Can I Eat Lamb Whilst Pregnant? Is It Safe?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Lamb has a reputation for being a fatty meat, and it’s often served rare. Because of these two factors, many pregnant women wonder if they should eat it at all.

Lamb is a safe red meat to eat during pregnancy, if cooked to a safe internal temperature, depending on the cut. Lamb also has some nutritional benefits for pregnant women, too. Some cuts of lamb are leaner and a better choice than others as part of a healthy pregnancy diet.

Let’s dig deeper into the world of lamb with regards to pregnancy: what the cooking temperature should be, what doneness is safe, if offal is okay, and more!

Is it OK to Eat Lamb During Pregnancy? 

If you happen to be craving lamb, the good news is that pregnant women can eat lamb, when cooked properly. 

For storing lamb, it is recommended to maintain a refrigerator temperature at 40°F (4.4°C) or lower, and the freezer temperature at 0˚F (-18°C) or below. When cooking lamb, it should reach the minimum internal temperature as explained below. 

During pregnancy, apart from hormonal changes, the body undergoes other multiple changes at the same time. This causes weakened immunity against food-borne diseases. This is the case for unborn babies as well because they are still in the process of building their immune systems (source: FDA). 

The good news is that these diseases can be prevented by observing proper cooking temperatures on top of hygienic and safe food handling, which is why lamb should be stored and cooked properly.

grilled lamb on a cutting board

How Should Lamb Be Cooked if I’m Pregnant? 

Lamb has five primary cuts. These are the shank or breast, shoulder, rack, loin, and leg (source: USDA). The most common ones sold in supermarkets and grocery stores are chops, steaks, and roasts.

According to the FDA, the recommended safe minimum internal temperature for fresh lamb (steaks, roasts, and chops) considered safe for pregnant women is 145°F (62.8°C), with a resting time of 3 minutes. 

For ground lamb meat, the safe minimum internal temperature is 160°F (71°C) with no resting time.

In the refrigerator, fresh lamb lasts for 3–5 days. In the freezer, it can last for 4–12 months, depending on the cut. 

Here are several cuts of lamb and their corresponding cooking method, minimum internal temperature, resting time, and some popular dishes:

Lamb CutMinimum Internal Temperature & Rest TimePopular Dishes
Lamb Leg145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesRoasted lamb leg 
Shoulder145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesShoulder chops, slow-cooked chops
Cubes145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesKabobs/kebabs, grilled souvlaki, skewers
Ground lamb160 °F (71°C), no resting timeLamb burger, ground steak with gravy, meatballs, nachos, tamales, kibbeh
Loin, chops, rib145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesGrilled sirloin, lamb sirloin crostini, lamb chops, honey glazed lamb ribs, BBQ lamb ribs
Bigger cubes145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesIrish lamb stew, Moroccan lamb stew
Shank145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesCrockpot lamb shank, stewed lamb shank, braised shanks
Breast, Rolled145 °F (62.8°C), let rest for at least 3 minutesRoasted lamb breast, slow roast lamb breast, stuffed lamb breast, grilled lamb breast

(Source: USDA)

Unlike fish and other seafood, pregnant women will need a trusty food thermometer to tell if the safe minimum internal temperature has been achieved (source: FDA).

Don’t have one on hand? Try looking at the surface of the lamb. If the color is brown, the meat firm, and there is no pink or traces of blood, then that should be medium-well to well-done.

Medium done meat has a cooking temperature of around 150°F–160°F (65.6°C–71°C). Technically speaking, this number surpasses the lamb minimum internal temperature that’s safe for pregnant women. However, it’s hard to get right without a food thermometer.

It’s best to be cautious when it comes to undercooked lamb in any form because it can contain Listeria Monocytogenes, Toxoplasma Gondii., Salmonella, E. Coli, or Campylobacter. These pathogens can seriously affect the unborn baby (source: FDA).

