October 2009
For What It's Worth

Goat Meat: Healthy & Fun to Cook

Goat meat is the most commonly consumed red meat throughout the world, and one of the healthiest meats a person can consume. While many people in the U. S. are unfamiliar with goat, and it cannot be found in most of our grocery stores, the rest of the world population enjoys some form of goat meat on a common basis.

What is so special about goat meat? It is a very lean meat; low in calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol; and the protein level is slightly lower than beef, chicken or pork. Just what most doctors would recommend for most people’s diet. Being a red meat, it has all the vitamins and minerals comparable to beef. Just think—what if the various medical associations would start endorsing goat meat as a healthy alternative meat. I can hear it now, "Goat, the other red meat," or "Goat, it’s what’s for dinner." Then again, there might be anti-goat commercials like "Beef, because they don’t make a goat knife do they?" Take a look at the chart to see some actual numbers —- you should be impressed.

Who eats goat? In the U. S., it is our growing population with an ethnic and faith-based origin who is accustomed to eating goat. Many of these consumers originate from North Africa, Middle Eastern nations, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Central America. They probably do not eat goat on a daily basis, more likely special occasions like religious, holidays, gatherings, etc. Many of our Hispanic friends eat goat on special occasions. Just like many of us like an excuse for a good cookout on a holiday, so do they – it just happens to be goat instead of pork, beef or chicken.

What does goat taste like? Some compare it to beef with extra flavor or in between beef and venison (sounds better than deer or Bambi, doesn’t it?). It should not have an "off" taste if processed and cooked properly. Cuts of goat can be quarters (legs and ribs), chops, stew, ground and roasts. There are so many ways to cook goat, which is what gives it a culinary appeal.

Where can you buy goat? Goat meat is not easy to find. Specialty meat markets and select grocery stores tend to carry it. It may have to be special ordered. Some people buy directly from a goat farmer then have the animals custom-processed at a local processing facility (which are also not easy to find).

How much should it cost? That depends on local markets and product availability. Generally a base price of $3 per pound (quarters or whole carcass) to a premium price of $8 per pound for chops. Basically, you can expect prices to vary depending on availability.

 

How do I cook goat? Again, it is a lean red meat and generally needs to be cooked slowly with added moisture. However, cuts like chops or burgers can be cooked quickly at a high temperature, which seals in moisture and flavor. Stew meat and roasts will generally be cooked slowly, bone in, with moisture, fruit or vegetables, and seasonings of choice. There are ethnic dishes like curry goat, creole goat, etc. which are quite flavorful and use spices most of us may not be accustomed to. Search the Internet for more ideas on how to cook goat.

The general public often has misconceptions about goat meat, so consumer education is important. If we give goat a fancy name like "Cabrito" (Spanish for young goat), "Cabrit" (French for goat) or "Chevon" (Spanish for mature goat), maybe it would have more culinary appeal for mainstream American consumers. Goat meat may not be for everyone, it is an "acquired" taste, kind of like Brussels’ sprouts or greens (at least to me). Next time you get the chance to try goat, give it a taste and see what you think.

Promoting Goat and Lamb

Alabama Agricultural A+ Marketing Association (A+ Marketing) in collaboration with Alabama Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the AAMU Small Farms Research Center have conducted a series of activities promoting goat and lamb as a healthy alternative. These have taken place from Mobile to Tuscumbia to Sand Mountain. The meat has been served in the form of burgers as they are easy to cook and eat on a bun. Reviews from the consumers have been very positive; most common response, "I did not know goat could taste so good."

Also goat and lamb is now available for retail at several farmers markets across North Alabama. Current markets include: one in Colbert County, two in Madison County, one in Jefferson County, and there are possible plans for one in Chattanooga, TN. All this is made possible through a grant from RC&D and a mutual agreement between A+ Marketing and Humble Heart Farm. Humble Heart Farm is already selling their gourmet goat cheese from their goat dairy and now markets goat and lamb for A+ Marketing. 

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.