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Can You Eat Sheep? (Mutton vs Lamb Meat)

Yes, you can eat sheep. There are two main types of sheep meat: mutton and lamb.

Mutton comes from adult sheep that are aged 12 months or older. Lamb is the meat of young sheep (lambs) aged between 4 and 12 months.

Depending on your preferences, you can eat either sheep meat or lamb meat. Both types of meat are eaten everywhere around the world, but they are especially popular in some cuisines, such as Mongolia, Turkmenistan, North Africa, and other countries around the world.

Can You Eat Sheep

What is Mutton and What is Lamb Meat?

There’s a difference between mutton and lamb meat:

  • Mutton is the meat of an adult sheep. This meat comes from sheep aged 12 months or older, and it is a bit tougher than lamb meat. It’s sometimes preferred in some cuisines.
  • Lamb is the meat of sheep aged between 4 and 12 months. For many people, lamb is the better choice because the meat is more tender and sweeter than mutton meat.

Mutton is the meat of the adult sheep. Compared to lamb meat, it is more flavorful and has more nutrients than lamb meat, which is why some people prefer it more.

This type of meat is good for roasting and especially in events when you need more meat and you need more quantity.

On the other hand, lamb meat can be a bit more expensive.

It is a bit softer and more tender when compared to mutton. It doesn’t have as many nutrients, though, and it doesn’t have a flavor that’s similar to mutton. However, some people describe it to be somewhat sweeter than mutton meat.

Lamb meat is more commonly seen in specialties and special recipes where more delicate meat is needed, while mutton is more often preferred for roasting and barbeque where quantity is needed.

Which is Better: Mutton or Lamb?

There are some significant differences between mutton and lamb meat, even though the meat technically comes from the same animal.

The lamb meat is more tender and of higher quality, while mutton has more flavor to it. Lamb is also significantly more expensive than mutton.

Whether mutton or lamb is better will depend on individual preferences, but also on the specific cuisine or recipe that is used to make these meats. For many people, lamb is better because it is more tender. It’s easier to make as such and the prices for lamb meat can be quite high.

Lamb is often seen in barbecue recipes but also in many specialty cuisines, especially in more expensive restaurants all around the world. It’s eaten in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and other continents as well.

Mutton is not as common as lamb, although it is a bit more affordable and it’s preferred in higher quantities. Compared to lamb meat, it is a bit tougher, but some people say it has a bit stronger flavor to it. You’ll often find mutton in some recipes in various countries and continents.

The bottom line is that the difference between lamb and mutton comes down to the age of the sheep when it is slain for meat. Lamb is meat from lambs – sheep that are 12 months old or younger, while mutton is the meat of adult sheep. Lamb is more expensive because it is more tender and a bit harder to come by.

Which Countries Produce the most Lamb?

New Zealand and Wales have reputations for producing a lot of lamb and mutton. And per capita, they do produce a lot of sheep meat.

However, while they’re toward the top of the list, they don’t produce the most sheep meat overall. That title goes to China who, due to their enormous population, have to produce a lot of meat to feed their people.

Below is a chart of which countries produce the most meat:

RankCountyMetric Tons (2019)
3.New Zealand462,575


Which Countries Eat the most Lamb?

China once again tops the charts for most lamb and mutton consumption overall.

But when we look at it on a per capita basis, Mongolia and Turkmenistan come out on top! Australia and New Zealand, two countries that farm a lot of lamb, also come out high on the list due to the availability of lamb from local farms.

4.New Zealand


Is Sheep Safe to Eat?

Sheep meat that you buy on the shelves in a store is generally safe to eat so long as it is stored and cooked appropriately.

Lamb does have a bit more cholesterol when compared to other meats such as beef, but not significantly much more. An ounce of ground lamb meat has 27 milligrams of cholesterol while an ounce of broiled beef has 26 milligrams of cholesterol, for comparison.

Po people with cholesterol problems sometimes have to reduce their sheep meat intake.

On the other hand, lamb and sheep meat are full of other helpful nutrients. It’s a good source of not only protein, but also of vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients. It contains quite a lot of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients that can keep you healthy.

Just like with any other type of meat, eating too much sheep meat and lamb can be detrimental to your health. But in moderation, lamb and mutton can be great sources of protein as well as other nutrients.

Is It Cruel to Eat Lamb?

This question is ambiguous and potentially controversial. Some people believe that eating lamb is unethical. Others don’t find this to be a problem.

Modern meat production plants are often criticized for their practices of how they treat animals. They’re often under scrutiny when it comes to how they slaughter animals and how they produce meat, which can be quite a cruel process indeed.

There’s also the question of pollution and the use of medication for meat production.

In the end, it’s going to depend on your principles and what you believe is right for you. While meat production might not be completely ethical, it’s also true that meat consumption can provide health benefits to humans. It’s certainly a question for the future.


Sheep meat, also called mutton, is often a part of many diets. Lamb is also very popular, although a bit more expensive and rare. While sheep (both mutton and lamb) is commonly eaten around the world, some people do not believe it’s ethical to eat sheep because it involves the slaughter of animals.

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