Goat

It’s likely that the folks reading this post don’t regularly eat goat meat.  In fact, it’s likely that the reader very rarely eats it, if ever.

But for much of the world, goat is the primary meat source, rather than swine or cattle. There are good reasons for this.  Some cultures disapprove of eating pork (or have never made it part of their customary diet).  Goats thrive on terrain that would be inhospitable to cattle.  In places that don’t have freezers and refrigeration the meat of slaughtered animals must be eaten right away and it’s a lot easier for a family or village to consume a goat than a cow.  And some folks just prefer the taste of goat.

Believe it or not, the United States imports more goat meat than any other country. Even though much of our country does not traditionally eat goat, the supply of goats raised in the U.S. can’t meet demand.  The demand is driven principally by the so-called “ethnic market”, primarily Latin Americans and Muslims.  Almost half of the goat meat sold in the U.S. is sold in the major cities of the Northeast.

Most of the goat meat eaten in the U.S. comes from Australia and New Zealand, the world’s largest exporters of goat meat.  Large feral herds supply most of the goats slaughtered there, making their cost of production very low.  Thus inexpensive frozen goat meat in New York City, for example, originates two hemispheres away.

We raise Boer goats, which are regarded by most as the premier meat goat.  We have Mexican-American customers who buy off the farm.  It is traditional to barbecue a goat as part of birthday celebrations, and they want a good-looking healthy animal for the party, not frozen meat from feral Australian goats.  The kids we can’t sell off the farm go to the livestock market.  A few end up as breeding stock or 4-H projects, but most end up in “ethnic” markets in the Northeast.

We’ve never offered cuts of goat meat, but I’m thinking of doing that next year.  I’m sure there are folks who’d like goat, but don’t want a whole one (and don’t want to slaughter it themselves).

I have to admit to being a little uncomfortable with selling our goats that way.  Goats are wonderful creatures, with individual personalities.  While I realize that keeping all the billy goats born here would create chaos in the pasture, it’s a lot easier mentally to send them off alive than it would be to slaughter them (even though I’m well aware of their destiny).  We try not to become attached to the young males, but nevertheless market day is always a bit unsettling to me.  I’m sure taking them to the processor (a modern euphemism for “butcher”), will be even more so.

No doubt some folks who are reading this are aghast at the thought that we would slaughter our goats.  All I can say to that is that I greatly admire people (like my wife and daughter) who have chosen to be vegetarian.  May their tribe increase.  But for the rest of us, it’s good to have a source of meat from animals raised humanely and ethically.  And as a farmer who takes animal husbandry very seriously, I know that we cannot keep the male kids without having perpetual war in the pasture.

Many times folks who have asked about our goats have seemed horrified to learn that they are meat goats.  “Why don’t you raise dairy goats,” they’ll often ask.  Implicit in the question is an accusation that by raising meat goats we are showing ourselves to be less compassionate than farmers who raise dairy goats.  When they ask that question,  I  respond by asking them if they know what happens to the male kids on dairy goat farms.  Of course they never do.  While our male kids live happy lives romping about our farm for three months or more, male dairy goat kids are killed at birth.  A farm manual I have recommends bashing them in the head with a hammer. When I tell folks that,  it usually puts to rest the idea that raising dairy goats is more humane than raising meat goats (it also should raise some issues for milk-drinking vegetarians, but I’ll save that discussion for another day).

I love our goats, but I’ve never eaten one.  Plenty of people have, however, and I know that when they did they were nourished by goats that lived healthy, happy lives.

So if there’s anyone out there in internetland who eats goat meat, I recommend you find a local goat farm and source your meat from there.  You’ll be helping a local farmer and helping break a system that sends goat meat over 10,000 miles to the consumer.

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22 comments on “Goat

  1. jubilare says:

    I can’t help but think it’s better to eat meat of any kind that has been raised humanely on a farm. All the meat we eat at home (and eggs, too) come from such a source. It’s better for them, and it’s better for us. But I do understand the particular attachment to goats. They are fascinating. My uncle raises meat goats as well, and on my last visit I got to feed a pair of abandoned kids, one male and one female. Ridiculously cute.

