What’s The Difference Between Veal and Lamb?

We all know the standard meats, the ones you are most likely to eat a few times a week, beef, chicken, pork, etc.

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But these meats are like a doorway into even more delicious options, the less common meats, but the ones that make your mouth water even more. These include  venison, veal, and of course, lamb. 

Some people may shy away from the options, because these are more specialty meats and not everyone knows how to cook them, it’s not always as black and white as it is with cooking a beef steak, or a roast chicken.

Most people are not entirely aware of what they are either, out of these three alternative options, we are going to focus on veal and lamb, what their differences are and how they taste, as well as how they are used in the kitchen. 

Before we plunge into the question of the differences, we should note that the primary difference between Veal and Lamb is that veal is from cow calves, while lamb comes from young sheep (lambs) Veal and lamb are both much tender than beef and mutton, however lamb often have a strong and more gamy taste than veal.

While these two types of meat are often thought to be the same thing they are not, and they both have some tasty differences. Let’s get into the discussion of the differences. 

See which you would prefer for dinner tonight! 

The differences: Veal and Lamb 

Working our way through these two delicious cuts of meat, we will explain to your what veal has going for it first, as well as how to cook it, then we will explain lamb to you. 

Warning: Do not read if really, really hungry, you will get more hungry. 

Once you have explained what each of these two meats has going for it, we will explain the differences together, and you can make your decision on which you think you would prefer. 

Let’s start of with Veal, shall we?

Veal

Veal typically is a meat that comes from calves. We generally think of cow meat as beef, and while this is true, beef and veal are not the same. You see, beef comes from a mature cow that has lived its life and spent some years chewing away at the cud.

Veal on the other hand comes from a calf, a cow who has not yet reached maturity.

The most common place that veal comes from is a young male that is bred in a dairy cow family, dairy cow families are focused on milk, and of course a young male cannot produce this, so these are often used for veal instead. 

Veal is considered a specialty meat, calves that veal is sourced from will often weigh between 150-350 lbs. As they are smaller than an adult cow, they produce less meat, and this is the primary reason behind why it is not as commonly produced as beef is. 

Out of all the countries in the world, Australia is the country best known for producing veal, however, veal can be raised and produced anywhere. Australia is just ahead of the game here. 

The taste

Since veal comes from a cow, just a small one, you would expect it to taste similar to beef, right? Surely if it comes from the same animal it will taste the same. It is not silly to assume this at all. 

You will often find that cuts of veal are not all that different from a cut of beef. Similar to beef, you can get cuts of tenderloin, rump, and so on, these cuts however are similar as far as the title goes and the style of the cut. 

But, veal is known for being much more tender than beef is. The calves muscles are not developed yet, or they are underdeveloped and are therefore less tough. Veal is also known for having a more delicate and neutral flavor. 

For these reasons, plenty of people prefer veal to beef, much like many people prefer lamb to mutton, the tenderness and the exquisite flavors just cannot be turned down. Its simply superior in comparison.  

Veal’s use in cooking

Veal is meat that is commonly used in traditional dishes in many cultures. Mediterranean, French, and Italian cuisines all have very popular and favored dishes that use veal meat. Much of the veal meat that is used in these cultural cuisines is usually from cutlets. 

However, veal can be used in a plethora of different ways, similar to any other meat, you should never shy away from trying new things and whacking up a new and unconventional dish, who knows, you may invent something amazing, or discover your new favorite dish! 

Veal also does not require any excessive seasoning, it is also often paired with dishes that have a subtle but invigorating flavor to them. Veal is also great when cooked in fishes that use a cooking wine or a wine sauce.

Just imagine, a white wine sauce drizzled over a perfectly cooked cut of veal, mouth watering yet?

Let’s have a look at some of the top favorite veal dishes. 

  • Veal parmigiana.
  • Meat stew.
  • Veal Marsala. 
  • Veal pot roast. 
  • Veal steak.
  • Veal chops. 
  • Grilled meats. 
  • Veal Piccata. 
  • Veal Scallopini. 
  • Roasted Veal with mushrooms (we definitely recommend this one)
  • Breaded Veal cutlets. 
  • Veal burgers/ patties. 

These are just a few ideas, but there are so many things you can make with veal. Cooking is all about experimentation and trying new things. You can also use veal bones, they are very useful for making stock, soups, and sauces.

