Goat vs. Lamb — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
Lamb meat contains almost 7 times more fat and, consequently, more cholesterol compared to goat meat. It also has more than twice as many calories as goat meat. Hence, goat meat is more advisable for leading a healthier lifestyle; however, both types of meat can be equally recommended for consumption depending on personal preference and health status.
Lamb meat contains around 2 times more vitamin B12, while goat meat contains 2 times more vitamin B2. Goat meat contains 2.5 times more copper and 2 times more iron, while lamb meat provides 2 times more selenium. In general, lamb meat is a better source of vitamins, while goat meat is a better source of minerals.
Table of contents
Goats and sheep, a young sheep being named lamb, both being mammals and belonging to the Bovidae family, have many similarities while also having quite a few differences. In this article, we will be comparing the meat of both animals, mainly focusing on their nutrition and impact on health.
Both goats and sheep are herbivores, meaning their diet does not include meat and primarily consists of pasture plants and seeds. Both goats and sheep are hoofed, ruminant animals with similar social behaviors and are often kept in the same group.
For all of their similarities, they have quite a few differences. They belong to separate species and have distinct physical appearances. Goats have horns and are covered in fur coats, whereas hornless sheep are often coated with wool. This is due to the fact that goats live in warmer climates, while sheep are usually found in colder weather. A goat’s tail is short and pointing up, while sheep’s tails are usually long and pointing down.
They also have different preferences for the pasture on which they feed. Goats like to graze grass, but their long neck makes it easier for them to eat plants that are positioned higher, whereas sheep usually forage at hoof level.
Lamb, mutton, or hogget are all names for the meat that comes from sheep. The difference is that ‘lamb’ is the meat from a young sheep, whereas ‘mutton’ or ‘hogget’ are the names for the meat of a fully grown sheep, slaughtered at around two or three years of age. Usually, the darker the meat is, the older the animal.
The meat from the goat is often simply referred to as goat meat. If produced from an adult goat, it is also commonly called chevon, while meat from a goat slaughtered at an age younger than 12 months is named cabrito or kid.
According to the recommendations by USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services, cooking temperatures for both types of meat are the same.
For cooking ground lamb or goat meat, as well as mixtures such as meatloaf, the safest minimum internal temperature is 145°F (63°C), preferably measured by a food thermometer before removing the meat from the heat source. While cooking meat chops, steaks, and roasts, the minimum internal temperature of the meats must reach 160°F (71°C) (1, 2).
Usage Over the world
The estimated world livestock numbers of sheep and goats have increased by over 20% from 1990 to 2012 (3).
Sheep are kept in much larger quantities in the European Union, as opposed to goats. There are over 70 million sheep and goats in the EU, with sheep making up about 75% of that number (4).
The leading exporters of sheep and lamb globally are New Zealand and Australia, with over 200 thousand tonnes a year. The United Kingdom is next in line, with less than 50 thousand tonnes of sheep and goat products per year (5).
The main importers of goat and meat products in the world are China and Hong Kong, followed by the United States and the European Union (5).
In recent years the consumption of lamb, mutton, and goat meat has been growing in China and South Korea and decreasing in Spain and Denmark (6)
The nutritional information below is presented for cooked, domestic lamb, trimmed to 1/4” fat and roasted goat meat.
As with most meat, the average serving size for lamb and goat is 3oz, equal to 85g.
Both goat and lamb meats are classified as red meats; however, their nutritional composition is quite different.
Macronutrients and Calories
As depicted in the macronutrient composition charts below, lamb meat is denser, consisting of 54% of water, while goat meat consists of 68% of water.
They both have similar amounts of other macronutrients, but the biggest difference lies in fat content, which we will discuss below.
Both goat meat and lamb meat contain no carbohydrates. Neither of them contains fiber.
Lamb meat contains almost 7 times more fat and, consequently, more cholesterol compared to goat meat.
A 100-gram serving of lamb provides 20.94 grams of fat, while the same serving of lamb provides 3.03 grams.
Naturally, lamb meat contains high amounts of all types of fat. As depicted in the fat type comparison charts below, lamb meat and goat meat do have similar percentages of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in their composition; however, the actual quantities in grams are much higher in lamb.
Fat Type Comparison
Although both goat and lamb meats are great sources of protein, goat meat is slightly higher in protein concentration. Per 100-gram serving, there are 27.1 grams of protein in goat meat, while the same serving of lamb contains 24.52 grams.
