Goat, the Other Red Meat

In the current issue of Edible San Francisco, Andy Griffin of Mariquita Farms writes about the meat that dare not bleat its name:

Arabs eat goat, Jews eat goat, Italians eat goat, Caribbean Islanders eat goat, Mexicans eat goat, Africans eat goat, and Filipinos eat goat. Actually, almost everybody eats goats except ethnically blanched gringos. So why has goat meat been so slow to gain acceptance in the U.S.?

Needless to say, Griffin’s a goat-meat booster—for Thanksgiving last year, he spit-roasted a goat under the tutelage of a Greek in-law—and he’s spent some time thinking about why more American “gringos” mostly aren’t. He thinks that immigrants like his own relatives, who mostly hailed from the British Isles, associated goat with poverty and abandoned it for beef here once they could afford it. But new immigrants have arrived hungry for goat. In fact, as ethnic populations who eat goat grow, raising breeds like the Boer has become a small growth industry. But the demand’s so strong that the market is still currently short 500,000 goats a year, and in the last decade the United States has gone from exporting goat meat to importing it, according to a study last year from the University of California Small Farm Center. The Boer’s relatively easy to raise on small lots of pasture and its red head can be seen across California, Griffin says, although the industry needs infrastructure like auction yards or more slaughterhouses that’ll process goat.

In order for goat to make the leap to upscale restaurants, Griffin thinks the meat needs an alternate name, a euphemistic noun like beef or pork: Right now goat meat goes by cabrito, capretto, or chevon. Until then, he says, “I’ll continue raising goats and selling them to my contacts like my Palestinian gas-station-owner friend or my Mexican workers.”

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