We’ve all heard the expression “mutton dressed as lamb” – and probably can apply it to people! But in the true sense of mutton, hogget, and lamb – do you know the difference?
The strict definitions for lamb, hogget and mutton vary considerably between countries. Generally speaking:
- Lamb – a young sheep under 12 months of age which does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear. A newborn lamb has no teeth, but milk teeth appear in the lower jaw within a week or so.
- Hogget- a young sheep or maiden ewe having no more than two permanent incisors in wear. The central incisors replace the front milk teeth (hence the expression ‘2 tooth’ interchangeable with the term ‘hogget’). Still common in farming usage, it is now rare as a domestic or retail term for the meat. Much of the “lamb” sold in the supermarkets is actually “hogget”.
- Mutton- a female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear or a sheep over two year old. In sheep-speak, the next 2 teeth appear between 12-19 month, and the sheep becomes a ‘4 tooth’, then a ‘6 tooth’ around 23-26 months, and an ‘8 tooth’ or ‘full mouth’ from 28-48 months onwards.
To confuse things in the ‘how old is lamb before it is hogget’ department, states in Australia vary in lamb definition. In QLD, certified lamb must not have cut its first two permanent teeth. Nutrition and hydration play a big part in how late the lamb cuts teeth, with well-nourished, well-hydrated lambs breaking gum earlier.
The younger the lamb is, the smaller the lamb will be, however, the meat will typically be more tender. Sheep mutton (not to be confused with goat meat, which is known as mutton throughout eastern countries) has a less tender flesh. In general, the darker the colour, the older the animal. Mutton can be tougher than lamb, but makes up for this by the deeper flavour, perfectly suited for longer, low and slow cooking and casseroles, curries and stews. Mutton has a rich and delicious mature taste and when cooked properly is just as tender as lamb. The price is not reflective of quality. Mutton isn’t just ‘old meat’. It’s deep and rich and tasty – and very economical.
In Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, the term of mutton refers to goat meat. In Indonesian, lamb applies to domba muda and goat refers to kambing.
Quick Guide: How to tell if you are buying genuine lamb
True lamb will always be stamped with red ‘lamb paint’. These ‘lamb stamps’ serve several purposes. Apart from certifying the carcass is certified as lamb, they tell us the name of the abattoir where the lamb was processed, and their destination (our destination is the number included in the stamp). In the image below, The stamp tells us that these bodies are lamb (over mutton or hogget), the abattoir BVM (where we get much of our produce slaughtered); and the destination (us, here at Hand Sourced).
It is illegal for any abattoir in Australia to stamp mutton or hogget as lamb. To do so incurs substantial fines.
All our lamb is guaranteed ‘true lamb grown by Justin and Rita Porker on their organic family farm’. Our mutton is grown in NSW. And, because we buy through only two producers, there’s no chance of us – or you – being fleeced.