Michigan lamb is an excellent source of protein, zinc, selenium and B vitamins

Full of distinct and succulent flavor, this meat can add a nice variety to the menu.

While lamb might not be the most widely used meat at mealtime, it warrants consideration as an alternative meat source. An excellent source of protein, zinc and selenium, vitamins B12 and niacin, also a good source of iron, lamb brings both nutrition and a tender, succulent flavor to the table. In addition, lamb production in the United States does not utilize artificial growth promotants.

Compared to other meats, an average three ounce serving of American lamb has around 175 calories. With most of the fat typically toward the edge of the meat, trimming fat is much easier. Lamb meets the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lean meat standards. According to the American Lamb Board (ALB), about 36 percent of fat in lamb is saturated, while the rest is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated (the “good” fat).

Lamb meat is packed full of protein, with lean lamb offering 48 percent of the daily value (DV) of protein. It is also a great source for B vitamins. Lamb offers 37 percent DV of vitamin B-12, which is important in body cell function and the nervous system and 27 percent DV of niacin, important for healthy skin, nerves and digestion. Zinc is also available in lamb with 30 percent DV being provided in an average three ounce serving. This important mineral is needed for a healthy immune system and to help the body repair tissue, form enzymes and insulin.

Preparing lamb is not complex and many intriguing recipes are readily available on the internet. Visiting the American Lamb Board recipe and video link is suggested to become more familiar with the cooking techniques and ingredients used in making this distinctly flavored meat become a mainstay. The American Lamb Board also provides a variety of free materials that can be ordered to assist in preparing lamb.

The USDA Economic Research Service estimates that lamb consumption overall remains low at less than one-pound per-person, per-year but lamb remains a preferred item in the diets of many ethnic enclaves in the US. Approximately half of the US lamb supply comes from imported product according to a 2008 report by the National Academy of Science, indicating that domestic supply cannot meet demand. In a study shared by the American Lamb Board, consumers prefer American lamb to imported lamb with its higher meat-to-bone ratio.

Sheep production in Michigan has grown 11 percent since 2011, according to data from the National Agriculture Statistics Service with Michigan currently ranked as 17 in lamb production. Michigan has ideal natural resources to support lamb production with ample water and an abundance of cool season grass.

To connect with a local lamb producer visit the Michigan Sheep Breeders Association website. Michigan State University Extension staff works within the lamb supply chain to assist institutions interested in offering Michigan lamb on their menus.

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