Hamburgers and hot dogs. Hot dogs and hamburgers. That is the basic make up of nearly every backyard barbecue in America. There might be some turkey burgers (usually in the name of “health”), maybe the occasional tofu kebab for the resident vegan, and some steak or ribs if someone is feeling ambitious. But that is about it. The protein you likely won’t find on the grill? Goat.
James Whetlor is hoping to change that. The chef turned goat farmer is the author of Goat: Cooking and Eating, a book dedicated to the joys of, well, cooking and eating goat. He is on a mission to get the world to eat more goat, a meat he says is “ethical, sustainable, and delicious.”
You can blame Ye Olde England for the lack of goat currently on your grill. It goes back to medieval times, says Wheltor, when England was exporting wool to mainland Europe. Because that industry was so successful, England became focused on sheep farming to increase wool production, leaving goats behind.
But that is starting to change. It might seem like goat is more widely available in other countries, particularly those in the East, but the animal is growing in popularity in the US and the UK. He says in the last year alone, the US imported $270 million worth of goat meat. “The number of goats slaughtered has doubled every 10 years for the past three decades,” says Wheltor, citing figures from the USDA.
It makes sense that goat is starting to take off, especially given its health benefits: The meat is high in protein and iron. As for its taste, it has a “slightly gamey flavor” but without any of the “‘gackiness’ fat lamb can have,” according to Wheltor. “[The flavor] is nowhere near as strong as people presume.”
Wheltor loves to serve goat as a kibbeh nayeh, or a dish that combines “raw, hand chopped goat mixed with bulgur wheat and loads of soft herbs.” The texture is alway a surprise to people: “People expect it to be tough, stringy, and strong in flavor. Eating kibbeh they realize its sweet, tender, and delicious.”
For those who can’t stomach raw goat, he also recommends throwing it on the barbecue. “Is there a bad way to bbq goat? I don't think so!,” says Wheltor. He recommends borrowing from the the Argentinian school of “asado” cooking and throwing a whole goat on a fire if you have a crowd. Looking for something simpler? Wheltor recommends putting a goat shoulder in a Big Green Egg for about five hours. “You get this smokey, sticky, sweet pulled meat that makes the world’s best tacos!” Who doesn’t want the world’s best tacos?