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How to Buy LAMB
By Sandra Brookover,
Consumer Meat Specialist; Livestock Division,
Consumer and Marketing Service.
Versatility never had it so good!
Today's lamb means zesty flavors and ser
possibilities that challenge the imagination. Sh
kabobs impaled over the barbecue, sizzling la
chops, roasted leg of lamb, bubbling lamb stew
lamb is today's word for good eating!
Because lamb is from animals usually less
than one year old, it is a tender and delicately
flavored meat. This tenderness rates lamb a high
degree of kitchen workabilityy" (most cuts may
be cooked by the dry-heat method and are best
when served hot).
Nutrition, too, has its role in lamb's popularity.
One serving of lamb will provide the average
adult with significant quantities of vitamin B-l,
vitamin B-2, iron and niacin.
The large variety of lamb cuts available today
opens up a world of tempting and attractive serv-
ing suggestions. It is the purpose of "How to Buy
Lamb" to guide you in selecting these cuts ac-
cording to quality grade and your serving needs.
Then proper preparation, which is also discussed,
will be your personal tribute to lamb's natural
delicacy and flavorful tenderness.
ABOUT LAMB QUALITY
Today's lamb is a quality product for the
ity-conscious. It does vary to some extent ini
generally high quality level, but you don't have
learn to judge that quality for yourself. USDA
grades are a reliable guide to lamb quality-its
tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. The grades are
based on nationally uniform Federal standards of
quality and are applied by USDA graders. There-
fore, you can be sure that USDA Choice lamb
chops, for example, will provide the same good
eating no matter where or when you buy them.
In addition to lamb, USDA also has grades for
yearling mutton (meat from animals one to two
years old) and mutton (over two years). Graded
yearling mutton and mutton are seldom found,
however, in retail stores.
ABOUT LAMB YIELD
USDA also grades lamb for yield. The yield
grades measure the ratio of lean meat to fat and
bone. They are based on a rating system of five-
dYield Grade 1 representing the highest yield
an meat, and Yield Grade 5 the lowest.
variations in the yield result primarily from
e differences in fatness on the outside of the
carcass and in fat deposited on the inside of the
carcass. If you buy a carcass or wholesale cuts
of lamb for your freezer, you should be aware that
there are considerable differences in the meat
yield between carcasses in the same quality
Grade, and take this into consideration in arriv-
ing at the carcass price you should pay. The pic-
tures below, of two lamb rib chops, illustrate an
extreme variation in the proportion of lean which
results from differences in the amount of fat cov-
ering. Based on retail prices of lamb in early
1971, there was a value difference between car-
casses of adjacent yield grades of nearly 4 cents
HOW LAMB CHOICE
Meat grading is a voluntary service provided
by USDA's Consumer and Marketing Service to
meat packers and others who request it and pay
for it. Approximately two-thirds of all lamb pro-
duced is graded for quality. The grading is done
by highly trained USDA graders.
Only whole carcasses or wholesale cut
graded for quality since quality differences
difficult or next-to-impossible to recognize in
tail cuts. When the carcass is graded, a purp
shield-shaped grademark containing the letters
USDA and the grade name-such as Prime or
Choice-is applied with a roller-stamp. The grade
shield is rolled in a ribbon-like imprint along the
length of the carcass and across both shoulders.
Then when the carcass is divided into retail cuts,
one or more of the grademarks should appear on
most of these cuts.
Only lamb which has first passed a strict in-
spection for wholesomeness may be graded for
quality. So you may be sure when you see the
grademark that the meat also came from a
healthy animal and was processed in a sanitary
INSPECTION FOR 9
All meat must be inspected for wholes
ness, by either State or Federal inspectors.
processed in plants selling their products ac
State lines must be federally inspected to see
that it is clean, wholesome, unadulterated, and
truthfully labeled. However, meat processed in
plants which sell their products only within the
same State may be State inspected in any State
having an inspection system equal to the Federal.
Otherwise, such meat must be federally in-
spected. Federal inspection is another service
provided by USDA's Consumer and Marketing
Meat which passes the USDA inspection for
wholesomeness is stamped with a round mark
which bears the legend "U.S. INSP'D. & P'S'D."
