Goat: The Other Red Meat
Aug 31, 2012 11:24AM ● Published by Anonymous
While goat cheese is now standard and goat milk is a common alternative to cow’s milk, the actual meat of goats hasn’t reached the same pinnacle of popularity—in Maryland, anyway. This, however, could be on the verge of change, especially if Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, authors of the cookbook Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese, have anything to say about it.
“We are a fan of the goat,” Weinstein says. “Besides being incredibly tasty, goats are fabulous animals that are easy to raise and very sustainable. And even though it’s the most-eaten meat in the world, there are no factory farms for goats anywhere.”
Across the globe, goat makes up approximately 70 percent of meat consumption. In America, though, it lags behind nearly all farm animals when it comes to their place on the dinner table. As immigrants continue to cook the way their parents and grandparents did in other countries, and others discover the benefits, both health and ecological, both farms and retail stores are seeing an increase in demand.
“I get calls all the time,” says Pamela Adams, the president of the Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia Meat Goat Producers Association. “Those who are looking for one animal for dinner Saturday night to restaurants who are looking for 1,000 goats at a time. I obviously can’t fill those needs myself.” Adams has been raising goats at her farm, Bridgestone Manor in Eldersburg, Maryland, for 14 years.
“Restaurants are starting to pick up on it,” she says, though they’re few and far between, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region. “[Consumers] started with goat cheese, and then they are wondering what the meat tastes like.”
Texas and Tennessee lead the way for goat meat production; however, Maryland has its own share of goat farms for both dairy and meat varieties. In addition to being the most widely consumed animal, most experts generally agree that goats are also the world’s most sustainable animals to raise.
“You can raise eight goats on the same amount of land of one steer,” says Stan Burdette, who allows his goats and cows to intermingle at Autumn View Farm in Mount Airy, Maryland. “And if you do the math, you can make as much money or even more” from those goats. Even though more people consume beef in our region, a goat only requires four or five months before it’s ready to be purchased, in comparison to 18 months to raise a steer. Additionally, the initial investment is inexpensive, comparatively, and there’s less competition.
For the variety of food it will eat, goats have a reputation as the garbage cans of farm animals—a title that’s only partially true. However, there are limitations. “You can’t just turn them out into the wild because they’re highly allergic to many common plants such as poison ivy or rhododendrons,” says Burdette, who feeds his goats a fairly standard diet of hay, corn, barley, and oats.
Additionally, goats need plenty of salt that isn’t present in Maryland grasses. Allow one to walk up to you, and they’ll start licking your hand because of the sodium on your skin.
Calorie for calorie, goat meat is a nutritional powerhouse when compared to other animal proteins. “Goat meat is higher in protein, lower in cholesterol, higher in iron, and lower in calories than most other meat out there,” Adams says. “It’s better for you,” which is just one more reason for the increase in demand. Additionally, the USDA does not approve the use of hormones and antibiotics on goats.
Chart: Nutritional value of goat meat
Nutrient Goat Chicken Beef Pork Bison Salmon
Calories 142 190 201 212 143 180
Fat (g) 3.5 7.4 8.09 9.66 2.42 8
Protein (g) 26.8 29 30 29.3 28.4 25
Cholesterol (mg) 74.6 89 86 86 82 66
* Per 100-gram (3.5 ounces) serving of cooked meat
Take a look around in your local supermarket, and you probably won’t find the bright red, firm flesh of a goat packaged amid the chicken breasts and T-bone steaks. Currently, there are two ways to purchase goat in Maryland: By special order at the grocery store or directly from the farmer.
The latter is preferable for two reasons: First, it supports local agriculture and economy, and second, you have more control over the type of meat you’re purchasing.
“Not only do I shake the hand of the farmer that raised my meat,” Weinstein says. “I’d like to know the animal. It’s more likely you can do that with goat than with beef. When I go buy a steak from [the farmer], I rarely know which cow it came from. Goat is different. Certainly when I go buy my whole baby goat, I know which goat I’m getting.”
When it comes to meat goats, the age makes all the difference. Animals between four and six months old are tender with mild flavor, which Weinstein describes as a cross between dark meat turkey and pork. Meat from older goats is tougher with a big, bold flavor, which is why its frequently used in ethnic curries. You can get either variety from a local farmer, but when you order it from a grocery store, “it comes frozen from New Zealand or Australia,” Burdette says. “You can’t select the age or type of meat, and the quality is not there.”
If you can see the meat before you purchase it, you’ll look for a light pink to bright red, firm flesh with well-distributed white fat. However, it’s more likely that a consumer purchases an entire animal from a local farm, which then sends it to a USDA-approved butcher to cut and package it. The majority of farms do not sell pre-butchered meat directly from the farm.
“Every once in a while I’ll get a call asking for one pound,” Adams says. “In order to do that, it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth,” because of the hoops farmers have to jump through to get approved by the USDA.
As for cost, Adams sells a live animal for about $3 a pound. After butchering, a 100-pound goat will yield anywhere from 50 to 65 pounds of meat. Add in the rendering and packaging fees, and the meat itself costs about $7.50 a pound, Adams says.
Weinstein was in his 30s when he first tried goat, which was made by a Jamaican health aid who was taking care of his grandmother. Always up for trying something new, Weinstein took a bite. “I thought, “big taste,” he says, as he was eating the aged meat. “This is really a big taste. That’s probably why I didn’t go racing out looking for it again. Next time I had it was probably 20 years later, smoked in Texas,” and it was an entirely new experience because he was then eating meat from a younger goat.
Many cultures across the globe eat the entire goat, leaving just the teeth and the outer shell of the horns left uneaten. However, most people in western culture stick to the meat of the animal. Weinstein recommends a recipe for a seven-hour goat leg, which requires roasting the legs for seven hours with garlic and wine until the meat is falling off the bone. “Just throw it in the oven and baste it every 20 minutes for seven hours,” he says. “As long as you’re home, who cares?”
Despite the goat’s poor reputation and the inevitable squeamishness of eating a new animal protein, the benefits of goat meat clearly outweigh any disadvantages. And just as pork reinvented itself as “the other white meat” in 1987 to increase popularity, perhaps we’ll someday know chevon as “the other red meat.”