Q: How healthy is goat meat? How is it produced and prepared?
A: This red meat, commonly consumed in China, India, North Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Latin America, is, nutritionally speaking, a good alternative to beef because it is leaner. Though it’s still under the radar in the U.S., demand for goat meat has increased over the last two decades, largely because of the rising number of immigrants from these regions along with a growing gourmet market for sustainable “locavore” meat.
Goat has less than half as much fat as the leanest beef and is even slightly leaner and less caloric than skinless chicken breast. In fact, it has only 165 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 gram saturated) per 4 ounces, cooked (compared to about 190 calories and 4 grams of fat in skinless chicken breast).
Depending on the breed, cut, sex of the animal, age at slaughter, and other factors, the meat varies in pungency and tenderness, with some cuts being surprisingly mild and even sweet. More tender cuts can be roasted, broiled, or sautéed; less tender ones are best suited for slow cooking (braising or stewing) at low temperatures.
More than half the goat meat consumed in the U.S. is imported from Australia. But it’s a fast-growing industry here, with the animals used for their meat, milk, and hair, as well as for brush control (by foraging vines, twigs, shrubs, weeds, and other vegetation, they help manage land “like little lawnmowers,” as one goat-owning restaurateur put it).
Some are raised for fun as a hobby (such as for “goat yoga”). The goats are typically raised on fenced pasture on small farms without the use of hormones, under conditions generally considered more humane than industrially produced livestock. But many of these friendly animals are still subjected to cruel practices such as disbudding (removal of the sensitive horn buds that grow into horns). And they are often separated from their mothers at a young age and slaughtered for their meat as “kids” (under one year). The male offspring of dairy goats—a byproduct of the growing demand for goat milk products—are culled and often used for meat.
You can find goat meat at some local butcher shops, farmers’ markets, and restaurants, or you can order it online. If you want to try it, we recommend seeking responsible suppliers who ensure that the animals are raised and slaughtered as humanely as possible. One label to look for is Certified Humane from the nonprofit organization Humane Farm Animal Care. For goat meat recipes, go to the American Goat Federation website.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.