Meat Sheep Breeds

Sheep meat is becoming the central focus of sheep farming, particularly since wool production started facing a decline in profitability. The meat is often categorized by age into lamb and mutton, which has a significant impact on its texture and flavor profiles. Lamb, sourced from sheep less than a year old, is prized for its tenderness and mild flavor. Meanwhile, sheep aged two years or more, commonly known as mutton, yield meat that is tougher and richer in flavor.

In some South Asian cultures, goat meat is referred to as mutton, whereas in most parts of the world, mutton typically means sheep meat. Globally, sheep meat is more popular due to its tender texture and richer flavor. Interestingly, both cooked lamb and goat meat offer similar protein content, with a 3-ounce serving providing around 21 grams and 23 grams of protein, respectively.

Meat Sheep Breeds

List of the Best Meat Sheep Breeds

BreedAverage Weight (in lbs)
Hampshire Down200-275
North Country Cheviot180-300
Blue Texel176-220
Ile de France180-200
Clun Forest130-200
American Blackbelly90-200
Border Cheviot120-190
Gulf Coast Native100-150
Welsh Mountain100-150
Kerry Hill120-145
Barbados Blackbelly85-130
Babydoll Southdown60-125

More Meat Sheep Breeds

  • Valais Blacknose
  • Jacob
  • Merino
  • Rambouillet
  • Shetland
  • Herdwick
  • Soay
  • Border Leicester
  • Corriedale
  • Karakul
  • Polypay
  • Cotswold
  • Finnsheep
  • Australian White
  • Racka
  • Wensleydale
  • Montadale
  • Najdi
  • Teeswater
  • Wiltshire Horn
  • Boreray
  • Damara
  • Galway
  • Lonk
  • Manchega
  • St. Croix
  • Somali

What Makes a Sheep Good for Meat Production

  • Rapid Growth Rate — For a breed to be considered a good meat sheep, it needs to gain around 0.6-0.7 lbs daily.
Average Growth Rate (in lbs/day)0.94-1.10.57-0.90.55-0.6
  • Low Feed Conversion Ratio — Efficient feed conversion is crucial because feed costs typically constitute a significant portion of the expenses in meat production. Sheep that convert feed efficiently will require less feed per unit of body weight gain, thereby reducing the overall cost of production. For meat sheep on a diet of high-quality feed, the average FCR is 4-5. However, on a diet of poorer quality, the FCR value can reach 6.
  • High Dressing Percentage — Dressing percentage refers to the proportion of the animal’s live weight that remains as carcass weight after it has been slaughtered, skinned, and eviscerated. On average, the dressing percentage for meat sheep ranges from 45% to 55%.
Dressing Percentage50-58%50-55%45-50%
  • Effect of the Coat — Sheep with hair instead of wool are often better suited for meat production. These breeds eliminate the recurring costs of shearing and reduce the risk of heat stress, which is especially important as meat sheep tend to gain weight quickly. Notable examples of hair sheep commonly used for meat include the Katahdin and the Barbados Blackbelly.

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