Most people, especially in America, have never tried a wide variety of animals. However, around the world, many people are much more diverse in their diet.
Goat is a type of red meat that provides a rich, slightly gamey flavor that can be tangy or mild, depending on the age of the meat.
There is so much to learn about the culinary capabilities of this amazing animal. Read on to find out the specifics.
What Does Goat Meat Taste Like?
Goat meat tastes tangy and bold in flavor. It also possesses, depending on the cut of meat, a slightly grassy or earthy tone. In comparison with other gamey meats, goat is rather mild and possesses a sweeter flavor.
Does Goat Taste Gamey?
Goat can be gamey; its texture is often described as a cross between pork and dark meat chicken. Depending on the age and cut of the goat, the meat can be tougher or more tender.
One important thing to keep in mind with goats is that they are foragers or “browsers.” Goats don’t need a wide area to roam, but they will eat any green thing in that area! As a result, their diet is much more grass-based and far less dependent upon grain feed than other domestic livestock. Goats eat 1/3 the amount of grain that cows consume and 1/5 that of pigs. This diet leads to a wilder taste than the “standard” American meats.
However, part of the unique taste of goat meat comes from the fact that it is far less fatty. While goat meat has a thicker exterior fat layer, the vast majority of its meat is muscle tissue. This results from both grazing and the relative lack of grain (and complete absence of steroids) that build up fattier meat. As a result, goat meat presents with lighter marbling—indicating less fat—and a very deep red color.
What Is the Best Way to Cook Goat?
A general rule of thumb with cooking goat meat is the famous barbecue adage “low and slow.”
Goat has a lot of connective tissue, and for those who’ve had a bad experience with eating goat meat, it is likely because the meat cooked too fast and therefore didn’t allow enough time to break down these tough tissues. When cooked properly, goat meat can display both a wonderful texture and a tenderness to match.
As a general rule, the older the goat, the tougher its meat (more on that later). There are also several standard cuts of meat, which each have their unique qualities:
- Legs – Legs have the lightest fat content and generally the mildest flavor. They can be overcooked very easily.
- Ribs – Like cattle and pigs, goat ribs are great for barbecuing. The highest fat content is generally found in this cut, but there is also a great deal of connective tissue that must slowly be broken down when eating.
- Shoulder – This cut is great by itself for making ground patties or for cuts for a stew. They are often the most tender part of the goat, but again, due to the high muscular content, they need time to cook.
Grill or Bake?
For those wanting to try goat for the first time, goat burgers are a great option. They come in a familiar form to Americans, the meat is easier to cook when it is processed, and it loses some (but not all) of its gamey taste. You can grill them or broil them just the same as you would a beef patty.
When grilling or baking goat meat, feel free to add spices. It is recommended that you add a little meat tenderizer as part of your rub to assist the process of breaking down those tough tissues. Bold spices or flavors, such as curry, coriander, oregano, and wine vinegar, are great for use in barbecuing.
Goat meat is also great for stewing once cut into pieces. Boiling them is a great way to make sure the goat cooks thoroughly and uniformly, but it also gives you a chance to enhance the stew you are making with spices.
Pro Tip: Spices such as cumin, garlic, and curry are great for stews. In addition, chop up a few vegetables (tomatoes and peppers work great) to add. The best way to perfectly enhance the stew is to add a few goat bones into the pot for some added flavor.
What Is the Best Age to Eat Goat?
Typically the best age for eating a goat is 8-10 months. Muscling has fully developed by this age, and the goat is often large enough to produce a sufficient meat yield from its carcass.
This does not mean you should avoid chevan, which is what adult goat meat is called. Although the meat may often be a little tougher and gamier, it also contains a bolder flavor than the mild nature of kid meat.
If you are ever selecting a live goat for meat, the best way to determine whether it’s ready is by looking at it from the rear. If the goat has sufficient muscles down the legs from the shoulder to the knee and has a wide body and loin, the goat is likely ready to prepare for meat.
Who Eats the Most Goat Meat?
