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Choosing Lamb and Mutton: Grades of Lamb

Lamb is produced from animals less than a year old. Mutton is meat from older sheep, There are five grades for lamb.


  • Prime grade is very high in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Its marbling enhances both flavor and juiciness.
  • Choice grade has slightly less marbling than prime, but still is of very high quality.
    Most cuts of prime and choice grade lamb (chops, roasts, shoulder cuts, and leg) are tender and can be cooked by broiling, roasting, or grilling. The less tender cuts; breast, riblets, neck, and shank, can be braised or used in stews to make them more tender.
  • The lower grades of lamb and mutton are good, utility, and cull.
    These are usually not marked with a grade. 

So which grade should I buy?

Normally only the highest two grades, prime and choice, are found in grocery stores. Since the quality of lamb varies according to the age of the animal, you really only want to buy lamb that has been USDA graded (meaning Prime or Choice)

More information 

Click here if you would like to see a 22 minute long educational video about the beef grading process . The video covers the entire process from farm to table and dwells on the grading process..