It is the primary meat source in the Middle East, where it can be considered both kosher and halal, and in northern Africa. Indeed, it’s almost 70% of the red meat eaten globally. Farming land that can only support two cows can support at least 10 goats instead.
In the primary English-speaking countries, however — North America, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, etc — goat meat is mostly only sold in specialty or ethnic stores. Some English speakers say they have found the meat stringy and greasy, without enough of a compensating good taste, to bother with it. Plus, the meat from older, male goats can have a barnyard pong to it.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that as of 2011, close to 1 million goats are slaughtered in America each year for meat. That meat, though, may largely be going to domestic ethnic markets. Outside of ethnic markets, you won’t find goat meat in supermarkets yet: if you wanted goat meat, you’d need to source a farmer, and pre-order part of a carcass for later that year.
In an effort to get people to try it, or try it again, some marketers are attempting to call it “chevron” now, to break past preconceptions of “goat meat.”
A goat’s body is similar to a lamb’s body, but much leaner. There is no marbling in goat meat. The fat tends to accumulate in their body cavity rather than in the muscle. Because of this, though, the meat can dry out and toughen easily. Consequently, much goat meat is usually cooked with slow, moist cooking methods.
The meat colour varies from pink to bright red.
Male goats are slaughtered for eating when very young, because as they age the meat gets so tough you have to stew it for hours. Kids are goats under 1 year old; they are usually slaughtered when 3 to 5 months old; some say you can wait 6 months to a year. Meat from young goats can be cooked as you would lamb, and meat from young male goats won’t have a goaty smell if they were slaughtered (or at least neutered) before they had a chance to develop musk glands. Older meat is best cooked through slow, moist cooking. Adult goat meat is almost always stewed in one way or another. Fans say that meat from older goats has more flavour. Meat from older, male goats is popular in the Caribbean.
Goat Meat Cuts
The carcass of a goat will usually weigh about 40 to 50 pounds (18 to 22 1/2 kg) after being dressed. Bear in mind, though, that there is a higher ratio of bone to meat than there is with cows, pigs and sheep.
Any goat meat sold in America must be slaughtered under government inspection, and the meat must be inspected. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications for fresh goat in October 2001. The document is here. (link valid as of Dec. 2008.) Note that despite government guidelines, ethnic butchers may still carve the meat somewhat randomly, leaving rib chops (for grilling) attached to lamb breast (for stewing.)
The main cuts are leg, loin, rack and shoulder. Leg refers to the rear leg; shoulder to the front leg.
The tender cuts are the rib chops and meat from the loin. Rib or loin cuts from a female are considered better than those from a male. There is a tenderloin, but it will weigh only 3 to 4 oz (85 to 115g), and is a very rare separate cut in butcher shops, usually being left attached to the loin.
The loin is the most expensive cut. It may be left as a rack or cut into chops.
The largest cut are the rear legs, being about 1/3 of the carcass weight; the rump and sirloin are usually left attached to the rear legs. The second largest cut is the shoulder.
Some goat breeds are more docile than others; some are more mischievous than others. Both male and female goats grow horns and beards, though the beards on male goats are longer. The beards are sometimes shaved off for shows.
Some goats have small, hair-covered fleshy appendages on the neck just under the jaw. These are called either waddles, wattles, toggles, tassels or waggles. Whatever purpose they served in the evolutionary past of a goat, they have no known purpose now.
Goats will only produce milk if they have children. Breeds from tropical areas tend to kid all year round, though.
Good milk breeds include British Saanen, British Toggenburg, British Alpine, Anglo Nubians, French Alpine, Oberhasli, and La Mancha.
Good meat goats are Spanish Meat Goat, Tennessee Meat Goat, South African Boer Goat, and New Zealand Kiko Goat.
Angora and Cashmere goats are raised for their wool.
The taste of goat meat works well with pronounced flavours, such as spicy or sour.
Rib and loin cuts can be quick cooked by grilling or sautéing. Back-leg meat can be quick-cooked if you slice it into strips, and pound thinly.
All other cuts should be considered for braising or stewing, as there is a high amount of collagen and connective tissue which must be broken down through slow cooking. As it breaks down, it transfers its flavour and richness to the dish it is in.
The USDA gives these cooking guidelines:
- Cook ground goat meat to a minimum of 160 F (71 C);
- For chops, roasts and steaks: rare (145 F / 63 C), medium (160 F / 71 C) or well done (170 F / 77 C);
- All other meat: stewing or braising
Fans say goat meat is healthier than many other meats: two-thirds less fat than pork or lamb, 1/2 less than chicken; overall 1/3 fewer calories than beef and 1/4 fewer calories than chicken.
Per 100g, cooked: 145 calories, 27g protein, 3g fat, 75mg cholesterol.
Use or freeze within 3 to 5 days.
Goats are native to south Asia. They were probably first domesticated somewhere in the area of Iran.
The South African Boer Goat was introduced into the United States via New Zealand in 1993.
The French word for a butcher shop, “boucherie”, comes from the French word “bouc”, for a male goat.
The English word “kid” came from the Norse word “kið” meaning “young goat”.
Beardsall, Jonny. Why goats are on the rise. London: Daily Telegraph. 11 November 2010.
Copp, Emily. Georgia Farmers See Increased Demand for Goat Meat. National Public Radio. 4 March 2005. Retrieved March 2006 from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4522366.
Miller, Bryan. Goats in the Kitchen. National Public Radio. 4 March 2005. Retrieved March 2006 from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4522762.
Rowans, J.R. and P.T. Ziegler. Lamb Identification and Fabrication. Chapter 14 of ‘The Meat We Eat’. Danville, Illinois: The Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc. 1977.
U.S.D.A. Promotes Horse & Goat Meat. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Washington, DC 20250. February 1997. Retrieved from http://www.usda.gov/agency/fsis/horsgoat.html January 2001.
Scarbrough, Mark and Bruce Weinstein. Goat meat, the final frontier. Washington Post. 5 April 2011.
Schoenian, Susan. Meat Goat Production. University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. Retrieved March 2006 from http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/meatgoat.htm.