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  2. DM says:

    I only tasted goat once @ a cook out for a foreign exchange student,…they roasted it like pig and I remember thinking who ever cooked the goat didn’t probably know what he was doing 🙂 I’m gearing up for rabbits right now..when they are young, they’re supposed to taste like chicken. biggest challenge will be not getting attached to the little buggers, which I think I can do.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve raised rabbits before and I never felt any attachment to them (unlike goats). But my daughter had a pet rabbit and she and my wife were very attached to him. So I get a chilly stare if I come in from hunting, with a rabbit.

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    • bobraxton says:

      at our international (world communion) Sunday at church I ate a goat dish prepared by a mother who grew up in Jamaica. I assume she used U.S. tools such as slow cooker. It was delicious. I have also eaten in rural Kenya. Different cultures have different ways of doing things. To blame “goat” is to make it, excuse the word play, a scapegoat (unfairly, in my opinion).

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  3. We have served locally-raised goat at our Brooklyn restaurant for almost ten years. We purchase the animals whole and use every part in some manner. I prefer the taste of the meat over that of beef or lamb, but many folks are unwilling to even try it. Goat has gotten a bad rap in the U.S. In my experience, almost 100% of people associate lamb with curry and are skeptical about its provenance. I’ve spent years trying to convert people and have been successful with every single person who has been willing to just TRY IT.

    That being said, since starting to raise our own Boer-Saanan goats, I have a really hard time considering turning these creatures into meat. I think it’s because we do our own slaughtering and it’s a tough pill to swallow to say goodbye to little friends. Obviously, I need a shift in my thinking. I manage to do it with the pigs, so I’m sure I can find a way to do it with the goats as well.

    I so appreciate your writing and informative posts, such as this one. I didn’t know about the fate of male dairy goats, but I’m not at all surprised. I wish I could say I was shocked by the things some farmers are willing to do, but nothing about farming (or humans, for that matter) really surprises me anymore.

    You should try goat meat. If you like lamb, it’s got a similar, but fresher and lighter, taste.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve only eaten goat in Jamaican food. As I understand it they prefer mature billys. So I’ve never had what most of the world prefers.

      My guess is that goat tastes a lot like venison though and I do like that. Bottom line is that I need to get educated on this. It’s ridiculous to raise meat goats and be so utterly clueless about goat meat.

      I’m glad you liked the post. After writing it my first thought was that no one wants to read stuff like this. Thanks for proving me wrong. 🙂

      I’m so impressed with your restaurant. I really wish we had something like it in our part of the world. Heck, at this point I’d be happy if we had even one restaurant that served locally grown food.

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  4. df says:

    I can honestly say I’ve never eaten goat meat, but only for the lack of opportunity. I’m comfortable with humanely raised animals being a source of food protein, and can see how you find yourself wondering about how to get the meat from your animals to potential consumers like me, but at the same time, I don’t know how I would fare with managing those things myself. We’re only raising chickens (for eggs) right now, and I don’t know how I’d do with raising meat birds. I feel very attached to our chickens! How many goats do you have, by the way?

    Although pork appears to be a meat avoided for religious reasons, I think those original reasons are probably more to do with pork’s iffy safety record down through the ages, rather than based purely on principle. Would you agree?

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    • Bill says:

      We have about 70 goats. I understand entirely about your chickens. I feel the same way. I’ve become very fond of one of the chicks we have now (it likes to jump up into my hands and be carried around). I’m really hoping it turns out to be a hen.

      I don’t know the reason other cultures won’t eat pork. Likely the religious prohibitions followed some cultural objection, but I’m not sure what it would be (maybe safety, as you say, but I don’t see why pork would be less safe to eat than goat). How our cultural biases against certain foods develop is an interesting subject. Most people in the world eat insects. Many eat dogs, monkeys, snakes, etc. Some cultures are disgusted at the thought of eating pork, chicken eggs or beef. It would be interesting to know the origins of those cultural norms.

