Best Meat Sheep Breeds List: Definitive Guide

Muscular Texel sheep standing in a green pasture
The best meat sheep breeds include the Suffolk, Cheviot, Dorset, and Hampshire. Farmers worldwide raise these sheep breeds due to their high quality of meat, quantity of meat, and rapid weight gain.

The Best Meat Sheep Breed

The best meat sheep breed overall is the Suffolk. Suffolk sheep are popular due to their superior quality meat. Due to their large stature, they also produce large quantities of meat.

Depending on whether quality, quantity, or fast-growth is the priority, other choices for top meat sheep may be:

  • Highest quality meat: Suffolk, Texel, Cheviot, Blackbelly, Dorper, Katahdin
  • Highest quantity meat: Suffolk, Cheviot, Texel
  • Highest growth rate: Suffolk, Dorper, Hampshire, Texel
  • Tastiest meat sheep: Blackbelly, Texel, Hampshire, Dorper, Cheviot

The 9 Best Meat Sheep Breeds

Suffolk

Suffolk sheep are one of the most sought-after meat sheep breeds due to their superior quality meat. Suffolk sheep produce high-quality mutton as well as lean and delicious lamb.

Suffolk sheep are from Suffolk, England. They’re one of the oldest British-bred breeds. Suffolk sheep are the result of crossbreeding between Southdown rams and Norfolk ewes.

Suffolk sheep are polled, with a black face and black legs. They weigh around 180-280 pounds. Rams can weigh up to 350 pounds.

In addition to superb meat quality, other advantages of Suffolk sheep are:

  • Rapid growth rate
  • High life expectancy
  • Hardiness

Cheviot

The meat from Cheviot sheep is of high quality, with a mild to musky flavor.

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Native to Northern England, Cheviot sheep are a hardy breed that can thrive in varied climates. These sheep have a wool-free head and legs.

Cheviot sheep are short but stocky and produce well-muscled carcasses. Ewes can weigh 160 pounds, while rams reach around 200 pounds.

Farmers choose Cheviot sheep when they’re looking for high-quality meat with the ability to also produce milk and wool.

Hampshire

A flock of Hampshire sheep

Like Suffolk sheep, Hampshire sheep produce large quantities of meat and have a rapid growth rate.

Hampshire sheep are a renowned English breed with premium-quality meat. They have a white wool coat with a black face and black legs.

Rams weigh about 350 pounds, while the ewes weigh up to 225 pounds.

Dorset

Famous for its spiral horns, the Dorset sheep is a popular British breed. It’s a cross between Merinos and the Welsh horned sheep.

Dorset sheep produce succulent, mild-tasting meat. 

They can breed all year round. The ewes don’t halt their estrus cycles during warmer months. The lambs are fast-growing, and full-grown adults reach up to 275 pounds.

Katahdin

Katahdin sheep weigh up to around 250 pounds and produce 

high-quality, low-fat meat.

Katahdin sheep are a hardy, fast-growing breed. They reach sexual maturity early, are significantly fertile, and will breed out of season.

As a hair breed, Katahdin sheep are low maintenance and don’t require shearing. The breed doesn’t produce lanolin, giving its meat a milder taste.

Texel

Texel sheep are renowned for their muscular, blocky bodies.

Adults can weigh up to 300 pounds, making them one of the heaviest sheep breeds on the market. Their lean, delicate, tasty meat makes them a favorite among chefs.

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Texel sheep are prolific breeders, and their breeding season can last up to five months. Texel lambs are rapid-growing, reaching maturity in seven months.

Barbados Blackbelly

The Barbados Blackbelly is a hair breed native to the Caribbean that produces tasty, high-quality meat.

It’s a small-stature breed, with the ewes weighing around 100 pounds and rams weighing approximately 130 pounds.

Barbados Blackbelly sheep are prolific breeders and can breed out of season. They’re hardy and are excellent foragers.

Dorper

A group of Dorper sheep in South Africa

Dorper is a popular meat sheep breed originating in South Africa. It produces high-quality meat and is specifically bred for meat production.

Dorper sheep are fast-growing, attaining around 80 pounds in three to four months. It’s an excellent breeder, producing offspring year round.

As a hair breed, Dorper sheep lack lanolin, making their meat mild-tasting and succulent.

Southdown

Native to Sussex, England, the Southdown sheep is renowned for its premium meat. It’s a small-stature breed, gaining about 240 pounds in adulthood.

Southdown sheep are low-maintenance, hardy, and prolific breeders. They are also excellent foragers.

Best Tasting Meat Sheep

Katahdin sheep are known to have some of the best-tasting meat. Being a hair breed, Katahdin doesn’t produce lanolin, a substance attributed to the ‘sheepy’ or mutton odor in sheep meat.

Other sheep breeds with excellent meat quality include:

  • Dorper
  • Hampshire
  • Barbados Blackbelly
  • Texel

Other Meat Sheep

Other popular meat sheep include:

BreedAverage Weight
Tunis215 pounds
Icelandic 185 pounds
Romney175 pounds
Wiltshire200 pounds
Merino207 pounds
Lincoln300 pounds
St. Croix175 pounds
Royal White223 pounds
Corriedale202 pounds
Welsh Mountain Sheep123 pounds
Mondale250 pounds
Shropshire215 pounds
Rambouillet250 pounds
Charollais250 pounds
Border Leicester320 pounds

Catherine

Catherine is a farming enthusiast. She’s lived on a farm for the most part of her life and this stirred her interest to know more about agriculture—both crop farming and animal keeping. Coupled with her love for writing, Catherine enjoys sharing her farming experiences plus researching and writing on the latest in the sector.

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