“I’ve even had to band growers into collectives to keep up with the requests,” she said from her Bridgestone Manor Farms in Eldersburg, Md. “I’ve got an order for 60 goats right now to go down to North Carolina. I’m scrambling.”
This does, in fact, reflect a national trend. Goat meat production is ramping up in the United States. The number of goats slaughtered has doubled every 10 years for the past three decades, according to the USDA. We’re closing in on 1 million meat goats a year — and still growing, despite the economic downturn.
It’s no surprise, given that goat is the world’s most-consumed meat: almost 70 percent of the red meat eaten globally. Its cultural caveats are few, as it can be kosher and halal as well.
Nutrition-wise, goat meat is a wonder. A similarly sized serving has a third fewer calories than beef, a quarter fewer than chicken and much less fat: up to two-thirds less than a similar portion of pork and lamb; less than half as much as chicken.
More good news: Goats represent sustainability, without the curse of factory production. They are browsers, not grazers.
“The meat’s better for you, and the animals are easier on the land,” Adams says. “I can put at most two steers on an acre, but at least 10 goats. Maybe more.”
Out in California in 2008, Bill Niman originally fielded a herd to tend his cow pastures. The goats would even out what the cows mangled, chewing down the less-desirable weeds, giving the plants a haircut before the bovines tromped about.
The founder of Niman Ranch, a well-respected network of farmers who produce humanely raised pork, beef and lamb, soon found that meat goats were for more than just lawn-mowing. He is now on the cusp of doing for goat what he did for pork years ago: putting together a consortium of ethical, mindful farmers and ranchers who can demand a higher price for a superior product.
That said, goat farming is still not big business. “People call me up and ask if they can have goat meat at their dinner party this weekend,” Adams says. “I have to tell them it still doesn’t work that way.” It’s akin to putting in reservations for kid goats being born, or lucking into a goat someone no longer wants.
Which is, in truth, a good thing. If you want to try goat, you’ve got to get local. Kathy Weld raises the critters at Sugarloaf’s Breezy Valley Farm in Frederick County. The farm nurtures the animals for at least six months, then takes them to a processing plant. You pick up meat from the plant that you custom-ordered (whole animal, half, leg, etc.), vacuum-sealed or paper-wrapped.