Lamb/mutton has more than twice as many calories as goat meat. A 100-gram serving of goat meat contains 143 calories, while the same serving of lamb contains 294 calories.
The predominant vitamins found in both lamb and goat are vitamin B12, vitamin B3, and vitamin B2.
Lamb meat contains around 2 times more vitamin B12 than goat meat. Per 100-gram serving of lamb, there is 2.55µg of vitamin B12, while the same serving of goat contains only 1.19µg. Considering the fact that the daily need for vitamin B12 is 2.4µg, lamb meat is able to fulfill the daily need through a single 100-gram serving. On the other hand, although goat meat contains fewer amounts, it still contributes to about half of the daily need through a 100-gram serving.
Additionally, goat meat contains more vitamin B2 when compared to lamb meat. A 100-gram serving of goat meat provides 0.61mg of vitamin B2, about 2 times more than lamb meat (0.25mg). Putting these numbers in the context of the recommended daily need for vitamin B2, goat meat is able to provide around half of the daily requirement, while lamb meat only contributes a little.
Both lamb and goat meat also contain adequate amounts of vitamin B3; however, lamb meat provides more vitamin B3 per serving when compared to goat meat.
Moreover, lamb/mutton has small amounts of vitamin D, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6, whereas goat meat completely lacks those. Both lamb and goat also contain smaller amounts of other vitamins, such as vitamin B1, folate, and vitamin K, which are present in more quantities in lamb when compared to goat. Goat meat, on the other hand, has slightly higher concentration levels of vitamin E.
Both have no amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A.
Overall, lamb meat is a better source of vitamins as it provides more concentrations of almost all of the vitamins when compared to goat meat.
Both goat meat and lamb meat are full of various minerals. The predominant minerals found in both are selenium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and copper; however, goat meat contains higher amounts of all of these minerals except selenium.
Specifically, goat meat contains 2.5 times more copper and 2 times more iron, while lamb meat provides 2 times more selenium.
Lamb meat and goat meat also have similar amounts of sodium, although lamb meat contains 14mg less than goat meat.
Thus, goat meat, in general, is a better source of minerals.
The glycemic index is a rating system used for foods containing carbohydrates. As both lamb meat and goat meat contain negligible amounts of carbohydrates, their glycemic index is low, which means their consumption has minimal effect on blood sugar levels.
One way to understand the acidity of foods is through their potential renal acid load (PRAL) value, which shows how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism.
Based on our calculations, the PRAL values of lamb and goat are similar and equal to 11.6 and 12, respectively, which means both are acidic.
Goat meat, having more protein and less fat than lamb and mutton, is considered to be leaner and overall a healthier choice. However, when it comes to micronutrients, both contain different, valuable minerals and vitamins.
The most common limiting amino acids found in food are lysine, threonine, and tryptophan, which are present in both types of meat. Goat meat is richer in threonine and tryptophan; however, surprisingly, lamb meat has a higher lysine concentration.
Research has shown that goat meat has a relatively favorable polyunsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid ratio, making it a healthier choice, especially for people with cardiovascular issues. Grain-feeding goats increases this ratio; however, it also increases the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio to an unfavorable level (7).
Alternatively, letting ruminants feed on green grass in pastures has been proven to lead to higher percentages of omega-3 fatty acids. Increasing levels of omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of heart problems and arteriosclerosis (8).
Lamb meat has the highest amount of conjugated linoleic acid among other ruminant meats. Conjugated linoleic acid has been found to have anticarcinogenic and antiatherogenic qualities, proving beneficial in cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes (9).
Lamb, mutton, and goat meat have to be handled and cooked carefully due to the risk of Toxoplasma gondii infection in humans (10). Lamb and goat meat can also contain antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus (11).
The consumption of lamb and goat meat can be recommended to people with goiter who have hyperthyroidism since both have been proven to be associated with lower levels of thyroid volume. One study showed that mean thyroid volume was significantly lower in those subjects who consumed lamb or goat meat more than once a week (12)
For all the positive effects these types of meat have on health, their consumption must still be moderated. Much like other red meat, lamb and goat can increase the chances of colorectal and nasopharyngeal cancers, as well as lung and pancreatic cancers (13)
Antibiotics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are permitted to be used in both goats and lambs slaughtered for meat to prevent or treat diseases, with a required “withdrawal” period before the slaughter of the animals is legal. However, the use of hormones for growth promotion is only allowed in lambs and not goats (1, 2).
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Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.
- Goat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175304/nutrients
- Lamb - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172480/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.