Energetics of Lamb: More Than Meats The Eye

 

Lamb is considered one of the most flavorful meats.  Lamb is currently the most abundant livestock in the world and it is one of the most popular sources of meat.  Unfortunately, the US has not quite fully appreciated this wonderful food source.  The US only eats about a pound of lamb per person in a year, while other countries like Spain or Greece eat about 60 pounds of lamb per person in a year! It is about time to start introducing your friends and family to this delicious source of meat.

Varieties

Sheep are thought to have been domesticated in the Middle East and Asia around 10,000 years ago. Lamb is the meat from a young sheep that are usually between five and six months old but can be up to a year old. Lamb is categorized by age, season, and feeding habits.

Yearling: Meat that is from an animal between one and two years of age.

Spring Lamb: Lamb that is brought to market in the spring and summer months.  Spring and summer used to be the peak season for lambs, but now it is available all year round.  The label of Spring Lamb does not denote additional quality anymore.

Milk-fed Lamb: Meat from very young lambs and is found mostly in the spring.  It is the most tender, free of hormones and antibiotics but also very expensive.

Grass-fed Lamb: Lamb that has been fed grass for three to six months after they have4 been taken off milk. Lamb that is grass-fed until a year old and never fed any grain will not contain any hormones or antibiotics. Grass-fed lamb is most popular in New Zealand and Australia, and getting it from these countries is the best chance to get hormone-free lamb.

Grain-fed Lamb: Most US lamb is fed grain before it is sold. Grain-fed lamb is usually labeled “Select”, “Choice” or “Prime”.

Organic: Organically raised lamb has been fed an organically grown diet and raised without hormones or antibiotics.**

Mutton: Meat from an animal more than two years old.  Mutton has red meat and yellowish fat; it is less tender than lamb and has a stronger flavor than lamb. It is difficult to find mutton in the US.

** Range-fed lamb does not mean that the animal was only grass-fed or organic.  The best lamb is milk-fed, grass-fed and/or certified organic.

How to Choose and Store

The best-tasting lamb comes from animals that are five months to one year old. Look for meat that is firm, finely textured, and pink in color. The fatty portion should be white. Avoid lamb with yellow fat surrounding or marbled throughout the meat, as this is a sign that it is actually mutton from an older animal and therefore does not have the same delicate taste that lamb should have.

Lamb is highly perishable and must be stored correctly to keep from spoiling. Lamb should always be kept cold, either in the fridge or the freezer. Refrigerate lamb in its original packaging and always follow the use by date for freshness. If there is no use by date, use these tips: lamb roasts and chops can stay fresh for 3-5 days and ground lamb will only stay fresh for up to 2 days in the fridge.  To extend the lambs freshness, put it in a storage bag, place it in a bowl, and cover it with ice to further reduce the temperature.

Nutrition

Lamb is an excellent source of protein. Protein helps in the production of: structural proteins that maintain the integrity of muscles, connective tissues, hair, skin, and nails; enzymes and hormones; necessary to spark chemical reactions in the body; transport proteins, which carry substances like oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues; and antibodies.   Lamb is also a great source of zinc, a mineral which plays a critical role in supporting immune function (along with protein).  Zinc protects against free-radical damage, required or proper white blood cell function, promotes the destruction of foreign particles and microorganisms, activates the serum thymic factor, and inhibits the replication of several viruses.  Lamb is a good source of selenium, a mineral that has powerful antioxidant properties. Lamb is also a concentrated source of energy-producing niacin and phosphorus, and sleep-promoting tryptophan.

Lamb is considered to be hypoallergenic, in that most people do not have adverse food sensitivity reactions to lamb as they may have to beef or chicken. As such, lamb is usually included in elimination diets and other hypoallergenic diets.

Energetics

Lamb is warming and sweet.  It increases qi energy, intestinal warmth, lactation, and improves blood production. Used in the treatment of general weakness, kidney and spleen-pancreas deficiencies, anemia, impotence, low body weight, and lower back pain.

Caution: Lamb is contraindicated in heat conditions and hyperlipidemia (high blood fat).

Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Herbs

Ingredients:

For Lamb

  • 2 (8-rib) frenched racks of lamb (each rack 1 1/2 lb), trimmed of all but a thin layer of fat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

For Herb Coating

  • 1/2 head new garlic or 3 large regular garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer

Preparation:

Brown lamb:

  1. Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until hot, at least 2 minutes. Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and rub meat all over with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, then brown racks, in 2 batches if necessary, on all sides (not ends), about 10 minutes per batch.
  2. Transfer racks to a small (13- by 9-inch) roasting pan.

Coat and roast lamb:

    1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Stir together garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and oil. Coat meaty parts of lamb with herb mixture, pressing to help adhere. Roast 15 minutes, then cover lamb loosely with foil and roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 120°F, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. (Internal temperature will rise to 125 to 130°F for medium-rare while lamb stands.)
    3. Cut each rack into 4 double chops.

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