Veal vs Lamb – Unraveling the Distinction

Most of us are well-versed in the realm of beef, chicken, and pork, but there exists a whole universe of meats beyond these staples. The less common options, such as venison, veal, and lamb, often intimidate people due to their specialty status and unfamiliarity. Today, let’s delve into the world of veal and lamb and uncover the nuances that set them apart.

The Distinction Between Veal and Lamb

To truly understand the differences between veal and lamb, let’s examine each one individually. Starting with veal:


Veal is the meat sourced from calves. While beef comes from mature cattle, veal is obtained from young cows that have not yet reached adulthood. Typically, veal is derived from male calves born into dairy cow families, weighing approximately 150-350 pounds. Due to their smaller size, these calves produce less meat, making veal a specialty option.

Although Australia is widely known for its veal production, this meat can be raised and cultivated anywhere.

What Does Veal Taste Like?

Contrary to popular belief, veal possesses a unique flavor of its own. While veal cuts resemble those of beef, the meat is distinctly more tender due to the underdeveloped muscles of the calves. Veal boasts a delicate and neutral flavor, making it a favorite among many who prefer lighter-tasting meats.

How Is Veal Utilized in Cooking?

Veal finds its place in several traditional dishes from various cultures. Mediterranean, Italian, and French cuisines frequently feature veal as the star ingredient. From cutlets to roasts, veal can be prepared in numerous ways. While it pairs well with lighter-flavored dishes, veal also shines when cooked with wine sauces or used in recipes that call for cooking wine.

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Some popular veal dishes include veal parmigiana, grilled meat, meat stews, veal piccata, veal scallopini, roast veal with mushrooms, veal marsala, veal pot roast, breaded veal cutlets, veal burgers or patties, veal steaks, and veal chops. Additionally, veal bones are excellent for enhancing stocks, soups, and sauces.


Similar to veal, lamb is derived from young animals. Specifically, lamb comes from young sheep, while mutton refers to the meat from adult sheep. Generally, lambs are considered to be sheep under 12 months of age, though age specifications vary across regions. In the United States, lamb primarily comes from sheep between 12-14 months old, and aging can extend up to 20 months according to the USDA.

The weight of lambs typically falls between 12-66 pounds, but there are no strict guidelines. Popular lamb cuts include shanks, legs, and shoulders, though different countries utilize additional parts of the animal, such as the neck, flank, ribs, loin, and breast.

What Does Lamb Taste Like?

Lamb possesses its own distinctive flavor profile. It is tender and firm, making it more delicate than mutton and stronger than beef. Depending on the preparation, lamb can have a gamey taste.

How Is Lamb Utilized in Cooking?

Lamb is commonly prepared to medium doneness, especially in the case of popular dishes like lamb chops in the United States. However, different cultural contexts may call for different cooking levels. Greek cuisine tends to cook lamb well done, while French dishes may require it to be rare. The versatility of lamb allows for an array of delectable dishes.

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Examples of lamb dishes include seasoned lamb chops, roast lamb with potatoes and carrots, shredded lamb shoulder, glazed or marinated lamb chops, lamb soup or stew, lamb meatballs, sliced leg of lamb, lamb gyros, moussaka, rack of lamb with a sweet glaze, lamb burgers, braised lamb shanks, Moroccan lamb tagine, and lamb kebabs. The list of possibilities with lamb is vast, as it pairs well with savory seasonings and glazes.

Veal vs. Lamb – A Comparison

After exploring the characteristics of both veal and lamb, it’s time to compare them. While both meats come from young livestock animals and are tender and versatile, the similarities end there. Veal originates from young calves, while lamb comes from young sheep. Veal requires lighter seasoning and shares some cuts with beef, whereas lamb offers a range of cuts, including shanks, legs, and shoulders. When it comes to flavor, cooking styles, and cultural usage, veal and lamb diverge significantly.

If you haven’t ventured into the realm of lamb or veal yet, now is the perfect opportunity. These meats boast a plethora of flavors and tender textures, making them a delightful culinary adventure. Although they may come with a slightly higher price tag, the unique and delectable experiences they offer are well worth it. Pay a visit to your local grocery store, and embark on a delicious journey with these distinct meat options. Remember, understanding the differences between veal and lamb is crucial before you embark on your culinary exploration.

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