Compared to other cuts, only ground lamb needs a higher internal temperature to cook. This is because ground lamb has more surface area, and can be more susceptible to bacterial contamination.

lamb roasted with rosemary, cranberries and garlic

Ordering Lamb at a Restaurant 

Lamb is often served undercooked in restaurants, particularly leaner cuts like a rack of lamb. Pregnant women should eat lamb meat that has no traces of the color pink. Unfortunately, this means that you have to ask for your lamb to be cooked more than the chef usually would.

If dining out or eating at a restaurant, order your food such as lamb chops or lamb rack well-cooked to be safe, or medium-well if the kitchen is able to use a food thermometer to check. 

Now, if you’re wondering, “What if I’m at home and have leftovers? Can I reheat them?”

The answer is yes.

Lamb leftovers can stay in the fridge for 3–4 days. The reheating temperature should be at 165 °F. (74c)  or until piping hot. 

Only reheat what you need and return the rest immediately back to the fridge. If you want to keep leftovers longer, store them in the freezer.

Remember, do not eat cold leftovers. Should there be any microbes in the food, the temperature in the refrigerator may inhibit bacterial growth, but it won’t kill off harmful bacteria. Always reheat leftovers when you want to eat them. 

Is Lamb Offal (Kidneys, Liver, etc) Pregnancy-Safe? 

Organ meats such as kidneys, heart, tongue, tripe, and others have not been fully studied as to their safety for pregnant women. If fully cooked and eaten in moderation, it’s usually fine (for example, if there was a small amount in a lamb burger, sausage, or kebab). Liver, on the other hand, does feature in some studies regarding safety during pregnancy.

You might have come across a warning against eating lamb liver. Liver is rich in vitamin A. A 3-ounce (85 g) portion of cooked lamb liver contains 22100 IU of vitamin A (source: USDA). 

A study shows that vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a public health concern in most developing countries, while toxicity is a concern in some developed ones. There are two sources of dietary vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. The one found in lamb liver is preformed vitamin A. 

If the dose of preformed vitamin A exceeds 10,000 IU a day, it may potentially be harmful. There have been reports that mothers who consumed excessive amounts of preformed vitamin A ( more than 25,000 IU per day) during pregnancy have malformations in their children. (source: NIH). 

Some countries recommend eating a small amount of liver (it IS very nutritious, after all), and some say to completely avoid it. You can read more about liver during pregnancy here.

roasted lamb

Is Lamb a Good Meat Choice for Pregnant Women? 

Lamb is dense in nutrition. It is particularly abundant in high-quality protein, iron, selenium zinc, and vitamins B3 and B12 which makes it a good choice for pregnant women.

Protein helps the baby grow and develop inside the womb. Iron is needed because your overall blood volume increases since you are pregnant. Iron helps produce blood and supply oxygen to the baby as well. 

Like protein, zinc helps repair damaged tissues. It also helps with insulin and enzyme production, as well as improving the immune system. 

Vitamin B12 is vital for overall cellular and nervous processes. Niacin (vitamin B3) helps Vitamin B12 by supporting nerve, digestion, and skin functions (source: Michigan State University Extension).

Be that as it may, lamb is often high in saturated fat, depending on the cut This is the fat that comes from animal products and is considered unhealthy.

A 3-ounce (85 g) serving of cooked lean lamb roast contains 2.88 g of saturated fat and 7.8 g of total fat (source: USDA). The recommended amount should be less than 10% of the total calories based on the standard 2,000-calorie diet which is only 200 calories (source: DGA).

This means that this portion contains 25.9 calories of saturated fat and 70.2 calories of total fat. Note that a 3-ounce portion is the size of a palm of the average adult.

For pregnant women, one ounce (28.3 g) of lean lamb is recommended (source: UC Davis Health System). You can eat lamb safely, but it’s best to stick to the recommended intake for pregnant women, especially if fat is a concern. If you’re stewing or roasting lamb, you can often skim off some of the fat before serving. 

Lamb is not only safe but also nutritious for you and your baby when cooked thoroughly. We hope this article covered all you need to know about lamb consumption during pregnancy.