written by Malisha Sutherlin
Are you ready to learn everything you never knew you wanted to know about American Lamb? Answers to questions like why it tastes so much better than imported lamb, what health benefits lamb provides and how this age old industry supported the many mining and industrial booms of young America.
Lamb is produced in nearly every state in the country by more than 80,000 family owned and operated sheep operations. In January 2016 there were 5.32 million head of sheep in the U.S. Colorado comes in as the third largest lamb producing state, only being out done by Texas and California. Sheep producers in the U.S. tend to produce dual purpose sheep, which are valued for meat and wool, while some also for milk.
“Lamb” is used to define sheep meat from an animal that is less than one year old, while “mutton” is used to define meat from sheep one year old and older. Lamb has a much milder flavor than mutton. In 2010, the United States produced approximately 163 million pounds of lamb and mutton.
When it comes to lamb, there is none better than American!
What sets American lamb apart is the that the American sheep genetics are geared toward producing high-quality meat products, and that treating or feeding lambs with artificial hormones for growth promotion is not practiced in the United States.
American lamb sets the standard for portion size, mild flavor and product freshness. American sheep are reared on high-quality, natural-forage diets. Some lambs are marketed directly from the range or pasture while others are grain-finished for a short period of time before being processed. Natural or organic lamb is also available to meet the demands of today’s consumers.
There are only a few days from the time American lamb is processed until the product is available in grocery stores and restaurants. Therefore, the meat is always very fresh. Consumers prefer American lamb to imported lamb; they ranked it superior in terms of quality, taste and healthfulness.
In the past, almost all lamb produced in the United States was sold in supermarkets and restaurants. In recent years, the nontraditional market has grown substantially as well as lamb sales at farmers markets. Lamb consumption in the United States is concentrated on the East and West Coasts and in larger metropolitan areas.
American lamb is available in a wide variety of cuts. All major lamb processors now have a full line of case-ready products available for their retail and restaurant customers that are packaged with freshness in mind. If you don’t see your favorite cut of lamb at your store or restaurant, please ask. And, be sure it is labeled “Fresh American Lamb.”
Grass fed lamb is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, just as other grass-fed meats are such as grass fed beef, pastured pork and free range chicken and eggs. Much of the fat found in grass fed lamb meat is actually monounsaturated, which has been shown in many studies to reduce heart disease. Americans on average only consume less than 1 pound each per year of lamb meat. But don't these health facts mentioned above give warrant to a greater consumption of this incredible meat source?
If you are ready to contact a producer directly to purchase grass fed lamb for your family, please look in our Colorado Meat Directory. There you will find producers of both grass fed lamb as well as other grass fed and locally raised meats! If you are not ready to purchase lamb directly from the producer please make the effort to visit with your local butcher shop, meat market or even your deli department at your grocery store about purchasing fresh American lamb for your family!