It’s always a good idea when you use a meat like this to keep the bone, not only can you get a great stock out of it, but you also reduce your waste and get exquisite flavors too. You cannot lose! 

Lamb 

The biggest similarity between veal and lamb is that they both come from baby animals/ young animals. While veal comes from a young calf, lamb comes from a young sheep.

Mutton is the meat which comes from an adult sheep. Some people may be confused and think that lamb is just sheep meat, but it does indeed come only from young sheep. 

This is another meat that is considered to be a specialty. Lamb is generally considered to be a sheep that is younger than a year old. There is no real weight category for lamb like there is for veal. 

This was the general age rule in the United States, however lamb now typically comes from a sheep that is aged between 12 and 14 months of age. The USDA says that a lamb can be aged up to 20  months. 

Despite there being no weight rule, the most common weight category for a lamb is between 12-66 lbs, but there are no strict requirements. 

Similar to veal, lamb meat is usually very tender. Lamb shakes, and legs are the most common cuts that you will be able to get. While there are plenty of other cuts of lamb that you can get these are the most common and popular amongst people. 

Let’s have a look at some of the cuts that are used for catering; 

  • Neck.
  • Flank. 
  • Shanks. 
  • Leg of lamb/ sirloin chops. 
  • Loin. 
  • Breast. 
  • Ribs, rib roast, or a rack of ribs. 
  • Shoulder, often as a shoulder roast or shoulder chops. 

Some places will use more areas of this meat than other do, but these are the most common cuts available. For example, in the Middle East, lamb tongue is very popular. 

Lamb is produced most in a few countries, this includes Australia, which is also the top producer of veal, as well as New Zealand, Algeria, India, China, and the United Kingdom. 

The taste

Similar to veal and how it differs from beef, lamb is different from mutton too. It is more tender, but is still firm. It has a more potent taste than beef, but is more delicate in its flavors than the strong mutton taste. 

Furthermore, it can have a gamey kind of taste to it, but this is more dependent on how it is prepared than anything else. 

Lambs use in cooking

When cooked, lamb is traditionally prepared to a medium level, although it really is a matter of preference. In a restaurant you will often find that lamb is done medium, especially when it is pertaining to the most popular lamb dish in the US, which is lamb chops. 

This being said, if you are cooking your lamb at home, you can cook it to whatever level of done-ness is your preference. 

In different cultures though, lamb will be cooked to different levels. For example, in Greece, where lamb is a very commonly used meat, lamb is often cooked well done. However, in France, if you order a lamb dish, it is more likely that you will get it rare. 

There are a plethora of different ways to cook and enjoy lamb, many different traditional dishes, and a whole host of Greek dishes, since lamb is a very popular meat there, if you want to feel a bit of that Greek holiday aesthetic, lamb is the meat to use, but remember to cook it well done for the authenticity. 

Here is a list of a few dishes that you can consider when cooking lamb; 

  • Seasoned lamb chops. 
  • Roasted lamb with potatoes, carrots and a glaze. 
  • Moussaka. 
  • Rack of lamb with a sweet glaze. 
  • Lamb burgers. 
  • Shredded lamb shoulder. 
  • Lamb kebabs, 
  • Braised lamb shanks. 
  • Moroccan lamb tagine. 
  • Lamb soup.stew. 
  • Glazed or marinated lamb chops. 
  • Lamb meatballs.  
  • Lamb gyros 
  • Lamb kofta. 
  • Kleftika. 
  • Slow roasted Persian lamb. 
  • Lamb rogan josh. 
  • Mongolian lamb stir-fry. 
  • Souvlaki. 

There are so many potential dishes you can make with lamb, and with cultures like Greek that have a heavily lamb based cuisine, it really gives you room to experiment with your cooking and try out different styles of dishes. 

Lamb is very tender and so it works very well with savory seasonings and glazes. 

One of our favorite dishes is Kleftika, which while being high in fats, is delicious and proves how well lamb pairs with other food types to create a very delicious dish. If you are an experimental person when it comes to food, we definitely recommend giving this one a try. 

Comparison of Veal and Lamb

Now that we have discussed both lamb and veal, their cuts, their taste, and the dishes that you will want to try them in, let’s take some time to compare them. While we know their differences and their most basic similarities, are there more similarities? 

Well, yes there are, both of these meats, as we know, comes from a young livestock animal. Both are very tender means and are versatile in nature, with more benefits in terms of texture and flavor that their matured counterparts. But this is pretty much all the similarities that these two share. 

