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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 24, 2008

Smart Fuel: Lamb

By Worker Bee
55 Comments

According to the old school nursery rhyme, Mary had a little lamb, but chances are, after reading the post, you’ll want one too (although, admittedly, you’ll probably not be using your lamb for the soul purpose of causing a brouhaha on the playground)!

Although lamb has many redeeming qualities (which we’ll touch on below), if you only had one reason to rationalize serving this oft-overlooked meat at your next meal, let it be this: It isn’t chicken, beef or fish. Think we’re kidding? Consider this: If you do a Google search for chicken recipes, you’ll receive approximately 2,430,000 search options. A search for beef or fish? 1,130,000 and 824,000 hits, respectively. A search for lamb? 394,000 (although admittedly, there is an entire website called lambrecipes.com!)

Lovin’ Lamb:

But why choose lamb? Nutritionally speaking, lamb is an excellent source of a nutritionally complete protein, meaning that it contains all 8 essential amino acids, as well as vitamins and minerals. Specifically, lamb is an excellent source of several B vitamins, niacin, zinc, and as with all red meats, is an excellent source of iron. In addition, lamb is one of the richest sources of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound manufactured naturally in the stomachs of cows and sheep (but not humans) that is thought to spur antioxidant activity and may also have anti-cancer properties. Still leaning towards regular old beef? Consider this: When compared to other meats, lamb contains very little fat in the grain of the meat, with what fat there is generally located on the outside edges of the meat where it can easily be trimmed away without compromising flavor or tenderness. We’re not anti-fat, but at least here you have a choice to match your own preferences.

In terms of taste, lamb is relatively mild and is generally used as a vehicle for spices, marinades or simply as an accompaniment to more strongly flavored dishes. As the lamb matures and becomes mutton (a sheep aged 1 year or older) it has a stronger taste and may also have a more grainy texture. If you’re looking for something more flavorful but don’t want to go for mutton, try Yearling mutton, which is the meat from a sheep that is between 1 and 2 years of age and has a flavor somewhere in between that of lamb and mutton.

Now let’s talk prices: Given that veal (young beef) is more expensive than regular old beef, it would make sense that lamb is pretty expensive too, right? Well, no. In actuality, lamb and beef, for the most part, are pretty evenly matched in terms of price.

Store Bought:

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably considering giving lamb a try. Good for you…now let’s hit the store! When purchasing lamb, look for pink meat with white fat. If the meat is a brighter shade of red or has yellow fat, it’s indicative of a cut from an older lamb (and is therefore tougher in texture). In terms of cuts, you can opt for lamb shoulder, an economical cut that, depending on location, lends itself well to roasting; lamb ribs (rack), which are excellent for grilling or broiling; lamb loin, which is the most expensive but by far the most tender; and lamb leg, the most popular, which you can do just about anything with! You may also purchase several sub-primal cuts, including the neck, foreshank, breast/brisket, and flank, which are great for use in casseroles and stews.

Similar to other meat, poultry and fish, you can find organically, grass-fed lamb in many supermarkets. And, similar to most other meat, you will pay a bit more per pound for this option. However, as many chefs will tell you, the finer taste and texture (as well as the knowledge that your little lamb had a nice life!) is well worth it.

What’s Cookin’:

When cooking lamb, the key to keeping the meat tender and flavorful is to never overcook it. Regardless of the cut that you are cooking, lamb should always be pink on the inside when served, a fact that should be particularly observed when cooking more tender cuts such as the loin. In fact, a good rule of thumb when cooking any cut of lamb is to always treat it like a very expensive cut of beef.

In general, lamb lends itself well to dishes with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian seasonings, although to be honest, lamb can serve as a welcome substitute to just about any chicken dish! Making a salad? Try topping it off with thin strips of marinated lamb (extra credit if you can rustle up some feta and a good balsamic vinegar to really take it to the next level!) Holding a BBQ? Consider throwing a marinated, butterflied lamb loin on the barbeque. It really is that easy, and you’ll be amazed at just how good this little lamb can taste!

will hybrid, Amigurumi Kingdom, Alexandra Moss, Chewy Chua Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

More Smart Fuel

How to Eat Enough Protein

The Migraineur: Turkish Lamb

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55 Comments on "Smart Fuel: Lamb"

