You love goat cheese, right? What about goat meat? No clue? Even though goat is the most widely consumed red meat in the world, it’s just now becoming popular in America – and with good reason, although there are some significant drawbacks to eating goat meat that are worth noting. Here’s what you need to know about goat meat before it’s sitting on a pretty plate in front of you:
1. Goat meat is lean. If you think boneless chicken breasts are your best option for lean meat proteins, you’re on the right track. Look a little further down the health spectrum and you’ll find goat meat. Not only is goat meat the leanest red meat on the market, it has fewer calories and cholesterol than chicken and turkey. Actually, the only meat leaner than goat is the mighty ostrich, weighing in at 2.8% fat. Here’s what the competition looks like in terms of fat: goat – 3%, turkey – 5%, chicken – 7.4%, beef – 18.8%, Nutella – 1,000,000%.
2. Goat meat is clean. Goats get a bad rap for eating tin cans and hanging out near garbage receptacles, but this is an unfair stereotype. Here’s why: because goats are not factory farmed in the same manner as many cows, pigs, and chickens in America, they are likely to have been raised without added growth hormones and antibiotics. In fact, just about all goat meat that reaches American tables comes from small domestic and international farms. Which brings us to our next point…
3. Goat meat leaves a small environmental hoofprint. Okay, so we know goats won’t genetically modify your children, but what about their impact on our environment? This is a two-pronged issue. Unlike the grazing cow, which destroys root systems and eats up vitamin rich grass from the soil, goats are browsers. They eat brush and weeds, restoring pastures by eliminating competition for water and nutrients.
All this is wonderful, but before you put goat meat on a pearly white pedestal, let’s talk about those small goat farms located internationally. The majority of goat meat is imported to the US from Australia and China. So if you’re picking up a vacuum-packed goat flank from a local halal freezer there’s a decent chance it was flash frozen and shipped across one or more of the seven seas. This means that imported goat meat leaves a much larger transportation footprint than meats produced stateside. So if you’re going to buy goat, try to buy it from farms in your area (or at least your time zone).
4. You can find locally-sourced goat meat – if you try. Even though the US is the largest importer of goat meat worldwide ( to the tune of 15,752 metric tons in 2011), there are plenty of opportunities to find goat meat that has been raised on local farms. Remember, goat is a staple in the diet of many communities. It’s out there. Harness the power of Google, or stop into a nearby meat market for recommendations.
5. Goat meat isn’t held to USDA standards. Like many meat products that aren’t widely consumed by America’s omni-carnivores – such as elk, bear and pigeon – goat meat is not yet set to the same rigorous USDA butchery standards as beef, pork and chicken. Among other things, this means that goats aren’t butchered on mechanical production lines in Midwestern warehouses (sorry for that imagery). Instead, goats are generally slaughtered by the farmers who raise them, or the butchers who buy them. The is great in some respects – but it also means there is little regulation that goes into ensuring your meat is properly dated and free of diseases.
6. Overproduction of goat meat may be an issue in the future. With all products, large-scale profitability means there is a strong potential for overproduction. We mentioned the surplus of negative byproducts from mass Greek yogurt production in a previous blog, a problem that didn’t exist until John Stamos smiled at us with a fat-free bite of vanilla heaven. All it takes is one campaign.
There are currently no statistics on the negative effects of goat meat production, however we do know that lamb production has by far the worst impact on our environment of any food, almost doubling beef and tripling pork CO2 emissions. Lambs yield a small amount of meat compared to the amount of waste they produce. Unfortunately, a goat’s meat/waste ratio is even worse.
Whether or not you should eat goat is up to you. Word to the wise: if cooked properly, goat is divine. “Think lamb, but with a tang of earthy darkness,” writes NY Times food critic Henry Alford. Since goat is the most consumed meat in the world, you can find it any cuisine – from tacos to curries. Need some inspiration? Search Yelp for restaurants that serve the best goat-infused dishes in your city. And when you’re ready to start cooking it, find yourself a good cookbook to learn the basics.
What do you think of goat meat? Will it be included in your monthly dinner rotations, or do you prefer to stick to the standard chicken/turkey/beef-based meals? Tell us in the comments section, or tweet us your opinion to @BerryBreeze.