Veal is sourced from young calves, lamb is sourced  from young sheep. The ages of both of these when killed for meat vary depending on country, location and requirements, sometimes eve terminology as well. Veal is flavorful and only requires a light seasoning, it also has very similar cuts to that of beef.

So, while it is from a younger specimen it remains somewhat similar to the mature version in both its cuts and only has minor different seasoning requirements for optimal flavor. 

Lamb has several cuts, but is more limited. The most popular are shanks, legs and shoulders too. Lamb is usually heartily seasoned (mint seasoning is a favorite), it can also be glazed too for a more savory flavor. 

Both means do share their more extensive use in Mediterranean and European dishes, but they are very different when it comes to flavor, cuts, as well as cooking style and the cuisine they are used in. 

If you haven’t tried either of these yet, we eagerly recommend it as they will surprise you with their copious flavors, their tenderness of their meats and the variation of dishes that they can be used in. 

They are generally more expensive than the more mature versions of these animal meats, but they are worth it for the flavor and deliciousness they provide. But once you try them, you’ll never see beef or mutton the same way again, you have been warned! 

You can try out unique and cultural dishes for these meats, pop down to your local grocery store, and give these meat options a try. If you want to try some unique cultural recipes for these meats, there are plenty of online recipes, or if you fancy going a bit more hardcore, why not get a cookbook that is specific for veal or lamb? 

Always remember that while they may seem similar, and not even look all that different before cooking in the superstore, they are different types of meat, from different animals, and the only true similarity that they bear is that they both come from young animals. Make sure that you are aware of these difference before you shop, and know what cut you want to try out. 

For beginners, we recommend veal steaks and lamb chops. 

Now go out there and feast on the flavor! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: veal or lamb? 

There is no solid way to say which meat is better, as it really is a matter of preference. Some people prefer beef to mutton, and hence some will prefer lamb to veal, or veal to lamb. It depends on the preference of taste, texture and the meat itself. 

Both veal and lamb are more tender than their older versions, beef and mutton. However, they have their differences too. Lamb tends to have a gamier taste than veal does, although that can be expected as meat from sheep tends to have a generally gamier taste than meat from cattle does anyway. 

Many people may say that they prefer veal for the less gamey taste and the more subtle flavors, whereas others will prefer the strength in flavor from lamb. It is entirely a personal preference. 

Is lamb and veal the same thing? 

Veal and lamb are both meat taken from a young animal, however, the meats come from different animals, and thus they are not the same. You could say that they are similar as they are both like juvenile versions of beef and mutton. Veal comes from young calves, typically males as the female calves will be raised to become milking cows, whereas the males obviously cannot do this, so they are often instead used for veal. 

Lamb is sourced from young sheep, often coming from a sheep that is younger than a year old. Both meats are considered to be a specialty dish, however they are not the same. While they are very similar they do both come from different animals. 

Veal and lamb both come from young animals, both are considered to be specialty dishes, both are richer in flavor and tenderness than the matured versions, but they are sourced from different animals. 

Is veal baby cow or lamb? 

Veal is different from lamb. Veal is sourced from baby cows, or a calf that has not yet reached maturity. Veal will often come from a young male cow that is bred in a dairy cow family, and since this young cow cannot produce milk, they are used for veal instead. 

Although veal is primarily sourced from young male cattle that have not yet reached maturity, it is not always strictly males. Females may occasionally be used for veal, but typically it is often just males due to the lack of use when it comes to dairy farming. 

Generally veal is more expensive than beef, which is the adult counterpart, and its price range is closer to that of lamb. But it is important to remember that veal and lamb are totally different meats that come from totally different livestock animals. 

Is veal cruel? 

You may have heard that veal has an awful reputation. While delicious and flavorful it is scorned for the way in which it is produced. You see, veal is the meat from young calves. And along with shark fins and other foods, veal has a horrible reputation due to the extreme confinement and cruelty involved in the rearing of veal calves on factory farms. Their flesh is often required to stay pale and tender and hence they are often kept in crates and are fed on an unhealthy diet of milk, or milk replacements without any solid food. There are alternatives however, as some farms and factories are turning towards systems that provide a better welfare for their veal calves. 

Nonetheless, we know that the factory farming industry is not a very ethical industry with its high animal cruelty rates. If you want to try veal, why not try it from a private and organic farm? It will probably taste better due to the happiness of the animal. 

Cassie Marshall
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