Monday, June 3, 2013
Rant: Going Gaga For Goat?
Despite the fact that approximately 70% of the red meat eaten in the world is goat, it is not the easiest meat to find locally. It is most likely to be found in ethnic restaurants and shops. Why aren't more local restaurants, markets and butcher shops using and showcasing goat? A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette claims that goat is "becoming trendy" but is their evidence more anecdotal than definitive? What isn't the U.S. more gaga for goat?
--Johann Sebastian Bach
The article offers few actual statistics, concentrating more on discussions with specific restaurants which serve goat. It also mentions that few fine dining restaurants offer goat on their regular menus. One of the only statistics they offer is that the Maryland-West Virginia-Pennsylvania Meat Goat Association noted that their goat production increased 20% in the past five years and that the number of goat farms had almost doubled since 2011. That is only a local figure and may not be representative of the rest of the country.
The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AMRC) has a darker picture for goat production in the U.S. They note that meat goat inventory has declined since 2009. Texas currently produces about 40% of the goat meat in the U.S. and Tennessee. Oklahoma, California and Missouri are produce significant amounts too. So, the Maryland-West Virginia-Pennsylvania Meat Goat Association is apparently not a major national goat producer. AMRC also indicates that the goat industry has been growing in Hawaii, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and Idaho. In addition, goat meat exports recently decreased 49% though live goat exports actually increased by 37%. And where did most of those goats go? Canada and the Philippines. Last year, the U.S. also imported $72.1 million in goat meat, mostly from Australia.
On a more positive note, the USDA indicates that they inspected 779,000 goat carcasses in 2010, which is an increase from 558,857 in 2004. Apparently though, the 2010 figure is slightly lower than it had been in 2008 and 2009. In addition, the U.S. still ranks very low in goat consumption compared to the rest of the world. As of 2005, the U.S. ranked 136th out of 174 countries in goat consumption. Mongolia was in 1st place. In the U.S., the groups that eat the most goat include Hispanics, Muslims and those from the Caribbean. So why aren't more people eating goat?
Healthwise, goat is a great option. It is very low in fat, about 3%, which makes it lower than turkey, chicken, pork, lamb and beef. In addition, it has less calories and cholesterol than these meats and even has more protein than beef. Goat also has more iron than chicken, pork, lamb and beef. Overall, goat is a very nutritious alternative to other commonly consumed meats. Another compelling element is that raising goats is more sustainable than many other meats. They are browsers, not grazers, meaning they do less damage to the land, and even eat weeds which helps other plants grow better. Goats need less land than cattle as well.
Currently, good goat can be expensive which means not as many people are willing to pay such high prices for an unfamiliar meat. Many consumers also do not know how to properly cook goat so their negative experiences in home cooking may not make them to want to try it again. The demand for goat needs to lead to lower prices and the average consumer needs to be educated on proper preparation. Restaurants need to be willing to place goat onto their menus, and make it more appealing to their customers. Goat is getting some good press which might help more people be willing to give it a try. I wouldn't go so far as say it is trendy yet, but it is definitely a meat worthy of exploration.
So stop wolfing down those hamburgers and chicken fingers. Go find yourself a delicious dish of goat!