This mark is placed only once on wholesale cuts,
so that you are likely to see it only on large cuts
of meat. Packaged meat foods, however, such as
frozen dinners and canned meats, that are sold
in interstate commerce, carry the USDA inspec-
i mark on the label.
earn to recognize both the inspection mark-
pcircle-and the grademark-a shield. Remem-
per they mean different things. The inspection
mark tells you that the meat is clean and whole-
some. The grademark tells you the quality of the
Each USDA lamb grade
is a measure of a distinct
level of quality. Five
grades span the range of
quality Prime, Choice,
Good, Utility, and Cull.
The two lower grades are
seldom, if ever, sold as
SDA Prime is the
hest quality grade, but
e grade most widely sold
at retail is USDA Choice.
Choice lamb is produced
in the greatest volume and
retailers have found that
this quality pleases most
of their customers.
Pictured below are lamb rib chops in the two
top grades, together with a description of the
quality that can be expected in each of these
Prime grade lamb is very tender, juicy, and
flavorful. It has generous marbling-flecks of fat
within the lean-which enhances both flavor and
juiciness. Prime chops and roasts are excellent
for dry-heat cooking-broiling and roasting.
Prime grade lamb is not carried widely at the
Choice grade lamb has slightly less marbling
than Prime, but still is of very high quality. Like
Prime, Choice chops and roasts are very tender,
juicy and flavorful and are suited to dry-heat
LOOK FOR THE CUT
Regardless of their quality grade, some cuts of
lamb are naturally more tender than others. Cuts
from the less-used muscles along the back of the
animal-the rib and loin sections-will always
be more tender than those from the active mus-
cles such as the shoulder, flank, and leg.
The most tender cuts make up only a small
proportion of the lamb carcass-and they are in
greatest demand. Therefore, they command a
slightly higher price than other cuts.
Shop or steak, the loin chop, loin roast, rib
op, and rib roast. You will find that most cuts
Bf USDA Prime and Choice lamb-including
shoulder cuts-are tender and can be oven
roasted, broiled, or pan-broiled. A leg of lamb
graded Choice or Prime, for example, is a deli-
cate delight when oven roasted.
The less tender cuts-the breast, riblets, neck,
and shanks-can be braised slowly to make ex-
cellent (and tender!) lamb dishes.
The best way to identify lamb cuts is with the
standard terminology shown on the following
pages. These terms are generally recognized
throughout the meat industry.
Illustrated on the following pages are the most
widely sold and widely known retail cuts of lamb,
along with descriptions of the cuts and suggested
Sirloin Half of Leg
Shank Half of Leg
Leg, Sirloin on
Leg Chop (Steak)
Leg, Sirloin off
Sirloin Roast Sirloin Chop
Lamb for Stew*
*LAMB FOR STEW. GRINDING OR
CUBING MAY COME FROM ANY
RETAIL LAMB CUTS
RIB CHOPS Cut from the rib (rack), these tender
chops (on the left in photo) are delicious broiled,
pan-broiled, or panfried. For best results, have
rib chops cut at least 1 inch in thickness. Ap-
proximate cooking time for 1 inch-12 minutes;
1V2 inches-18 minutes; and 2 inches-22 min-
LOIN CHOPS One of the most popular of lamb
cuts, loin chops (on the right in photo), can be
easily identified by the T-bone. These chops are
delicious when broiled, pan-broiled or panfried.
Cooking time is the same as for rib chops.
SIRLOIN STEAKS or CHOPS Cut from the sir-
loin section of the lamb leg, these chops can
also be broiled, pan-broiled, or panfried. Follow
cooking suggestions given for rib and loin chops.
LEG OF LAMB
Since the leg of lamb is often too big to fully
use, sirloin chops can be cut from the sirloin sec-
tion of the roast, and the remaining portion pre-
pared as an oven roast.
The French-style leg has a small amount of
meat trimmed from the end of the shank, and the
exposed bone can be decorated after roasting.
The American-style leg differs from the French-
style in that the shank bone has been removed
and the shank meat folded back into a pocket on
the inside and fastened with skewers.
The sirloin half/leg of lamb (butt half) is the
upper half of the leg-usually with the sirloin on.
This cut makes a delicious oven roast.
The shank or lower half of the leg (see identifi-
cation chart) is often merchandised separately.
It is sometimes sold at a slightly higher price
than the butt half because it yields more meat.
Whenever the shank and butt are sold at the same
price, the shank half of the leg is the better value.
For any leg roast weighing 5-8 pounds, allow
approximately 35 minutes per pound in a 3250 F.
oven. The meat thermometer reading will be 175-
180 when the roast is done.
