Lamb is often considered a staple food in countries like China, India, and Nigeria.
In the United States, lamb meat is not consumed regularly due to its higher costs when compared to beef or pork.
There are very few lamb meat producers in the United States, most of which are located in Colorado and other Midwestern states.
Most of the lamb meat you will find at your local grocery store or butcher comes from ewes, which are female sheep.
But, is it possible to eat ram lamb, and does it taste different than ewe meat?
Ram lamb is perfectly fine to eat, although it has a firmer texture and darker color than lamb meat from a ewe. The taste of ram lamb tends to be gamier when compared to the meat of a ewe lamb. Many people prefer the more robust flavor and firmer texture of ram meat.
The flavor of lamb will also vary according to how it is seasoned and cooked.
Meat quality also depends on the cut of lamb, as the loins are the most tender and juicy.
Keep reading to learn more about ram lamb meat and the taste difference between mutton and lamb.
At What Age Are Ram Lambs Slaughtered?
Sheep are considered lambs from the ages of 2-15 months old.
However, most ram lambs are slaughtered when younger than 5-6 months.
Ram lambs are slaughtered so young because of their sexual maturity and flavor.
After around 30 weeks of age, the sexual hormones in uncastrated ram lambs begin to produce an unpleasant flavor.
Aside from the difference in flavor, older ram lambs also tend to have tougher meat.
To minimize the increased unpleasant flavor and toughness, ram lambs are usually castrated when they are 12 weeks old.
Pros and Cons of Raising Intact Rams for Meat
An intact male sheep is called a ram, and a castrated male sheep is known as a wether.
Deciding to castrate a male sheep or to leave him entire will affect the flavor aspects of meat quality.
There are several pros and cons of raising intact rams for their meat.
Entire ram lambs grow faster and are slaughtered sooner than castrated lambs.
This faster growth rate produces heavier rams with leaner meat, but it does not always translate to higher carcass weight.
The carcass weight is how much the lamb weighs after it has been slaughtered and dressed before going to a butcher.
An intact ram lamb weighing more than a castrated lamb is likely to have a similar carcass weight.
Some religions also require intact ram lambs, which are in high demand in certain parts of the world.
When rams are left intact, they must be separated from the females in the herd.
This separation increases the costs of managing the rams, but it also causes the meat produced to be more tender.
There is also a market for people who enjoy the more robust flavor intact ram lambs usually have.
It costs a bit more for the farmer to raise an intact ram lamb because it must be kept separate from the female sheep in the herd.
Intact ram lambs must be monitored closely because they are more aggressive and may cause injury to each other.
Keeping the intact males away from the females is also important because studies have shown the rams will chase after the ewes and lose weight.
Leaving rams intact increases their growth rate but makes them less attractive to buyers.
Intact rams are more difficult to skin than wethers, which means they are more time-consuming to slaughter.
There is also the risk of sexual hormones releasing a compound in ram meat, which gives it an unpleasant taste.
If hormonal fluctuations have tainted an intact ram lamb’s meat, it will sell at a discount, which is not good for the farmer’s profit margin.
Any money the farmer saved from an early slaughter may be lost when it is time to sell the lamb to the slaughterhouse.
Is Ram Meat Healthy to Eat?
Ram lamb is part of the red meat family and is rich in nutrients, making it a beneficial food choice when consumed in moderation.
Regular lamb consumption may be suitable for bodybuilders as it promotes muscle growth and improves overall performance.
Overall, lamb offers more health benefits than most other red or white meat.
Lamb is Rich in Essential Nutrients
A ram lamb includes high-quality protein and many essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, zinc, calcium, and iron.
There are 23 grams of protein in 3 ounces of lean, cooked lamb, which is almost half of the recommended amount of daily protein.
Lamb meat also contains essential amino acids the body needs to maintain healthy growth.
The amino acid beta-alanine is used by the body to produce carnosine in muscles and helps them function properly.
Eating foods rich in beta-alanine is especially beneficial for athletes.
Lamb is an excellent source of iron, so it is a good choice for people with iron deficiency anemia.
Anemia is a serious condition because it causes a low level of red blood cells, decreasing the amount of oxygen in the blood.
People who eat foods with animal proteins rich in iron have a lower risk of suffering from anemia than those who eat vegetarian or vegan diets.
Zinc helps boost immunity, and calcium is essential for healthy teeth and bones.
Ram lamb is also a rich source of selenium, a beneficial antioxidant.
There are high vitamin B12 in lamb meat, which supports blood formation and brain function.
Lamb Contains Healthy Fats
The meat from ram lamb contains saturated fats and healthier mono and polyunsaturated fats.
Healthy fats help lower blood cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Lamb meat is also high in a ruminant trans fat known as conjugated linoleic acid, which has beneficial health effects when eaten in moderation.
Lamb fat has slightly more saturated fats than other types of meat, like beef and pork.
However, since there is very little marbling in lamb, the fat is typically around the meat’s edges and easily trimmed away.
As several studies have shown, eating lean lamb has not been proven to increase your risk of heart disease.
Is There a Taste Difference Between Mutton and Lamb?
Mutton is the term for adult ram meat, and it has a discernible difference in taste compared to lamb.
Lamb has a mild, grassy flavor, while mutton has a more robust, gamey taste.
In the United States, lambs are fed grains, which gives the meat a milder flavor than the grass-fed lamb imported from Australia and New Zealand.
The meat from lamb is also more tender than from a grown sheep because it contains less muscle than mutton.
Both types of meat need to be prepared differently for the best results.
Since mutton has a tougher texture, it is typically cooked slowly to make it more tender.
Mutton works exceptionally well in a slow-cooked barbeque or a stew.
Lamb is more versatile because it is very moist and tender due to the lack of muscle development.
You may cook lamb meat by roasting, grilling, or braising.
In the United States, lamb is more popular than mutton because it is more tender and may be cooked in several ways.
Mutton is the more popular type of meat in Europe and the Middle East.