Mutton shoulder is a specific cut of meat from an adult sheep. In different parts of the world, the shoulder area of the sheep is defined in different ways. In some places, such as the United States, the shoulder is the front quarter of the animal, excluding the front leg. The shoulder is defined in other places as the animal's front leg and shank. Mutton shoulder can be prepared in a variety of ways, but because mutton is tougher than lamb, it requires longer cooking times to become tender.
Although mutton is considered meat from a sheep that is more than a year old, most of it comes from sheep that are at least two years old. Sheep that are a year old and younger are considered lambs and not mutton. A sheep that is raised to be slaughtered for mutton might be fed either grains and kept indoors, or it might be allowed to roam free and eat grasses and other vegetation.
Sheep that are slaughtered after the spring and summer months generally have larger or meatier shoulders than sheep that are slaughtered at other times of the year. The sheep might graze freely during the warmer months of the year. In the winter months, they must be kept sheltered.
Mutton comes from a mature sheep, so it must be cooked for a longer period of time than a lamb shoulder would be cooked. This will ensure that the meat is not too tough. Some people say that although mutton shoulder is tougher than lamb shoulder, it contains more flavor than lamb and is more desirable.
A cook can prepare mutton shoulder in various ways to satisfy different taste preferences. For example, the mutton shoulder can be roasted or prepared as chops using the animal’s shoulder blade or leg. It also can be chopped up and put into a stew or ground like hamburger and then cooked.
Government agencies typically rate mutton shoulder based on the proportion of fat versus meat found in the shoulder, as is done with other butchered meat. Prime mutton shoulders have the least amount of fat in comparison with the amount of meat, and choice cuts have the second-lowest amount of fat versus meat. Good and utility cuts have more fat, and cull cuts have the highest amount of fat versus meat.