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Buy a Whole Lamb or Goat and Save Money

Updated on March 17, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

Herbed leg of lamb.
Herbed leg of lamb. | Source

Buy an Entire Carcass for Wholesale Price

Buying meat at the local butcher's store can be expensive if you're cooking for a large family or are catering a big BBQ. Retail prices include a mark-up for the store, so you will save money if you find a wholesaler and buy direct. If you buy meat in quantity you will be dealing in terms of a whole or half carcass.

A smaller animal like a sheep or goat will fit into most domestic freezers, so could be a better buy than a beef carcass for many people. Whichever meat you prefer, a carcass can be bought un-butchered or it can be sold “dressed” i.e. cut into joints ready for cooking. Search out your local suppliers. These may be either butchers or farmers and you should be able to buy your meat at the farm-gate (i.e. farm store). That way you will know exactly where the lamb or goat meat was raised.

Cuts of Lamb

How Much Meat Can You Get in the Freezer?

Buying meat in wholesale quantities can be daunting. If you buy retail, it is easy to work out how much to buy. Recipes clearly state how many people a given amount of meat will feed. But how do you work out the number of meals you will get from a carcass?

The table below gives some figures that relate to an average sized sheep or goat carcass. Of course “average” may not be the size of carcass you are offered for sale but it is a useful starting point when working out the number of meals it will provide.

As a rough guide 50% of the “live-weight” of a carcass is lost once the animal has been butchered into its various constituent joints. So you need to buy a carcass that is twice the weight of the amount of meat that you would have bought retail. The wholesale price you pay for the carcass will reflect this.

Choose the size of animal to suit your needs. Smaller animals are usually younger in age and their meat is more tender. For this reason the price per pound of a smaller carcass tends to be higher than that of the older and heavier animal.

Lamb or Goat Carcass
Live animal weight
45kg (100lbs)
8-12 months
Carcass weight (after dressing)
23kg (50lbs)
Carcass composition
Lean 55%, Fat 28%, Bone 17%
Color of healthy muscle tissue (meat)
Light pink to red
Information from UN Food and Agriculture Organization

A good rule of thumb is that 50 pounds of meat will fit into 2.25 cubic feet of freezer/ cooler space. Let's say you have a 12 cubic foot chest freezer ... that should hold about 250 lbs of meat.

— Betsy Hodge,
Roast lamb shoulder dinner with peas, watercress and spring greens.
Roast lamb shoulder dinner with peas, watercress and spring greens. | Source

Don't Waste Any Part of Sheep or Goat Carcass

Every part of a lamb, sheep, kid or goat carcass should be used when you buy a whole animal, otherwise it is not such good value for money. Different parts of the animal need to be treated in different ways.

The tougher cuts are cooked slowly or stewed. The better cuts can be flash fried, roasted, braised or broiled (grilled in UK). The bones and offal are used to make soup and stews as well as providing key ingredients for regional dishes like haggis, sausages and tripe. For lots of recipe ideas I recommend "Lamb: Lamb Recipes - The Very Best Lamb Cookbook". There are recipes from all over the world in this cook book and the author includes ways to use all parts of the carcass.

The video below shows you an easy recipe for lamb Irish stew. It uses some of the cheaper cuts and so is a slow cook to tenderize the meat.

Irish Lamb Stew

The Cuts or Joints of Meat

The names given to the various parts of a carcass may differ slightly depending on local traditions. But as a guide, the diagram below gives the names used for British butchered lamb joints. A whole lamb will produce the following cuts:

  • Two shoulder joints (the front legs) which are used for roasting

  • Neck of lamb (the lamb’s neck) which is used for stews and soups

  • Two whole leg joints (the rear legs) for roasting

  • Two rack of lamb (the first eight ribs) often turned into a circle and called a “crown” or “rack” of lamb for braising or roasting

  • Two breast of lamb (the belly area) needs very slow cooking to tenderize the meat

  • About a dozen loin chops (the saddle or back area) for broiling (grilling in UK)

  • About six chump chops (from across the saddle to the loin ) for broiling

  • Kidneys (offal) for broiling or roasting

  • About five hundred grams of mince (offcuts from any part of the animal) for lamb burgers

  • Bones for making soup and stock

Depending upon the size of the animal, a whole lamb should easily make at least fifty meal portions.

British Lamb meat cuts (or joints).
British Lamb meat cuts (or joints). | Source

What is your favorite part of the carcass (joint of meat)?

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Offal is Not Awful

Many people have forgotten that cheap and tasty meals can be made with offal. Offal includes the internal parts of an animal that sometimes get thrown away in affluent households. However to get the best value from buying a whole or half carcass you should make use of the offal.

There is no fixed definition of offal but it normally includes the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and testicles of an animal. There are many regional specialty dishes that use offal for their unique taste. These include liver pate, sausages, haggis, sweetbreads, steak and kidney pie and chitterlings. If you make use of all these recipes then your “average” sheep or goat carcass can be stretched to providing sixty or seventy meals.

Take Care of Your Carving Knives

Caring for and sharpening your knives is essential to maintain safety in your kitchen. The video below demonstrates how to keep your carving knives sharp and ready for action.

The butcher recommends that you buy a knife which is part carbon and part steel rather than one with a pure stainless steel blade. He says that the higher the carbon content in a blade, the easier it will be to keep sharp. Use mineral oil and a whetstone to sharpen the edge of the knife blade. A good one is the two-sided whetstone made by Whetstone Cutlery. Please take care when sharpening your knives and use an action that directs the blade away from your body to minimize the risk of injury.

How a Butcher Sharpens Knives


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