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simon fellows
simon fellows
8 years 5 months ago
Sir Hola i don’t read yr site everyday and sometimes not even weekly but when i do one thing always hits me about its prose and generalized content..lightness and ease of manner. It never reads as ‘the big iam’. In short its cadence is deeply aggreable..like watching a butterfly or listening to Stephan Grappelli at Monterey Jazz 95. If a Geordie from Newcastle and surround and adopting appropriate accenty ‘Blurdey greeat,man’ Now i’m a Darwinian(despite 2.5 yrs in monasteries..i like quiet and reading !) but the Chesterton aphorism ‘Angels fly cos they take themselves lightly’ seems very apt when applied… Read more »
Huckleberry
8 years 5 months ago
Nice post. I love lamb. I’ve been cooking with it more often, and recently bought some delicious ground lamb from Sea Breeze Farm just outside of Seattle. It made a great stew. However, when I was down in the Los Angeles area visiting family, I was amazed how hard it was to find grass-fed lamb, and I wasn’t at all able to find local grass-fed lamb. The stuff my parents ended up buying for Passover was from New Zealand. You’d think springtime in such an agricultural state would yield local grass-fed lamb, but it seems the combination of land prices… Read more »
Crystal
Crystal
8 years 5 months ago

Every once in awhile I crave lamb with rosemary and lots of sea salt. Unfortunately, myself and my dog are the only members of my flock that like it.

Costco carries australian lamb. They were giving out samples once and grass-fed was one of their selling points. I actually haven’t seen lamb in a regular grocery store.

primalman
primalman
8 years 5 months ago

Love the lamb. Approximately 1x/month my wife and I have lamb (either grilled or baked) with an anti-pasta spread that we make. Wash that down with a nice red wine and you are set for a meal that you will enjoy and make you feel better tomorrow.

As a side note, 2 years ago I had a Greek friend make me lamb that he slow cooked in clay pots. One of the best meals ever. He had me yelling “opa, opa” and smashing plates.

Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 5 months ago
Martin’s (an upscale chain owned by Giant’s in the Eastern US) carries both Australian and US-raised lamb. The Aussie stuff is labeled “grass-fed,” but that does not guarantee it is grass-finished. At our local Virginia farmers’ market is a vendor who sells her own meats, including lamb. Her lamb is pastured but also gets supplementary grain feed because, according to her, customers think somewhat fatty lamb tastes better. I’m not a big fan of lamb. Its taste doesn’t justify the high price. Beef and chicken (except very lean breast) can stand on their own, but as the OP notes, lamb… Read more »
Kenny
Kenny
5 years 3 months ago

Legumes do all that and more 😉

Lamb in the PNW is a good value. I bought a locally raised, grass fed rib roast the other day for $10.99 a pound.

I cannot buy a grass fed beef rib roast for that.

Alida
Alida
8 years 5 months ago

I always thought mutton was goat.

Is goat healthy? i skimmed google and saw even less recipes on goat.

Matt
Matt
3 years 4 months ago

Mutton is older lamb or goat, usually more flavoursome but can also be tougher. Its harder to come by (at least in Aus, where lamb is king). Goat btw is a bit leaner and gamier, so the risk of toughness is higher, but is otherwise similar to lamb IMO.

Mark Sisson
8 years 5 months ago

Simon,

Thanks for the kudos. As for disappearing up me arse, I try not to…but be forewarned that I may soon have to respond to a plethora of emails asking me about my own program and diet – with pictures. More recently, reader Barry called me out on my carb position, in which case a picture is worth a thousand words. I think I know where you’re coming from on that (AD), so I’ll be sensitive.

I see your insightful commenting and questioning all throughout the blogosphere. Keep up the good work.

Pink
Pink
8 years 4 months ago

Lamb has long been my favorite meat. I find beef and chicken less flavorful by comparison. Furthermore, I have much less trouble finding grass-fed lamb than grass-fed beef and the price difference is usually less than that for beef.

Goat may or may not be as healthy, but it does have a similar taste to lamb.

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[…] well. Salmon, chicken (with the skin on!) and a nice rib eye are regulars, but I’ll often do lamb, pork or some other fish as well. If it isn’t Brussels sprouts it’s broccoli, squash, […]

Eric
Eric
6 years 9 months ago

Lamb actually has flavour (unlike beef), and it’s never tough. It also has plenty of delicious, accessible fat, which makes it my meat of choice (most beef I am able to buy is likely to be too lean for my purposes. And I seem to react badly to pork fat.)

Breeze
Breeze
6 years 6 months ago

Just found your website and I love it.
I was raised on lamb and the best way to cook it is a slow roast and then top it off with homemade mint sauce.