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  5. shoreacres says:

    I first ate goat in Liberia, where it was considered a great delicacy. Sometimes it would be roasted whole for a celebration, but it also was possible to buy meat in the market for other dishes.

    I developed a taste for the meat, and am happy to be living in a place where cabrito’s just around almost every corner. Goat meat, goat milk and cheeses and related products like goat milk soap are in high demand, and available at local farmers’ markets. Local farms raising goats for meat are pretty common, actually, and folks who prefer their meat can find a source in almost every part of the state.

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    • Bill says:

      I should have mentioned that most of the goats raised in the U.S. come from Texas. I’d guess there is more goat eaten in Texas than in any other state.

      Goat is a delicacy in Haiti too. Much preferred over chicken or beef.

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  6. El Guapo says:

    I’ve had goat often enough to be familiar with it, though it isn’t a part of my regular diet.
    I would prefer eating meat from a source I knew personally, rather than from a supermarket meat case, as I do now.

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  7. bobraxton says:

    In Kenya goats came long before coins and currency. We have seen many during numerous month-long mission work camp (trips). Traditionally the bride-price may have been 30 to 50. People (friends) frequently would ask us the number of goats (and cows) we have (back home).

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    • Bill says:

      How interesting. Of course money was invented as a way to facilitate exchanges of agricultural surpluses. For people in much of the world a goat will have far more value than a piece of paper decorated with an image of a former American president.

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  8. EllaDee says:

    We came to be goat eaters by accident. Both the G.O. and I grew up with typically U.K. descent Australian culinary heritage. Browsing the shops in a Sydney suburb that has an Italian cultural influence, I needed a few food items, and seeing a lovely small lamb roast perfect for the 2 of us, I purchased the poetically named Cabrito. Prior to preparing, something clicked, and I Googled Cabrito. Aha, I’d bought kid, baby goat. I’d eaten goat once in a Indian curry dish, found it ok, so it wasn’t unpalatable. I slow cooked our Cabrito in a heavy cast iron pot in the oven typcial of how I make many winter meat dishes: tinned tomatoes, red wine, carrots, celery, onion etc. It was delicious and we’ve been eating goat since. Goat meat still isn’t everyday common in Australia but our local Big Supermarket chain carries goat at their fresh meat counter, at $6.99 per kg more than half the price per kg of lamb. Fortunately goat is also available at the local farmers market although slightly more expensive. I agree with Applewood Farm’s last words, particularly because goat is richer, denser it seems, than say lamb and you don’t need as much for flavour or satiety.

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    • the goat I really liked (state-side) was prepared by a family from Jamaica. They are long-term members of the Presbyterian Church in Burke, VA, where my spouse was senior pastor for 27 years.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m convinced that goat would be delicious. The dish you made sounds great. My guess is that cabrito is more tender and flavorful than venison (which can also be prepared that way). As a farmer it makes sense to eliminate the middle-man whenever possible. And we have customers who want to know that the meat they eat came from animals raised naturally and humanely. So we’ll probably start offering it next season.

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  9. Ahkku Gaica says:

    Hi-
    Was sent here by a friend. I don’t know what goat dairy’s you have been talking to, but most of the one’s I know of do not knock young billies in the head, At our dairy, Those who do not have impeccable bloodlines with lots of milk behind them and impeccable conformation are banded and sold at 3-6 months or earlier (as bottle-fed babies) for pets and for slaughter prospects. At our dairy, we band shortly after birth, raise them for 3 months and sell them to a meat farm, where they are raised to maturity for slaughter. Wethers are much more tasty than mature billys. We do get a premium price for our
    wethers because we only feed organic grain with no soy, no GMO;s and no hormones. We only sell to those who do humane slaughter. We treat all our animals with affection so they have a very good life before they join the food chain. We sell milk, cheese, awesome goat milk soap, replacement milking does and very occasionally = studmuffins.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s great that you have made the commitment to give the young billys a good life. Wonderful. May it someday be that way on every farm.

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  10. bobraxton says:

    very enlightening (to me) and instructive. Thanks.

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