1 -- Thank You for this great recipe. I like how you keep a strong Greek influence. Actually, with all the good stuff you have in it, I would leave the dressing out.

                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                        I agree, but some people (& sometimes I myself) like some sort of creamy burger topping, & apart from just plain yogurt, ketchup wouldn't cut it here - lol!!

                                                                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                          One modification I would suggest. Since feta doesn't melt well and some people (like me) really find hot feta a little to sour, instead of more crumbled feta to sprinkle on top, how about a slice of Kasseri?

                                                                                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                            Kasseri is a favorite cheese of mine (in fact I have a 2-pound wheel of it in my fridge at the moment). That would definitely work. Although I still would use crumbled feta in the meat mixture. It doesn't have to melt - just be little interior surprises. :)

                                                                                            1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                              I said as a sub for the topping feta; I'd also leave the internal feta intact. Actually I'd probably personally use Kefalotyri, not Kasseri, but that would be a personal choice; most people would probably find that too strong.
                                                                                              What I DON'T like in a lamburger is massive quantites of cumin, which, unforntately seems to be a selling point of the recipied at a lot of the places around me that do do one (I'm thinking mostly of BGR, but it seems a key concept at a lot of the other ones as well.)
                                                                                              I'm thinking a little Mythrizia inside might be interesting as well (though the giant lump of it that's been sitting in my downstairs fridge may be warpling my judgement. Maybe ill try it later this week.