If you’re looking for something a little exotic for dinner, perhaps something to add some authenticity to your curry for example, you may be considering adding lamb or goat to your menu.
Increasingly popular in recent years, partially due to adventurous home chefs becoming more willing to broaden their barnyard horizons compared to previous generations, lamb and goat meat can really help up your culinary game.
Cooked properly, they can add rich, savory and complex flavor profiles to most meat dishes.
That said, lamb and goat meat are quite different from one another. Different textures and fat composition affect how they should be cooked, which in turn can make the difference between supper success and barnyard disaster.
To help out, we’ll discuss some of the important differences between goat and lamb meat, how you can use them, how they should be cooked, why they’re not as popular in the US and where you can buy some for your next dinner.
What is the difference between a lamb and a goat?
To begin with Lambs are completely different species than goats, although they are both categorized as small ruminants.
To be very technical a lamb is really a sheep in its first year, so really the question should be the difference between a sheep and a goat.
Goats tend to live in smaller herds than sheep, who feel more secure in flocks. They are typically more active, exploring and moving around to interact with their surroundings.
Sheep, on the other hand, tend to be more calm and mellow, preferring to stay in their pasture.
In physical terms, sheep and goats are roughly the same size.
Sheep tend to produce more meat on their loins and back, making them look a little heavier, while goats tend to be a little slimmer with a more compact and robust body.
Their food gathering behavior is also quite different.
Sheep tend to graze, like cows, wandering slowly and take their time to eat short plants they find on the ground in their pasture, largely grass and clover.
Goats, however, tend to be browsers, eating things they find at eye level, even if they have to stand on their hind legs to do it. They are quite curious and…adventurous…with their food selection, which gives them a naturally more varied diet. They’ll eat leaves, branches, flowers, vines and even your clothes if you stand too close.
While this isn’t really meant to be a biology or animal husbandry lesson, these differences do tend to have an effect on their meat, which is something we care about far more than zoology.
Ok, so what is the difference between lamb and goat meat?
Both lamb and goat are classified as red meat.
Nutritionally speaking, goat meat tends to be leaner than lamb and is healthier for you overall. It’s higher in protein, has fewer calories and is lower in saturated fats and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
In fact, lamb can be up to 10 times fattier than goat, has twice the calories and contains more saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats than goat meat.
It’s not all bad news for lamb chop lovers, however.
Lamb can be a better source of vitamins, containing more vitamin B1, B3, B5, B6 and B12, as well as vitamin D and K.
Comparatively speaking, goat meat tends to have more Vitamin B2, E and more iron, potassium and copper, zinc and phosphorus.
Lamb Vs Goat: Cooking
|When buying lamb meat look for:|
Color: light pink to light red
Marbling: moderate marbling
Lamb is supposed to come from sheep under a year old. Like veal, this means that the meat tends to be a lot more tender than goat meat, making it nice and easy to chew and more expensive per pound.
With more fat content, lamb tends to do better if cooked at higher temperatures, withstanding the heat without becoming too dry.
As its fat melts, it can give the lamb a rich, creamy flavor that can lean to the gamey side, which some people find off putting but is easily managed with some careful fat trimming.
Lamb can also give off an unusual smell due to its higher fat content, which people sometimes really don’t like. This can be managed with seasonings like Tumeric and by trimming the fat obviously.
But you should know that if you live in an apartment complex there is a very good chance you’ll annoy your neighbors, so you better make extra and hope they’re not vegan.
If the lamb meat is well marbled, it should do well with many different cooking methods, especially as the fat melts and infuses the meat with additional flavor. A well marbled cut of lamb should do well with:
- Pan frying
- Even on a barbeque
If you do use a lean cut of lamb (like leg or rump), however, you probably want to go as low and slow as possible, and should stick to methods like:
- Slow roasting
- Sous vide
- Slow cooking
|When buying goat meat look for:|
Color: light pink to bright red
Marbling: light marbling
Compared to lamb, goat is a leaner, healthier and potentially tougher meat.
In general, it tends to be more mild in flavor and less aromatic when cooking.
As a leaner meat, goat has a tendency to become tough and dry if heated too quickly and for too long. To prevent that, you really want to go low and slow here, letting the collagen break down and keep the moisture in as much as possible.
Typically, you’ll want to use cooking methods that will give the meat plenty of moisture, such as:
- Slow cooking
- Slow steaming
That said, if you are a grill enthusiast and you want to wow your neighbors at your next cookout, you absolutely can but you’ll probably have to brine it or marinade it beforehand or you’ll risk over drying it and you’ll quickly find out why people use the phrase “tough old goat.”
