You eat goat?

by Dr Annie Woodhouse

I will say straight out that I am not particularly fond of goats as animals. This is unusual for me, as I am a real animal ‘softie’, have too many pets and generally take any animal into my heart. Maybe there was a nasty incident with a billy-goat as a child, I don’t remember, but as a domestic pet, personally, I’m not keen.

However, as a meat producer and consumer, I am very keen on goat. Goat is delicious, versatile and an easy meat to use. It is also a mainstay meat in many parts of the world.

So who eats goat?

The ever-knowing source, Wikipedia, tells me that goat is eaten by 10 per cent of the world’s population, and Meat and Livestock Australia describes goat meat as being the most widely consumed red meat in the world. It is eaten as a daily routine in large parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South and Central America, along with being a delicacy meat in parts of Europe. There are few, if any, religious taboos limiting goat meat consumption. Goat meat is used in traditions of the Hindus and Muslims, along with most other faiths.

There is a move to try to make goat meat more popular in Canada and the United States, along with some groups in Australia, and the marketing push has made some inroads in this direction. In an effort to promote goat meat as more attractive (and marketable), it is often called chevon, mutton, cabrito, capretto and kid (when a younger animal).

How did goats come to Australia?

The initial goats came to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. During the 19th century, mariners released goats onto some islands and areas of the mainland as a sustainable source of emergency food in the event of a shipwreck. Later, more goats were imported from Asia for the fibre industry (cashmere and angora). Over time, goats spread across Australia.

Why are goats a problem in Australia?

Goats are very hardy and as they were released, feral populations increased. Sources of the feral populations vary, but include the early collapse of the goat fibre industry and herds being released; goats used for weed control and then being left as funding dried up; and domestic animals escaping. As most farmers and anyone who has had anything to do with goats know, keeping them securely contained in a paddock is challenging. Goats are born as skilful, tireless escape artists. They climb, they jump, they push, they crawl and more.

Goats are found in every state and territory and on various offshore islands, although some sources suggest that numbers are low in the Northern Territory. In 2012, a research paper estimated that there were more than 3 million goats in Australia, although all agree that population numbers fluctuate widely across the years.

Meat and Livestock Australia reports that Australia is the world’s largest exporter of goat meat, shipping out 31,876 tonnes in 2012-13 (equivalent to 1.99 million head). The largest meat export markets are the USA and Taiwan, whereas the largest live export markets are Malaysia and Singapore.

What does goat meat taste like?

I was reluctant to answer this question for fear of doing goat meat a disservice. However, I will say that goat meat is a delicious, mild-flavoured red meat, which is not unlike beef. Goat is not a fatty or oily meat, but is moist. The cuts I used when testing recipes for this article were tender and had no offensive ‘gamy’ taste. In fact, I don’t recall ever having eaten goat that was ‘tough’, although, like any animal, selection is imperative.

Like any meat, how the goat tastes will be dependent on its age, gender, condition and preparation. The breeding of the feral goat will also affect its taste. Feral goats in Australia have developed into what are known as ‘rangeland goats’, but populations will vary.

Where can I find goat meat?

Goat meat is not readily available in mainstream supermarkets, but can be sourced from a large number of meat suppliers in each state and territory. In some cities and towns, butchers will routinely supply goat meat. A simple internet search should bring up suppliers close to you.

If you wish to hunt and prepare your own goat meat, you will obviously need to observe all local regulations and laws. As I understand it, goats are feral animals in all states and territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory, and as such may be hunted. Find out more about the regulations for hunting in each state and territory.

Goat recipes

As goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, there was no shortage of recipes to try. Goat is versatile and easily blends with most flavours, spices and herbs. Nothing is really ‘off limits’ with goat. I have tried to give a selection of recipes where something should appeal to most tastes - if not, you will have no trouble finding other, delicious goat meat recipes online. I didn’t.

Slow cooked goat in balsamic vinegar and red wine

Ingredients

  • 1kg goat (shoulder and shanks)
  • salt and pepper - to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion - chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic - crushed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1½ cups beef stock
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • generous bunch fresh thyme

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Season the goat meat with salt and pepper. Oil a pan and brown the goat for a few minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and place in a large casserole dish with a lid. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Gradually pour in the vinegar and wine, stirring constantly.

Add the beef stock, diced tomatoes and herbs. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring to combine.
Remove from the stove and pour over the goat. Cover the casserole dish and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1-2 hours or until tender.
Cut the meat and serve over a bed of mashed potatoes and top with the sauce from the meat.

Goat, tomato and olive pie

Ingredients

  • 1kg goat meat - diced (I used forequarter but any cut that is not too tough would be fine)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 20 shallots - chopped (or 1 large onion cut into bigger chunks)
  • 3 cups mushrooms (wild fresh field mushrooms are lovely if you have them available)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • bunch of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper - to taste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 12 Kalamata olives
  • 3 sheets puff pastry

Method

Put the meat and flour in a plastic bag and toss until the meat is covered.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and sear the meat. Remove from the pan.
Add the remaining oil and fry the onions, shallots and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper, seared meat and wine. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
Add the olives and turn off the heat.
Heat oven to 180C. Spray or oil a deep pie/casserole dish. Line with pastry. Pour in the meat filling and top with puff pastry. Prick the top pastry with a fork to allow air vents. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Citrus-spiced goat with zucchini and herb risotto

Goat ingredients

  • 1kg diced goat (I used backstrap but any cut that is not too tough would be fine)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • grated zest of 2 oranges
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Method

In a plastic bag put the meat, spices, orange zest and orange juice. Toss the meat until coated. Arrange in a casserole dish and add the olive oil, bay leaves and white wine. Bake uncovered at 180C for 45 minutes, basting regularly.

Risotto ingredients

  • 5 cups stock (chicken stock works well, but any similar would be fine)
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic - minced
  • 4 zucchinis - sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper - to taste

Method

Bring the stock to the boil and hold at a simmer.
Sauté the onion in 3 tablespoons of oil and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and zucchinis and continue to cook until the zucchinis are golden. Set mixture aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan with half the butter. When butter has melted, stir in the rice. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes, turning the rice to coat in the oil/butter mixture. Slowly add the stock, one ladleful at a time. Allow the rice to absorb each addition of stock before adding more.
When the rice is cooked ‘al dente’, return the zucchini to the pan along with the herbs, remaining butter and Parmesan. Season to taste.
Serve citrus spiced goat over a bed of zucchini and herb risotto.

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