HEMEL-EN-AARDE, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 22: A rack of lamb with chakalaka and crispy lamb fat is paired with Creation winery's Syrah and Grenache blended red wine during the Healthy Heritage meal experience in the estate's tasting room restaurant on November 22, 2021 on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge in the Walker Bay wine region in South Africa's Western Cape. With coasts bordering the Indian and Atlantic oceans, the Western Cape is known for its vineyards and wine production and is a popular tourist destination. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)
What You Need To Know About Where Your Lamb Comes From
By Heidi Chaya
Lamb is a tender red meat that’s exceptionally high in protein, healthy fats, and essential amino acids, with impressive amounts of vitamin B12, minerals, and antioxidants (via Healthline). The lamb you buy generally comes from lambs under a year old, but as countries and operations raise their lambs differently, the qualities of the meat are ultimately affected.
According to Cook’s Illustrated, domestic American lamb is typically grain-finished, meaning the animal was grown to maturity and fed feedlot grain during the final stages of its life, while grass-finished lamb is strictly pastured (per USDA). American lamb is bigger and mellower, even sweeter, in flavor due to the way the grain increases fat in the meat.
Imported lamb from Australia or New Zealand is grass-fed and grass-finished and is known to have a more robust, “gamey” flavor commonly associated with this protein. New York Magazine reports that New Zealand lamb cuts will be light-colored, smaller, and more intensely flavored than larger, sweeter Australian lamb.