There are more than 75,000 lamb producers with approximately eight-million sheep in the United States.
Most sheep in the US are raised in Texas, California, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Montana.
90% of the lamb at Tony’s is raised and processed in Colorado. Occasionally we’ll also source from Wyoming and Utah.
Our Rocky Mountain lambs are grain fed and spend an average of 45 days on feed before processing. Grain feeding produces a lamb product that is tender, delicious and mild-flavored. In contrast to American labs, foreign lambs are typically grass-fed, which tends to produce a more earthy-flavored product.
Approximately 3.75 million lambs are processed each year in the US for consumption.
USDA Labeling for lamb is as follows:
Up to 8 months old, labeled as “Lamb”
At around 1 year of age, labeled as “Yearlings”
More than 1 year old labeled as “Mutton”
Tony’s only sells USDA Prime and USDA Choice lamb – The top two tiers!
Lamb quality grades take into consideration maturity (lamb, yearling, and mutton), conformation, and the palatability-indicating characteristics, such as fat streaking within the flank and firmness of the lean. 80% of the American lamb supply is USDA Prime or USDA Choice. The protein, vitamin, and mineral content of lamb are similar in all grades.
Common Lamb Terms
Crown Roast – made by curving around two rib halves, 8 ribs each (racks), and tying them to resemble a crown.
Frenching – remove 1 – 1 1/2 inches of meat from the bone ends of a rib roast or rib chops.
French Searing Method – preheat oven to 450° F and roast for 15-20 minutes to brown, then reduce heat to 325° F and continue roasting to desired degree of internal doneness. The searing method, when properly used, produces an excellent roast, but it does result in more shrinkage, oven splattering, and sometimes smoke and excessive cooking odors.
Genuine Lamb/Spring Lamb – meat labeled “genuine” lamb or simply “lamb” comes from an animal less than 1 year old. This is specified by the US Department of Agriculture. Spring lamb identifies lamb processed between the first Monday in March through the first Monday in October. Years ago, lamb production peaked in spring and at other times, consumers may have been limited to frozen lamb. Now, spread over 12 months, the “spring lamb” identity has lost its importance.
Grade & Yield – US Department of Agriculture name that indicates quality yield of meat. Maturity, color, firmness, and texture of the lean are evaluated in terms of their relationship to the ultimate flavor and tenderness of the meat. Confirmation is the germ used to evaluate the carcass’ general shape, form and outline. USDA lamb grads are Prime, Choice, and Good. Almost all lamb grads Choice or Prime.
Internal Temperature – Lamb can be served medium-rare (140° F) or medium (150° F). For roasts, remove lamb from the oven or grill 5° F under the suggested temperature. Cover roast and allow to stand 15-20 minutes before slicing. Temperature will automatically rise to the recommended temperature. Ground lamb should be cooked to 160° F.
Mutton – meat from an animal that is more than two years of age. Practically no true mutton is available in US Meat counters.
Saddle – Large cut of lamb that includes the loin section. The foresaddle is the front of the lamb up to the 12th rib. The hindsaddle is the rear half of the lamb from the 13th rib back.