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[…] goat meat has a flavor and texture that is incredibly delicious. It’s a bit like a cross between lamb and beef: less gamey than lamb can be, a little oilier than beef. If you don’t see it being sold […]

James Eaton
James Eaton
5 years 7 months ago
Good article. As far as “red meat” goes, I’ll take lamb anyday over beef. I am a culinary arts instructor and was perusing the web for info about health advantages of lamb over beef and stumbled upon your article. Another site said they are basically the same, but depended on the preparation style. And you are right, lamb has a bit less internal or marbled fat than beef, but I offer another reason why lamb is healthier. Since we Americans are “sheep”, we are afraid to eat it, generally speaking. We eat what is offered to us. How many fast… Read more »
Claire Malibu Graham
1 year 4 months ago
Yes, Jim, That’s how our lambs are living at Hoku Nui Maui, on 260 glorious acres, and I am so excited to read this article on lambs, and have already been sharing it exuberantly with my friend/co-worker, Bena! We are so happy to have lambs. At first, when asked to wrap the freshly-butchered 160 lbs. of fresh lamb, from 4 ram lambs who were over a year old, I was shy to embark as I love meat, but thought babies were not really a great thing for me to eat. And then, Matty, our chef took all that meat and… Read more »
Claire Malibu Graham
1 year 4 months ago

I forgot to mention this was our very first time ever eating our own lamb, since we began designing this project 2.5 years ago, so it was a BIG DEAL!

James Eaton
James Eaton
5 years 7 months ago

By the way, the best lamb I’ve had was prepared by my wife’s grandfather, a former butcher. My wife is Italian, BTW, the whole family is full of foodies, it’s awesome! Every Easter he buys a spring lamb, purges it for a couple of days before the slaughter, and fabricates every morsel of it. I haven’t been privy to it, but I understand the young lamb’s liver is out of this world! He essentially roasts it with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary, pure simple and very delicious!

Jonathan
Jonathan
5 years 6 months ago

Don’t forget to save the fat that comes from a lamb roast… think vegetables oven-roasted in lamb fat while the roast is resting. Years ago I did it with potatoes (which were arguably the best I have ever made), but I am sure other more primal-friendly vegetation would substitue nicely : )

Kieran
Kieran
5 years 5 months ago

I must say, coming from New Zealand it is hard to get away from lamb.

My absolute favourite food is a leg of roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, served with roast vegetables (onions, garlic cloves, pumpkin, carrot, parnsip, kumara (that’s sweet potato to you) and so on…) and gravy. Nothing better in the world, and goes great with red wine or a dark beer!

Matt
Matt
3 years 4 months ago

Roast it with onion, garlic, lavender, celery, carrot and white wine for a twist on the traditional red wine and rosemary.

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[…] tasty, sure, but I wouldn’t put oysters, mussels, and clams over a grass-fed lamb shoulder roast, and I doubt the flavor of those New Guinean fisherman livers reflected the […]

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[…] it?They’re tasty, sure, but I wouldn’t put oysters, mussels, and clams over a grass-fed lamb shoulder roast, and I doubt the flavor of those New Guinean fisherman livers reflected the […]

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[…] most people think about firing up the grill or stoking a campfire to cook an outdoor meal, lamb isn’t the first meat that comes to mind. Isn’t lamb the type of meat that should be served on a […]

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[…] most people think about firing up the grill or stoking a campfire to cook an outdoor meal, lamb isn’t the first meat that comes to mind. Isn’t lamb the type of meat that should be served on a […]

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[…] there anything better than a nice fatty cut of lamb? The aroma, the taste, the superior nutritional profile, the juiciness, the high cost…True, some cuts of lamb can be pricy, but I prepare lamb about once […]

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4 years 10 months ago

[…] kale thrown into the casserole (optional, but really tasty) and although the meat can be ground lamb, it doesn’t have to be. The result is a version of Moussaka that actually tastes a little like […]

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4 years 10 months ago

[…] kale thrown into the casserole (optional, but really tasty) and although the meat can be ground lamb, it doesn’t have to be. The result is a version of Moussaka that actually tastes a little like […]

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[…] Lammkotlett […]

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[…] to sit down and savor it anyway. The main ingredient is meat and you can pick from chicken, beef, lamb, or if you’re feeling adventurous, even goat. A blend of highly flavorful (but not in a spicy […]