Goat has been a staple of the Middle East and Asia for thousands of years. This is because goat meat can be prepared in various ways depending on the tools at hand, and its dairy products are highly nutritious and tasty. It is the 4th most popular farm animal in the world after cows, pigs, and chickens.
According to one study, 93% of the world’s goat meat is consumed in Asia and Africa. This same study also states that 70% of the world’s population has goat in their diet in some capacity. As such, the leading consumers of goat meat are China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Sudan, with Sudan being the country that consumes the highest level of goat meat annually per capita.
For all of these countries, goat is popular due to its availability, diversity of use, and reasonably low cost. For the African nations where food security is sometimes an issue due to political instability, goat is a stable source of nutrition.
Cool Fact: Goat is also widely eaten in many Caribbean nations for the same reasons as above. The two largest exporters of goats (and sheep as well) are Australia and New Zealand, two countries that consume goats on their own but who rely heavily on the economic benefits of raising them for others. While goats are raised domestically, these two countries are the primary sources of goat meat in the U.S.; 52% of all U.S. goat meat comes from Australia.
Why Do Americans Not Eat Goat?
There are four primary reasons why Americans do not eat goat meat:
Stereotyping of Goats
A common misconception among Americans is that goats stink and have tough meat. The limited experience that many Americans have with goat cheese and its unique flavor and smell might cause this opinion.
Also, as the thought goes, since goats eat seemingly any kind of vegetation, it must make their meat tougher and gamier than grain-fed cows. While the gamey part has some truth to it, goat meat is more muscular, lending to its toughness. But properly-prepared goat is exquisitely flavorful and tender, and the gaminess can easily be offset through a good blend of spices.
Lack of Availability
Goat meat is not commonly found in most grocery stores like the staple meats of the American diet – beef, chicken, and pork. Even goat cheese, which is more readily consumed in the U.S., is not widely available at supermarkets. You have to explore a little bit to find goat products, particularly meat. Farmers’ markets and halal stores are two great places where you might find it.
Lack of Production
Related to availability, the struggle with domestic goat production is that it is not done on a mass level as the other major meat industries. In addition to a lack of factory farms, most goat farms in the U.S. keep small herds (usually less than 50 goats). They also suffer from a scarcity of meat processing facilities that, for lack of a better phrase, don’t know what to do with goat meat.
While there are certainly plenty of exceptions to this, Americans as a group are known for sticking with familiar things, particularly when it comes to dietary preferences. Even if they don’t have a negative image of goats, many Americans tend to be shy when it comes to trying new foods. Finding creative and non-threatening ways to introduce Americans to goat meat is the key to breaking through both the culinary shyness and any stereotypes of goats.
Is Goat Meat Healthy?
Goat is the healthiest red meat option. It contains less fat, cholesterol, sodium, calories, and more iron and protein than any alternative. It is also particularly rich in other nutrient minerals such as potassium.
While all red meats should be taken in moderation, including goat, it is packed with a strong concentration of nutrients. A 3 ounce serving of goat meat contains only 122 calories but a whopping 23 grams of protein. It is particularly high in lean proteins, which assist the body in hormone production and cellular recovery. Goat meat is rich in iron and vitamin B-12, which contributes to good health for red blood cells, and potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
The USDA also forbids steroid injections into goats (although antibiotics are permitted). The result is that, while it slows the process of raising goats, they tend to live on a much more natural diet. One of the direct results of this lack of hormones is the lower level of saturated fats, 16% of the level found in beef and much lower than any other standard meat option.
Is Goat Healthier Than Chicken?
Goat meat is healthier to chicken in several ways, as the following chart from Health Two Cents indicates:
|NUTRITION VALUE||Chicken (100 mgs)||Goat (100 mgs)|
|Total Fats||6.7 g||2.31 g|
|Protein||27 g||27 g|
|Cholesterol||88 mg||75 mg|
|Iron||1.3 mg||3.7 mg|
|Potassium||223 mg||405 mg|
For equal slices of meat (100 mg servings), chicken and goat have the same amount of protein. Otherwise, goat meat is the clear winner here.
