Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lamb: Just the facts

A few facts about our favorite meat, courtesy the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Lamb Board:

*Lamb is the oldest domesticated meat, having been raised for about 9,000 years.

*All lamb is young lamb. By definition, lamb comes from an animal less than a year old. Anything older than that and is mutton.

*A lamb ready for slaughter weighs about 120 pounds and yields 60 to 70 pounds for retail, including fat and bone.

*Lambs are fed grain and grass. Federal rules allow the use of growth hormones and antibiotics, but both must be stopped for a period before slaughter and lambs are randomly tested for residue.

*No additives are allowed in any lamb labeled fresh.

*Lamb patties should be heated to 160 degrees F. internal temperature. Chops or roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees F. for medium rare.

*For safety, cooked lamb should be eaten within two hours or refrigerated below 40 degrees.

*Marinade should be boiled before being brushed on cooked lamb. Uncooked marinade should be discarded.

The American Lamb Board, which has an obvious interest in promoting the domestic product, says American lamb tastes better not only because it travels up to 10,000 fewer miles before reaching our tables but because sheep here are raised primarily as food while sheep in Australia and New Zealand are raised primarily for wool.

It's healthy, too: A three-ounce serving has about 175 calories and meets the federal definition of lean meat in terms of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Impressed? Most Americans apparently aren't: Lamb consumption in the U.S. averages less than a pound per year. And although beef consumption has declined in recent years, each of us still eats more than 60 pounds of cow annually.

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