Lamb is a popular meat eaten around the world, both as a staple and as a traditional dish in many celebrations and holiday meals. But lamb, as delicious as it is, is not without its drawbacks.
Some of these shortcomings are entirely practical. Others are moral, or even civic. So, why shouldn’t you eat lamb?
You might not want to eat lamb since it is expensive, has the health concerns associated with all red meat, and there’s a significant environmental cost to raising sheep and other livestock. What’s more, industrial scale meat production means poor little lambs have a short and brutal life.
I’m not a vegetarian, far from it, but it is important to know exactly where your food comes from. If you eat lamb bought from the grocery, you probably don’t.
All the same, I think you should keep reading and see what negative outcomes are associated with eating lamb. You might rethink it after you are through!
Lamb Meat Doesn’t Come from Mature Sheep
When we say we’re eating lamb, we are actually referring to meat that comes from young, adolescent sheep.
In the United States, lamb meat comes from sheep that are less than a year old, weighing anywhere from 90-120 pounds on average.
In the UK and elsewhere, the definition of lamb sold at market may be slightly different.
While lamb may be a popular choice for its tender texture and unique flavor, it’s important to consider this when consuming any animal products, including lamb here.
These are young animals, very young animals, and many lambs that are slaughtered don’t even look fully grown.
There are no two ways about it, if you eat lamb, one of the cutest and most innocent creatures on earth has to give up its life for that.
Whatever your beliefs are on meat, it’s morally important to learn about where your food comes from and make informed decisions based on your values and beliefs.
Some people may choose to avoid lamb due to ethical concerns surrounding the slaughtering of young sheep in the prime of life that have hardly had time to live.
Lamb is Red Meat, Which Can be Bad for You
Lamb is commonly mistaken for white meat, probably because of the stereotypical color of their wool, but it is properly classified as red meat.
Red meat contains higher levels of myoglobin, and is darker in color than white meat like chicken or fish.
Consuming red meat has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer when eaten in excess in addition to being higher in calories overall.
It’s important to balance your diet, and choose lean protein sources to promote overall health and well-being.
If you do choose to eat lamb, consider cooking methods that preserve the nutritional value of the meat while limiting added fats and sodium.
Grilling, broiling, or roasting are all good options that allow the natural flavors of the meat to shine without added oils or butter.
But, most traditional dishes prepared with lamb and most of the tastier recipes call for adding a lot of fattening stuff and salt to what is already very rich red meat.
A regular diet of lamb is not going to be good for your health and especially your heart in the long run.
The Raising of Livestock, Including Sheep, is Bad for the Environment
The rearing of any livestock, including sheep, has significant environmental impacts.
Livestock farming requires vast amounts of land, water, and other resources, and generates large amounts of waste products- and I am not just talking about manure, here!
The production and transportation of animal feed also contributes to deforestation and soil erosion, and the whole operation, over time, takes a tremendous toll on the environment.
Like it or not, everything we do, every choice we make, has a price. And that price is not always financial: you might be “stroking a check” with your descendants’ futures.
As consumers, we can all make a difference by choosing to moderate, or for some of us eliminate, animal proteins from our diets.
Vegetarianism is a whole different topic, but plant-based diets have been shown to have lower environmental footprints, and can provide most of the necessary nutrients for a healthy lifestyle.
Raising Sheep Produces Lots of Methane
Another environmental factor associated with raising all livestock, and especially large mammals like sheep, is that big critters contribute significantly to climate change through the release of methane into the atmosphere.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has a warming effect 25 times greater than carbon dioxide, so it is no joke.
Yes, we are talking about the environmental impact of sheep farts. Alright, stop giggling, get it out of your system!
While it’s difficult to accurately measure the precise amount of methane produced by sheep, research suggests that their digestive systems are responsible for producing statistically significant amounts of this harmful gas, especially compared to other animals.
Keeping sheep for any purpose means they are going to go right on farting- releasing the methane into the atmosphere.
A smaller herd kept for continual production of wool will produce less greenhouse gases overall.
Compare with a larger one continually raised and slaughtered for meat which will create significantly more emissions over time.
Choosing our food wisely is critical for us all, given the societal and environmental challenges ahead. Lamb is not a great one!
You May Want to Avoid Eating Sheep for Cultural or Personal Reasons
For still other people, cultural or personal beliefs may lead them to choose not to eat lamb or even any other type of meat.
These reasons might be religious, such as the case with Muslims or Jews whose dietary laws forbid the consumption of certain animals or animals not slaughtered correctly, including sheep.
Or like followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, it might be for other spiritual reasons, and followers who believe that all creatures should be treated with love and respect.
Ultimately, this is a complicated concern, and one that is far too complex to get into in this short article.
But if you’re uncertain, it might be enough to know that you are not alone in your feelings: it is up to every person to decide how they want to approach food choices in their life.
Lamb is Expensive
Another strictly practical reason that might see lamb deleted from your weekly or monthly menu.
Compared to other meats like beef or pork, lamb tends to be more expensive in most markets, especially in North America.
This is due to a number of factors, including the cost of raising and processing the animals, as well as lower demand for lamb compared to more popular meats.
Lamb might remain a luxury item only for most folks, at least here in the U.S., but if you want to cook with lamb regularly, it might be well passed time to start considering cheaper alternatives; the costs will add up to quite a lot over a year!
Industrial Scale Meat Production is an Ugly Business
And finally, we come to the most distressing problem, at least for most of us.
The industrial-scale production of meat, any meat, is often associated with poor animal welfare, environmental degradation, and even human health concerns.
Animals raised on factory farms are typically kept in confined spaces and subjected to cruel living conditions, all in the endless quest for profit and consumer satisfaction.
These poor baby lambs really get the business, and I will say no more about it. Brace yourself if you want to look into it…
Don’t misunderstand: I’m no luddite, and I am not so naive that I don’t’ know what is really at stake here. But I’m certainly not alone in wanting things to be different.
Yes, much of the time animals have to die so that humans may live. Yes, we have dominion over every living creature on earth.
Even so, though, I think it is totally possible to treat our animals with more dignity, compassion and respect, even if our meat ends up costing more.
But you don’t have to simply wish for things to be different. Even now there are small choices you can make that will help you feel a little better about your next lamb purchase.
Choosing lamb from small, local farms that prioritize animal welfare and sustainable practices feels better, but it can also help to support more ethical and environmentally responsible agriculture.
In time, if enough people did this, we would see the mega-farms notice and respond in kind.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.