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4 years 10 months ago

[…] to sit down and savor it anyway. The main ingredient is meat and you can pick from chicken, beef, lamb, or if you’re feeling adventurous, even goat. A blend of highly flavorful (but not in a spicy […]

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[…] animals: beef, lamb, bison, pork, poultry (and their eggs). Favor grass-fed and pastured animals, which have […]

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[…] about the Primal Lifestyle by visiting the Primal Blueprint 101 page. Thanks for visiting!Leg of lamb is a cut of meat especially suited for holiday celebrations. Lamb is comforting and festive, rich […]

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[…] of lamb is a cut of meat especially suited for holiday celebrations. Lamb is comforting and festive, rich […]

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[…] And for those who enjoy the classic rosemary/thyme/garlic rub on your lamb, keep an eye out for lamb borne to thyme-fed pregnant ewes, which exhibits greater oxidative stability, lower bacterial […]

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[…] who eat it?They’re tasty, sure, but I wouldn’t put oysters, mussels, and clams over a grass-fed lamb shoulder roast, and I doubt the flavor of those New Guinean fisherman livers reflected the […]

Anastasia
Anastasia
4 years 1 month ago

Thank you for pointing out the highlights of lamb! I’ve been trying to convinve my friends to eat it for years because it is extraordinary in both taste and health benefits. And as a side note: you’ve never had good lamb until a traditionally greek family has cooked it for you. That is to die for.

Anastasia
Anastasia
4 years 1 month ago

*convince

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[…] Lamb shoulder is marinated in garlic, ginger and a hint of cinnamon then slow-cooked until tender. Instead of salad dressing, the greens are tossed with the warm jus left in the roasting pan, topped with slices of succulent lamb and garnished with sweet-tart pomegranate seeds and fresh basil. The pomegranate and basil add bursts of flavor and color to the rich meat. […]

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[…] plenty of vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and phosphorus. If you want more science you are on the wrong website, lets get […]

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[…] Lamb rib chops are tender morsels that only need a few minutes over a flame to crisp up before they’re done. Sear the chops in a cast iron pan, or on a grill, or under a broiler. They just might be one of the easiest cuts of lamb to cook and the meat is reliably juicy and flavorful. […]

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[…] with a reader’s query about the grass-fededness (yep, that’s a word) of Australian lamb. Is it reliably pasture-raised, or are Australian producers beginning to load their lamb up […]

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[…] animals: beef, lamb, bison, pork, poultry (and their eggs). Favor organic, grass-fed and pastured animals, which have […]

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[…] over $1 billion if you include imported grass-fed  beef). Today, you can find grass-fed beef (and lamb and bison, even) in standard supermarkets, not just your  specialty upscale grocers. Farmers’ […]

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[…] love lamb. Along with all meats and whole grains, lamb contains the full B-complex of 8 vitamins that are important to building cells, metabolizing energy and replenishing the body […]

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[…] By embracing eggs, beef, wild salmon, chicken, lamb, pork, kale, chard, romaine lettuce, spinach, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, […]

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[…] are enough to improve selenium status), wild salmon, kidneys, crimini and shiitake mushrooms, lamb, turkey, shrimp, cod, halibut, and egg yolks are all good sources of […]

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[…] know the drill with lamb by now: it’s a nutritionally complete protein packed with all 8 essential amino acids and a […]

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11 months 25 days ago

[…] know the drill with lamb by now: it’s a nutritionally complete protein packed with all 8 essential amino acids and a whole […]

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9 months 8 days ago

[…] course there are health benefits that make lamb a good &#99…—all 8 essential amino acids, B vitamins, niacin, zinc, iron and […]

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[…] kale thrown into the casserole (optional, but really tasty) and although the meat can be ground lamb, it doesn’t have to be. The result is a version of Moussaka that actually tastes a little like […]

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4 months 29 days ago

[…] animals: beef, lamb, bison, pork, poultry (and their eggs). Favor organic, grass-fed and pastured animals, which have […]

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[…] ground beef, pork or even turkey in this recipe? Certainly. But don’t forget about what lamb has to offer: All eight essential amino acids, several B vitamins, niacin, zinc, iron and lots of […]

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[…] ground beef, pork or even turkey in this recipe? Certainly. But don’t forget about what lamb has to offer: All eight essential amino acids, several B vitamins, niacin, zinc, iron and lots of […]

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[…] ground beef, pork or even turkey in this recipe? Certainly. But don’t forget about what lamb has to offer: All eight essential amino acids, several B vitamins, niacin, zinc, iron and lots of […]

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