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Goat meat: The new kid on the block

Meet a farmer who makes an artisan goat's cheese and the most of his billies

Goats may be the world's oldest domesticated animal but the UK is only beginning to embrace the trend for eating kid goat meat. As the demand for goat dairy produce increases, is it time to make more of one of the industry's most valuable bi-products?

Forget your traditional goat curry or Jamaican stew with allspice, there's a new meat in town - kid goat.

Served up at some of Britain's top restaurants such as St John and Quo Vadis in London and Flinty Red in Bristol, chefs are jumping at the chance to put kid on their menus, given its versatility and subtle flavour.

But the interest in kid goat meat is more than just a foodie movement, it also cuts right to the heart of the dairy industry's darker side.

Defra estimates that 30,000 billies (young male goats) are born every year but most of them are slaughtered and their carcasses burnt shortly after birth.

Cooking with goats' cheese:

Goat's cheese

Bake a goats' cheese cannelloni with tomatoes

Prepare a goats' cheese salad with aubergine

Devour a goats' cheese and apricot cheesecake

For both large and small-scale dairy farmers, rearing male billies on site is simply too costly and labour intensive.

Part of the problem stems from the increase in demand for goat dairy products in recent years, which means farmers have to expand their milking herds and are left with greater numbers of billies.

"We've seen a good steady growth in demand for our products in recent years," says Michael Hind, marketing manager at St Helen's Farm - a specialist supplier in goat dairy products to UK supermarkets.

He says demand for goat's cheese, butter and yoghurt has increased by approximately 5-6% year on year.

"Many of our customers say the goat's milk is gentle on the stomach and easier to digest than cow's milk due to a different protein structure that seems to suit some people better.

"But a good number of our consumers are also just making a positive choice for goat's milk products because they like the taste and the natural way of goat's farming."

Kate Little runs Lakeland Valley Goats in Cumbria and has 10 years of experience rearing Boer goats for meat and cashmeres for fibre.

Goat herd Compared with other breeds, the milk of the Anglo-Nubian goat is high in both butterfat and protein, ideal for cheese-making

In 2010, she was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship to conduct research into the goat industry in the UK and abroad.

"The dairy industry falls into two camps. You either have little people who milk say under 100 goats and might be adding value by making a very fancy cheese on site.

"And they're only going to have 100 baby boys a year and can afford to rear them because they're adding value or can ship them off to someone else to rear them.

Top 10 goat meat producers

Graph of goat meat producers
  • The largest producers of goat meat are China, India and Nigeria
  • Australia is the largest goat meat exporter in the world, with exports valued at ¬£79m in 2011-2012
  • The UK exported 182 tonnes of goat meat in 2012

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Defra

"On the other end of the spectrum, are the farmers who have 15,000 dairy goats and don't have the time or inclination to give a monkey's about dairy boys.

"They're the ones we need to convert."

One man trying to do just that is chef James Whetlor and co-founder of Cabrito goat meat, along with farmer Jack Jennings.

Since setting up last October Mr Whetlor has been buying goats off farmers around the UK, which are then reared for five to six months on Mr Jennings' farm in Somerset.

"It's difficult to persuade people that the best thing you can do for something is eat it but it really is," says Mr Whetlor.

"The dairy industry is really punishing on its animals.

"For an animal to be born and to have no value at all is an ethical car crash.

"One thing we could do is give that thing value."

Roasted kid goat Chef Matthew Williamson says his customers enjoy new goat dishes such as roasted kid goat

To date he has sold over 500 goats to a number of award winning restaurants around the UK, such as Flinty Red in Bristol.

"It's really important to explain that we're selling kid goat meat not goat," says Matthew Williamson, head chef at Flinty Red restaurant in Bristol.

"The difference is really stark - like if you were selling mutton instead of lamb.

"We tend to grill the legs over charcoal, the shoulders we slow roast because they are just so succulent.

How good for you is goat?

Cooked meat (100g = 0.22 lbs)

Energy

(cal)

Protein(g)

Fat(g)

Goat

143

27.1

3.03

Veal

196

31.9

6.58

Lamb

206

28.22

9.52

Pork

212

29.27

9.66

Beef

222

29.58

10.66

Source: US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database

"At the moment we're doing it a lot with chickpeas, heavy on Tuscan oils and herbs."

Mr Williamson also likes to create dishes using different cuts of the meat such as raw goat's liver and goat's offal sausage.

"Generally it was an entirely new product for our customers. It's often a surprise to people that they enjoy it so much," he explains.

For the home cook, Mr Whetlor recommends braising the shoulder with lots of veg and stock, or you could even try slow roasting it in cider.

But convincing people that kid goat is a good thing to eat ultimately comes down to price.

"I don't think convincing the public that goat's a nice thing to eat is the problem, especially when you look at things like the horsemeat scandal," says Ms Little.

"It's British, sustainable, healthy… you know exactly what it is.

"The problem comes when you're trying to set-up a new enterprise and you're negotiating a price with your buyers and they won't pay it," she explains.

Mr Whetlor agrees that affordability is difficult given the amount of feed required to rear billy goats properly.

"It isn't a cheap product to produce and the reason for that is that they can't live solely on forage," says Mr Whetlor.

"So to get to a 15 kilo goat you have to put quite a lot of feed into them and feed is expensive."

Selling to butchers has proved particularly challenging, given the costs involved.

A taste for goat:

Goat mutton curry

Try goan mutton curry with spiced pilau rice

Cook goat stew with cabbage and peanut butter

Enjoy goat and sweetcorn curry with flatbread

"Goats are browsers rather than grazers and take longer to mature than lambs," says John Mettrick of Mettrick & Sons butchers in Derbyshire.

"It's a more expensive meat than lamb, which is already seen as expensive.

"With the rise in the price of conventional meat we don't seem to be asked for goat as much as we were."

So could kid goat ever become a viable alternative to other types of meat?

"Goat meat is a really excellent healthy source of protein, eliminating waste and putting the goat dairy industry into a nice full circle rather than into an upside-down horse shoe," says Ms Little.

"It's never going to rival beef or lamb but we're still importing an awful lot of goat meat into the UK so why are we wasting these little boys when we could be doing it ourselves?"

Another suggestion would be to change UK dairy laws to force milk buyers to give farmers a financial incentive to rear billy goats on site, explains Ms Little.

"In Holland it is part of your milk supplying contract that you have to prove you're rearing a certain percentage of dairy males rather than putting them down at birth," says Ms Little.

"We don't have anything like that in the UK and I think it would be good as it would push the industry to get going."

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