What Is Lamb Neck?
Lamb neck is a particular part of lamb, but the specific area varies based on the country of the butcher. Commonly the term is used in Britain to describe an area of the animal that is part of the back and behind what non-butchers would call the neck. This cut of meat contains spinal bone and connective tissue, but a butcher can remove the bone for customers. Typically tough and strongly flavored, lamb neck is suitable for braising or slow-cooking.
British butchers call the part of the animal that is between the back and the head "scrag end" of lamb. The portion of the animal that they define as "lamb neck" is further along the back on top of the shoulders. In fact, three different parts of the lamb can be termed "neck." These are middle neck, best end of neck, and confusingly, scrag end can also go by the name "neck end."
Middle neck is a portion of the animal behind the scrag end that reaches about a third of the way down the back of the animal. Both the scrag end and the middle neck contain lots of bones from the spine and a high proportion of connective tissue and fat. Although they can be cooked with the bone in, it is possible to take the bone out and roll the remaining meat into a joint for oven roasting. The fat and connective tissue means that the cut is best with slow cooking, and a cook may dice the meat up or grind it to speed up the cooking process.
Behind the middle neck is the best end of neck. This is a portion of the lamb that runs from the first rib to the eighth rib of the animal. Less tough than the middle neck or neck end, a butcher can portion this into lamb cutlets or keep it whole as a roast. The cut of lamb immediately behind the best end of neck is the loin. Typically, due to the leanness of the meat in the best end, this cut is more expensive than the other two cuts that are part of the lamb neck.
In the U.S., for example, this British terminology is not used. The U.K. terminology refer to the area of the lamb below the scrag end and middle neck as shoulder, whereas the American format is to use "shoulder" to refer to the part of the lamb from where the front legs come out of the body up to the back and including the neck. Shoulder roast and lamb shoulder neck slices are examples of the specialized cuts from this area. Terminology can differ from country to country, but primarily, when a butcher refers to lamb neck, he or she means a part of the animal that includes spinal bones from the first half of the animal.
While I have eaten lamb many times in my life, I often wonder how many parts of the lamb can be eaten, as until reading this article, I have actually never heard of lamb neck. However, while I do find it interesting that one can eat lamb neck, I guess it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
For the most part, people eat animal necks all the time. As an example, during the Holidays, there are those who like to flavor their greens by using turkey necks. Overall though, I guess lamb neck seems much more exotic because it's not normally something that people eat every day.
Reading the article, several times, one thing I noticed is how it's mentioned that lamb neck (and lamb in general) is quite expensive.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I wonder if this is one of the reasons why it's not as popular as some other brands of meat, such as beef and chicken. However, on the other hand, those brands of meat can be processed into many different generic variations. Not to mention that the fact that they're far less expensive makes them a lot more accessible to the everyday consumer, especially if one can't afford to buy such expensive food.
For examples, McDonald's all beef patties and mechanically processed chicken nuggets. On the other hand, when it comes to lamb, one thing that you'll notice is that there aren't many processed variations of the meat, if any at all.
It's always very expensive, and usually served at top quality. Adding onto this, notice how for the most part, it's mostly served only at fancy restaurants and special occasions. While it's a pricey meat, it's for a good reason, and the taste makes it all the more worth it.
In reference to lamb neck, one thing that I really like about this article is the fact that instead of simply discussing how one would prepare it (which seems to be the case for many articles), it actually dives into the terminology of the word.
Overall, I find this to be very interesting. One of the reasons why is because I feel that as Americans, sometimes we forget that the way food are pronounced to us, isn't how it's named universally. In fact, sometimes, the terminology is completely different.
For example, in America, we refer to cucumbers that have been soaked in vinegar as pickles. However, in other parts of the world, such as the UK, they're referred to as "gherkin". Using one last example, even though we often refer to fruit spread as "jelly", many others use the term "jam". Overall, when it comes to food, terminology is just as important as knowing how to prepare said dish.
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