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Ground Lamb Delivery or Pickup

The Instacart guide to ground lamb

About ground lamb

Lamb refers to sheep that are a year old or less. A spring lamb is less than 6 months old. The little-known term hogget refers to a sheep that is 1-2 years old, but the term isn't used in America. Mutton refers to sheep older than three years. Mutton was popular in the United States up until the early 1900s. Since World War II, mutton consumption has dwindled. Now, sheep consumption almost exclusively belongs to lamb, despite it costing the most of the three. This is because lamb is the most tender and has a milder gamey flavor than older sheep.

Ground lamb comes primarily from the neck and shank—trimmings from other primal and sub-primal cuts that butchers can't sell are also used to make ground lamb. As in hamburgers, lamb meat is processed in a grinder that chops it finely. The lamb is then packaged and put out for sale. Ground lamb costs more than ground beef. While lamb may be less gamey than mutton, it has a more pungent taste than ground beef.

It isn't uncommon to see lamb labeled with other names, particularly those named for their diet. Common types include:
  • Milk-fed lamb: Milk-fed lamb describes any lamb raised on milk. The meat has a flavor and texture finer than older lamb and is prized in the north of Spain and Greece. Milk-fed lamb is tough to find in the United Kingdom and the United States. 
  • Young lamb: A young lamb describes a milk-fed lamb between six and eight weeks old. Again, it is not found in the United States.
  • Spring lamb: This is a milk-fed lamb between three and five months old. Spring lamb can be found more readily in the U.S. and even has USDA classification.
  • Sucker lamb: This is an Australian term used to describe lambs up to seven months old that are still dependent on milk.
  • Yearling lamb: This is another term for hogget.
  • Grass-fed lamb: Most lamb consumed in the United States falls under this category. The lamb grazes on grass up to one year old. 
  • Grain-fed lamb: Not as common as grass-fed, but can be found in the U.S.

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FAQs About Ground Lamb

While ground lamb contains a higher fat content than ground beef, grass-fed lamb is much better for you than grain-fed lamb or beef from grain-fed cattle. Most ground lamb contains some fat. You'll find the level of fat noted on the label, much like ground beef. You can find up to 98% lean ground lamb down to 70% lean. Fat content isn't all bad. Fat, when it renders into the meat through the cooking process, imparts flavor. The more fat, the more flavor you'll end up with in your dish.

The reason ground lamb has such a unique odor comes from the grass it eats. The grass contains phytol, a natural, organic compound found in the fat of the lamb. Lamb also has more unsaturated fat than beef. Therefore, it has a more pungent odor.

The answer depends on two other questions. First, which dish are you preparing? Second, which spices do you like? Spices that naturally and traditionally pair well with lamb include marjoram, mint, cardamom, cinnamon, mace, rosemary, paprika, oregano, sage, and thyme. Ultimately, how you season your ground lamb comes down to the flavors you enjoy.
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