Is Lamb Healthier Than Goat?
Here it is not so clear cut. First, here are some of the advantages of goat meat over lamb:
- Cholesterol and Saturated Fat – Lamb meat has nearly ten times the amount of saturated fat to goat, and as a result, is much higher in cholesterol.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Goat has a higher ratio of polyunsaturated fats to saturated, in particular, a higher concentration of omega-3 acids. These are essential fats found in fish oil that help contribute to better heart health and the production of HDL, or good cholesterol.
- Protein – Goat is higher in protein concentration.
- Mineral Nutrients – Except for magnesium (which lamb has in greater abundance), goat meat is richer in most major minerals such as potassium, iron, copper, zinc, and phosphorus.
However, lamb does have several advantages:
- Vitamins – Lamb is richer in many major vitamins, particularly D and B6, which goat does not have. Goat is higher in E and B2, but otherwise, lamb is a much better vitamin source.
- Sodium – While goat is lower in sodium than most other meats, lamb is an even better option for those watching their sodium levels.
- Linoleic Acid – Lamb has the highest amount of conjugated linoleic acid among any meat. This compound is helpful for heart health, and it also possesses anticarcinogenic properties as well.
The bottom line is that lamb is a richer and denser meat, meaning it possesses a combination of more nutrients but also more unhealthy compounds. Goat is a better option because it provides significant health benefits without as many harmful elements being consumed.
Is Goat a Good Dairy Option?
Goat milk, cheese, and butter have a few differences from their cow counterparts. In general, goat can be used as a good substitute for just about any recipe that uses dairy from a cow, such as milk, cheese, or butter.
What Does Goats Milk Taste Like?
Goat milk is generally creamier and sweeter than its counterpart, but it still possesses a mild taste. One of the distinguishing characteristics is that goat milk contains a higher butterfat concentration.
Some breeds, particularly the Nigerian dwarf goats, have a butterfat ratio that can approach 10%. As a result, their milk shares a taste and consistency with half and half. Other breeds such as the Saanens have a low content that would make their milk taste very close to 2% cow milk.
Some goat milk can taste a tad gamey depending on the breed and how it was pasteurized. In addition, fat molecules in goat milk are much smaller than those in cow milk. This makes goat milk much easier on the digestive system, but it is more difficult to separate goat milk from its cream than it is for cows since the larger fat globules usually rise more easily in cow milk.
What Does Goat Cheese Taste Like?
The smaller fat molecules also impact goat cheese, making it generally sharper tasting than cow cheese. Chevre (the French word for goat) is the standard name for goat cheese. It also refers to the creamy form of goat cheese with which most Americans are more likely familiar.
The age of the cheese is often the determining factor as to flavor and texture. Younger cheese is sharper, tangier, and can be creamy or crumbly. Older cheese is often crumbly and creamier (similar to that of blue cheese).
What Does Goat Butter Taste Like?
Don’t let the appearance fool you! Goat butter is often a creamier, gentler, and lighter option than cow butter.
For those not familiar with it, its bland white color (similar in appearance to lard) makes it look a little skeptical. But in addition to these qualities, it possesses a slight tang (again, depending on the breed).
For cooking purposes, it has a higher moisture content and, thus, a lower melting point. It is also always unsalted, so it is often a better baking option in many circumstances than cow butter.
If you are an American like me, you’ve probably noticed goats from a few different perspectives. You’ve seen those cute little creatures adorning a farm out in the countryside or perhaps let loose on a hillside to clear away unwanted vegetation. Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of sampling goat cheese, butter, or even milk and decided that they weren’t too bad. But eating goat? Why would anyone go out of their way to eat goat meat, and what does goat taste like?
Goat products are truly unknown to a majority of Americans. Hopefully, this article has shown you the richness and the healthier options that goat meat and dairy can provide. The next time you are out at a farmer’s market, look for some goat meat, milk, cheese, or butter to try. Tell your friends and help spread the word about this great secret that the rest of the world already knows!
Thanks for reading!
For more check out Are All Eggs Edible? | 4 Animal Types Examined.
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