Goat vs Lamb and mutton - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Goats and sheep, a young sheep being named lamb, both being mammals and belonging to the Bovidae family, have many similarities. Both animals are herbivores, meaning their diet does not include meat and mostly consists of pasture plants and seeds. Both goats and sheep are hoofed, ruminant animals, with similar social behaviours 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 a fur coat, whereas hornless sheep are most often coated with wool. This is due to the fact that goats live in warmer climates, while sheep are usually found in colder weather. The tail of a goat is short and pointing up, when sheep tails are usually long and pointing down. They also have different preferences of the pasture they feed on. 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 (1).
Lamb, mutton or hogget are all names for the meat that comes from sheep. The difference is, lamb is the meat from a young sheep, whereas mutton or hogget are 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 is.
The meat produced from an adult goat is commonly called chevon and the meat from a goat slaughtered at an age younger than 12 months is named kid.
Both goat and lamb meats are classified as red meats, however their nutritional composition is quite different.
Lamb or mutton has more than double of the amount of calories, compared to goat meat. Lamb meat also contains almost ten times more fat and consequently more cholesterol. Naturally, lamb meat is higher in saturated fats, but also higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well. Goat meat on the other hand is higher in its protein concentration.
Both goat and lamb meat contain negligible amounts of carbohydrates and have a glycemic index of 0. They also both do not contain fiber.
Lamb meat or mutton has moderate amounts of vitamin D and vitamin B6, whereas goat meat completely lacks in those. Lamb meat is also richer in vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B12 and vitamin K. Goat meat on the other hand has higher concentration levels of vitamin E and vitamin B2. Both have insufficient or no amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid (vitamin B9). Overall lamb meat or mutton is a better source of vitamins.
Goat meat is higher in iron, potassium and copper, zinc and phosphorus, whereas lamb meat contains more magnesium. Lamb meat or mutton is also lower in sodium. Both meats contain the same amounts of calcium. Goat meat, in general, is higher in minerals.
Goat meat, having more protein and less fat compared to lamb and mutton, is considered to be leaner and overall a healthier choice, however when it comes to micronutrients, both meats contain different valuable minerals and vitamins.
The most common limiting amino acids are lysine, threonine and tryptophan, which are present in both meats. Goat meat is richer in threonine and tryptophan, however surprisingly, lamb meat has a higher concentration of lysine.
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 unfavourable level (2). 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 reduces the risk of heart problems and arteriosclerosis (3).
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 (4).
Lamb, mutton and goat meat have to be handled and cooked carefully due to the risk of Toxoplasma gondii infection in humans (5). Lamb and goat meat can also contain antibiotic resistant pathogens, such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus (6).
The consumption of lamb and goat meat can be recommended to people with goiter, who have hyperthyroidism, since both meats 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 (7)
For all the positive effects these meats have on health, the consumption still has to be moderated. Much like other red meats, lamb and goat can increase the chances of colorectal and nasopharyngeal cancers, as well as lung and pancreatic cancers (8)
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 (9, 10).
Goat meat is cheaper by around 2 dollars.
According to the recommendations by USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services, cooking temperatures for both meats are the same. For ground lamb or goat meat, as well as mixtures such as meat loaf, the safest minimum internal temperature is 145°F (63°C), preferably measured by a food thermometer before removing the meat from the heat source. To cook all lamb or goat meat chops, steaks and roasts, the minimum internal temperature has to be 160°F (71°C) (9, 10).
Usage over the world
The estimated world livestock numbers of sheep and goats have increased by over 20% in the years of 1990 to 2012 (11).
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 (12).
The main exporters of sheep and lamb production in the world 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 (13).
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 (13).
In recent years the consumption of lamb, mutton and goat meat has been growing in China, South Korea and decreasing in Spain and Denmark (14)
All in all, both meats can be equally recommended for consumption depending on personal preference and health status. Lamb meat is richer in vitamins and goat meat is richer in minerals. Lamb meat has more fat and cholesterol and can be the right choice for people who prioritize organoleptic qualities. In contrast, goat meat has lower amounts of fat and more protein and can be advisable for people trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
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|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low glycemic index diet||Equal|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values