Goat meat, milk, cheese gaining popularity locally
The University of Missouri Extension reports that consumers are warming up to the idea of serving goat meat for dinner as a protein choice, compared to the typical American protein staples of beef, pork and poultry.
Like venison, goat meat is leaner than beef, with a comparable amount of grams of protein per serving, lower in saturated fat than chicken, and has more iron per serving than beef, pork, lamb, or chicken. Also, no hormones are allowed in production practices, and antibiotics must be used within federal guidelines, making it a healthy and popular alternative.
"Consuming goat meat hasn't been part of our culture, but its popularity is rising as people search for healthy, lean, hormone-free sources of protein," said Lindsey Stevenson, Extension nutrition and health specialist. "Look for goat meat sold at traditional grocers or specialty markets. Goat meat can also be ordered online."
Consuming goat meat may not be a traditional meat choice for Americans, but for about 75 percent of the rest of the world, it has for a long time, and demand is rising.
"Because we have an influx of Hispanics and middle eastern groups, they are more accustomed to the goat meat as a staple in their diet and they're looking for it, so it's creating more demand," said David Middleton, innovative small farm outreach worker with Lincoln University, who works with producers and Extension specialists in Barry, Lawrence and Greene counties. "We work a lot hand-in-hand with the Extension and do a lot of programming together."
Goats are beneficial for more than just their meat though, Middleton said. The animals are growing in popularity among producers and lay persons for their milk, cheese, soap products and grazing benefits, for several good reasons.
"It's much cheaper to buy goats than cows, and people can run many more goats than cows," Middleton said. "They also have multiple births so your turn around is better and more lucrative. Another benefit is that goats are multi-purpose, in that people are using them for brush and wood control such as in cases of reclaiming overgrown land instead of using equipment, because they are browsers. They are very good for removing invasive species like honeysuckle, multaflora rose and wild olive."
Along with goat meat, goat milk offers an alternative to cow's milk, which can be difficult for many to digest.
"For those who are lactose intolerant, the goat milk works for them," Middleton said. "It has a different chemical makeup than cow's milk. Goat cheeses, and soaps can also be made from the milk. There is a large goat dairy farm near Seymour that makes artisan cheeses."
Goats are also easier to handle than larger livestock animals, Middleton said. Given all their benefits, goats make an attractive livestock option.
To meet the rising interest in raising goats, the Extension offers goat production workshops, covering topics such as goat management, nutrition, health reproduction and marketing.
"In this area, people are just beginning to eat goat meat and cheese," said Jacquie Howell, Extension family and nutrition educator. "I take goat milk cheese to schools for the kids to try, because I try to take things that they may not have had before. And some of them will say, 'We have goats and have had this cheese,' but three-quarters will have not had it. Goat cheese has a stronger flavor compared to regular cheese, and it's really soft."
According to Middleton, a lot of land nor expensive equipment is not required to raise goats.
"You can run several goats on just an acre," he said. "If it's just a fescue pasture, it's probably not going to work. They will eat grass but it's not their main source of food. They eat browse, so they need brush. A brushy pasture area is good for raising goats. And, you can companion graze them with cattle and they will eat the weeds cows won't eat, so they're not in competition. You don't have to buy grain. There are some who will feed them grain to get more fat on them to get them to market faster, but the breeding stock will pretty much maintain, with hay in the winter, on their own. "
For more information and resources about raising goats or consuming goat meat, milk or cheese, visit the Extension at http://extension.missouri.edu/. Middleton also suggested searching www.craigslist.org and www.loveyourfarmer.com to find goat products for sale.