RIB ROAST This cut is the section used for
making rib chops. In wholesale terms, the rib
roast cut is called the "rack."
You can fashion the rack into a "French roast"
by removing about 1V2 inches of meat from the
ends of the ribs. Then after roasting, cover rib
ends with paper frills for a decorative touch.
The elegant "crown roast" is made with at least
two rib roasts (racks), with the back bone re-
moved, shaped into a crown and secured with
twine. Ends of the ribs are trimmed so that they
can be decorated like the French roast.
Any of these roasts, which are all fashioned
from the same basic cut, are perfect for oven
roasting. A rib or crown roast weighing 4-6 pounds
(put in a 3250 F. oven) will require approximately
minutes per pound cooking time. Your meat
rmometer will read 175 to 1800 when the
oast is done.
LEG STEAK Leg steaks are lean meaty slices
cut from the center area of the leg, and are easily
identified by the round leg bone. This cut is suit-
able for broiling, pan-broiling, or panfrying.
SHANKS Economical and best prepared by sim-
mering in liquid or braising, lamb shanks are also
nutritious! Shank sections are delicious, too, in
lamb stew. If prepared by braising, shanks will
require approximately 11/2 to 2 hours total cook-
SHOULDER ROAST (Square-Cut and Boned ar
Rolled) The square-cut shoulder roast (on right i
photo), identified easily by the arm and blade
bones, is considered an economical cut of lamb.
The boned shoulder roast (on the left) is con-
venient to serve, and is commonly sold at retail
as illustrated here-boned, rolled and tied. A
boneless shoulder can also be fashioned into a
cushion shoulder roast for stuffing.
Both shoulder roasts are suitable for oven
roasting (preferably at a low temperature of 3250
F., at 35-45 minutes per pound) OR suitable for
braising (slowly browned and cooked with a small
amount of liquid added). Cook to an internal tem-
perature of 175-180, as indicated by your meat
BLADE or ARM SHOULDER CHOPS These cuts
(from the shoulder roast) are fine for broiling,
pan-broiling or panfrying. Preferably, for best re-
sults in cooking, they should be at least 1 inch
thick. To broil a 1-inch chop requires a total cook-
ing time of approximately 12 minutes.
BREAST The breast contains the rib bones and
breast bone and is considered an economical buy.
Often this cut is boned and rolled or boned for
stuffing. A nice variation is to include fruit or
vegetables in the stuffing. A less tender cut, the
breast should be prepared by braising or simmer-
ing in liquid. When braising at a moderate oven
temperature of 3250 F., a boned and rolled breast
roast requires 11/2 to 2 hours total cooking time.
RIBLETS These economy lamb cuts are made
from the breast by cutting between the rib bones.
They are best prepared by braising (requiring an
approximate total cooking time of 11/2 to 2 hours)
or simmering in liquid. They are also delicious
when cooked over charcoal on the outdoor grill.
*SHISH KEBABS Shish kebabs are cubes of
boneless lamb usually cut from the shoulder or
leg and skewered. They may be found pre-
threaded on wooden skewers in some retail stores
or the lamb cubes may be sold in bulk. A favorite
way to prepare lamb shish kebabs is to marinate
the cubes for a period of several hours, then put
them on long skewers to charcoal broil or oven
*GROUND LAMB Boneless lamb from the neck,
breast, shanks and flank is generally used in
ing ground lamb. However, any part can be b
and ground. The ground lamb is best prepared
patties for broiling, pan-broiling, or panfrying
OR-as a lamb loaf for oven roasting.
* Not illustrated.
A FEW VARIATIONS
Although the above terms are quite standard,
the names given lamb cuts do vary among stores
and restaurants in different parts of the country.
It would be impossible to list all of the variations
here, but some terms are known in the trade.
These include: the English chop, a double loin
lamb chop; lamb cutlets, meat from the lamb leg
cut similar to round steak in beef; crown roast of
lamb, the "sovereign" of the lamb kingdom, a
formal-looking cut from the rack or rib area; rack
of lamb, usually a restaurant menu item for two,
from the rib; and Saratoga chops, boneless lamb
chops from the inside shoulder muscles.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08582 9785
UBDA CONSUMER AND MARKETING SERVICE
HOME AND GARDEN BULLETIN NO. 195
GC PO 1971 0 437-951
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402 Price 15 cents
Stock Number 0100-1457
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