Popularity: Why can’t I always find these in my local supermarket?
Lamb and goat are actually quite popular across the world.
From South America to India to China to Australia and New Zealand, you’ll find both in quite a few tasty dishes.
|Some countries where lamb is very popular||Some countries where goat is very popular|
|New Zealand |
|Some fun Lamb Dishes||Some fun goat dishes|
Leg of lamb
Aloo gosht (India)
Doner kebab (Turkey)
Scotch pie (Scotland)
Shepherd’s pie (United Kingdom)
|Mutton Biryani (India)|
Jerked Goat (Jamaica)
Sate Kambing (Indonesia)
Massaman curry (Thailand)
Goat Vindaloo (India)
Chivo guisado (Dominican Republic)
In the US, however, goat and lamb aren’t as popular as cow, pork and chicken in terms of meat options (although between the two, lamb is far more popular).
Known more for producing wool and mohair, or sitting in a barn, rather than for being a main ingredient in a dish, Americans consume only about 1.1 lb of lamb per capita per year and even less goat meat, at around 0.25 lb per capita per year.
Why are they not as popular in the US
While goat cheese and milk is somewhat popular, especially among the health conscious, most Americans have been raised on beef, pork and chicken.
Typically, goats are seen as a barnyard animal or a strange, gamey meat rather than something to throw in the pot.
Less demand means less wholesale selling, which means less incentive for farmers to sell it, which in turn means it’s not on the menu at your local restaurant or in your supermarket.
Compared to beef and pork, pound for pound goats are also more expensive for farmers to raise, especially if they’re also selling goats milk and have to use replacement formula to raise the baby goats (kids).
Add to the fact there is a lack of federal subsidies for goat compared to beef, chicken and pork and you more or less have an answer.
While lamb and mutton used to be more popular in the US, as with goat today most American’s weren’t raised eating it on a regular basis.
Lamb and sheep don’t produce a lot of meat per animal compared to cattle or pork, yet still cost quite a bit to raise, which is a disincentive for farmers looking to increase the profitability of their farm.
As such, lamb and sheep are not usually raised by factory farms, meaning it’s not processed as efficiently or in as much quantity, which increases its price further compared to other red meats.
Consequently, the overall price deters the budget conscious eaters who can generally get more meat for their money with beef, chicken or pork.
Interestingly, lambs also tend to have a number of symbolic associations that don’t lend themselves to being on a dinner plate, such as innocence, gentleness and purity, and in general some people just plain dislike the idea of eating a young(ish) sheep.
So where can I buy lamb and goat Meat in the US?
If you’re willing to expand your options for meat meals to include lamb or goat and are finding it hard to find quality options near you, here are a few places you should check out that can help.
An artisanal online meat delivery service with a French twist, if you’re looking for more premium, farm-to-table lamb options, D’artagnan usually has a good selection of cuts and can deliver your order as quickly as overnight.
They do have a minimum order of $50, but you can also fill up on some French delicacies and pantry products, like truffle butter or dried mushrooms.
|Shepherd’s Song Farm|
If you’re looking for high-quality goat meat, Shepherd’s Song can send you 100% grass fed goat in pretty much every and any cut you need – straight from their farm in Wisconsin.
|Farm Foods Market|
If you like knowing where your meat comes from and are looking for an affordable and ethical place to get your lamb, Farm Foods Market is definitely worth a look.
They offer grass-fed, pastured lamb at reasonable prices and tend to have quite a few cuts on option.
Grande Natural Meats , aka ElkUSA, specializes in natural, game meats from across the USA – from Whitetail and Elk, to Buffalo and Venison to, of course, goat meat.
Their Goat selection is quite extensive, you can buy every possible cut (subject to availability obviously), an in some truly impressive quantities (even a whole kid).
They also have a sampler gift pack if you want to try up to 13 lbs of different cuts.
Specializing in all-natural, domestic farm-raised exotic meats, Fossil Farms offers Katahdin Lamb straight from Kentucky.
Whether you’re making Harissa burgers, chops or an entire rack of lamb ribs, Fossil Farms can get it to you at a competitive price. While you’re there you also peruse their other exotic meat offerings and maybe buy some venison, squab or even yak.
Bill Ross – A pitmaster and smoker enthusiast, Bill served up delicious brisket and ribs for almost 15 years around the great state of Florida before becoming our go-to expert for all things BBQed, smoked and/or marbled. When he’s not checking the bark on his brisket, he can usually be found fishing or reading.