To most Americans, goat meat sounds like a foreign and unsavory dish consumed in far-off places by people who don’t have many other options. In reality, goat is the most commonly consumed type of meat the world over, and not just in the Third World. America is one of the few holdouts where goat hasn’t really taken hold.
Until recently, that is. There has long been localized markets for goat meat, especially in immigrant centers like New York City and southwestern states where there is a heavy Hispanic influence. But increasingly, middle class white people in America are discovering goat, or maybe they’re simply catching up with the rest of the world.
What does goat taste like? It’s somewhere between lamb and chicken, with a distinct flavor that isn’t too gamey. The key with goat is to cook it properly. It’s very easy to end up with tough, stringy meat that chews like boot leather and goes down like shoe laces.
Goat that is slow cooked with lots of marinade and spice can be very tasty. Many ethnic restaurants have added it to the menu as America finally starts to catch on, and the results can be excellent, like pulled goat tacos, Jamaican-style jerk stew, and in rich curries. The best part about goat meat is that it’s leaner than chicken and has more protein than beef, making it a smart choice for the health conscious.
And for those who are concerned with the industrial-scale production of beef, pork, and chickens, with the accompanying environmental and animal cruelty issues, goat presents a unique alternative. That’s because goats are usually raised on marginal pastures that are not suitable for other types of agriculture, and they thrive in those environments. When they are raised on pastures also used by beef cattle and other animals, they do not compete for the same plants, which improves land use and gives ranchers a natural way to control weeds. No matter what, they don’t end up in a feed lot.
Goat meat may not be a white, middle-class American tradition, but for the rest of the world, it’s a staple, kind of like soccer. So the next time you encounter goat meat, give it a try and see what you’ve been missing.