Full article from edition 4
It’s odd how some eating habits are well-established in certain regions yet disdained in others. Escargots and cuisse de grenouille, for example. Many Brits wince at the thought of slipping a snail down their throat or munching on ex-frog’s limbs as part of their work-a-day diet, yet a few miles across the ditch they’re at it like there’s no tomorrow. And nary a country in Europe is without its national dish designed to sabotage the appetites of foreigners. Culinary peccadilloes are one thing but, for bread-and-butter food stuffs, the world is broadly in accord. Staples like rice and beer have no borders and we freely share fruits and bizarrely-shaped vegetables from across the oceans. The world is our taste bud. But here’s a startling statistic: 80% of meat consumed globally is goat and we’ve only just cottoned-on, here in Purbeck. So, are you.. Getting Your Goat?
The increasingly traguline Ben Young thought he’d purchase two or three goats to keep the hedges and brambles in order at his family’s Nursery Bridge Farm, near Swanage. He now manages around three hundred South African Boar Goats – meatier than your average Capra aegagrus hircus and therefore very attractive to producers. Intelligent, curious animals, they also have the misfortune of being exceedingly tasty. This flock has an impeccable pedigree; from the gene-pool of highly-respected breeder and the founder of ‘Gourmet Goats Ltd’, Anthea Bay of Bridport.
Kidding takes place over February with close to a 200% birth rate after a gestation period of about 150 days. For two months, nannies and kids are housed on the seven-and-a-half acre smallholding, sharing land with Dexter cattle, some odd-looking pigs and a variety of fowl, then turned out onto a nearby 100-acre farm where, when needs be, their diet is supplemented with cut forage. Goats are great survivors, nibble-testing virtually everything in their paths, and are well-known for their ability to consume plants that are toxic to other species – therefore ideal for non-chemical weed control, though the flock is not actively used for this purpose (refer to Farm Profile, Edition Three – ed).
When housed, they are fed a ‘coarse mix’ and hay with mineral-licks providing essential trace elements. Ben says, “Unlike sheep, goats do very well indoors… This enables us to run them on a larger scale, bringing forage to them. Most of the year, though, they’re in the field, and we only bring them in for mating or finishing.” Finishing, which is bringing the kids up to slaughter weight, occurs anytime between ten to eighteen months of age, similar to sheep.
The meat is high in saturated statistics: 50% to 65% less fat than beef; 40% less saturated fat than chicken, yet the same number of calories; and it’s high in iron and low in cholesterol. Goat has everything the health-conscious omnivore could want. It is prepared and cooked the same way as lamb – being closely related. Which brings us to the elephant in the room (not that you’d eat one): what about the flavour?
Goat’s milk and cheese is quite distinct and not to everyone’s taste; might one therefore expect the same characteristics in the flesh? In fact, it’s surprisingly mild; certainly reminiscent of lamb yet with a strong hint of something a little ‘gamey’ and somehow familiar. The taste is often described as lying somewhere between lamb, beef and venison. We experimented on a friend who abhors lamb and none of us expected much change with goat. But, to even his amazement, he scoffed the lot and declared himself a convert. “It doesn’t cloy like lamb”, he said. “It’s not as strong and has a sharper flavour.”
And much of the rest of the world seems to like it, too.