Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Lamb is the meat of the young domestic sheep, Ovis aries. The age at which a lamb ceases to be ‘lamb’ and becomes a young sheep, technically yielding mutton, is not entirely clear. Biologically, this happens when the animal grows its first pair of permanent teeth. In culinary practice, two types of lamb are recognized.

First, there is the sucking lamb, fed only on its mother’s milk. Formerly this was popular in England, and, known as house lamb, was bred especially for the Christmas market. It is now unusual to see very young lamb for sale in Britain, but it is still a delicacy in other countries. In France it is known as agneau de lait, or agneau de Pauillac (Pauillac is a town near Bordeaux); the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese also hold such meat in high esteem, and young lambs are eaten in the Middle East. The flesh of a sucking lamb is very pale and tender, but lacks flavour.