Lamb versus Hogget Meat: What’s the Difference?
Lambs and hoggets are both young sheep.
Much of the ‘lamb’ found on supermarket and butcher’s shelves is in fact hogget meat, with customers being none the wiser! (source)
When thinking about their meat, there are three main differences between lambs and hoggets.
1. Age difference:
- Lambs are sheep up to around 12 – 14 months of age. They have ‘baby’ teeth which they lose when they become a hogget.
- Hoggets are from approximately 13 months – 2 years of age. They are commonly known in farming circles as ‘2-tooth’ because they’ve grown 2 new, adult teeth (on their bottom jaw) after losing their baby teeth.
2. Weight and size difference:
- Generally our whole lamb packs weigh between 14 – 17kg. The roasts, chops and shanks from our lambs are mostly ‘petite’ sizes, because our animals are solely pasture-fed and slow-grown.
- Whole hogget packs weigh 16 – 20kg. The roasts, chops and shanks from our hoggets tend to be the size most consumers are familiar with – with a 1/2 leg roast easily feeding a family of 6, and each shank sizeable enough to satisfy 1 adult with a good appetite.
- It’s important to remember that each animal is unique – some have more muscling, and others grow wool faster – and grow at different rates.
3. Flavour, texture and colour difference:
- Lamb meat is tender, subtle, and almost sweet in flavour. The meat has a soft ‘buttery’ tenderness, and is a soft red colour.
- There is slightly more resistance to the meat of hogget, although equally as tender as lamb. The flavour of hogget meat is slightly deeper and a little more pronounced. The colour is just a little darker than lamb.
- Hogget is actually the meat of choice for the majority of our customers.
Keeping birth records
Each year, we have one drop of lambs – usually born over the space of a 3 – 4 month period.
At tailing, all lambs are tagged with a year-specific coloured sheep tag. This means, at a glance in the yards or paddock, we know the year the sheep were born in, but not the specific month.
Those animals that are born earlier in the lambing season are obviously older than those born at the end, and so it’s possible to have both hoggets and lambs in the same mob, but all born in the same year – sometimes only a month or so apart.
How do farmers tell the difference between a lamb and a hogget?
Sometimes classifying between a lamb and hogget is a simple matter of the overall size of an animal.
But to be accurate, it’s necessary for us to handle each individual animal and ‘mouth’ them (literally counting their teeth!).
This process obviously takes makes for a long day and a sore back! And that’s why most of the time, we’ll supply either lamb or hogget – to avoid this added step of ‘mouthing’ each animal 😊
For those who haven’t yet tried hogget:
Consider this delightful definition of hogget from Tom Parker Bowles, Let’s Eat Meat:
“Hogget is simply lamb with wanderlust and a decent education. It’s killed when it’s between twelve and eighteen months old, so it knows a thing or two about flavour. It doesn’t overwhelm like old mutton, yet still bleats with ovine delight.”
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.