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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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As a cultural anthropology undergraduate major, I have always been fascinated by cultural choices. One area of choices I am particularly interested in is food. Having grown up in a state of dietary want in the post-depression/WWII era I have been willing to eat anything my entire life. My grandfather, uncles, and father introduced me to fried grasshoppers and ants, rattlesnake, squirrel, venison, frog legs, pheasant, dove, catfish, the “Easter Bunny,” and wild plants as early as memory serves me.

My grandfather desperately wanted to introduce me to skunk and raccoon meat but was taken by cancer before we could schedule the hunt. Carp eyes, kimchee and other Asian delicacies dominated my early twenties. Insect fare, particularly mealworms, is my next interest because it may present a way to feed humans and animals with minimal impact on our fragile planet.

But I digress. My point is, how does a culture decide what is edible? And more specifically, why have Americans not accepted goat meat as a common protein alternative? Americans are notorious for embracing foreign foods. Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese foods are embedded in the American diet. African, Asian, and Mid-Eastern cultures consume large amounts of goat meat. Assimilation of these cultures into the American fabric has not created the same interest in their cultural cuisine. Goat meat is absent from the American diet. Why?

The Case for Goat

As a meat, goat is one of the leanest. Only 19 percent of the calories in goat meat are derived from fat, while 35 percent of the calories in lean, 5 percent fat ground beef are derived from fat! Only bison, turkey breast, and codfish are lower in fat calories per serving than goat.  

The taste of goat meat is comparable to veal or venison. Because it is so lean, cooking methods that don’t preserve moisture tend to render goat meat tough, especially when cooked at high temperatures. Stewing, baking, grilling, barbecuing, and frying are the many ways goat is prepared. Spice selection is, of course, culturally determined, so the ultimate taste can differ significantly.  

Goat milk enjoys more popularity in America than goat meat does. Although a small, eclectic group swear by the miracles of goat milk, it still represents a small portion of total American milk consumption. Interestingly, goat milk contains small fat globules and maintains an even distribution of fat in the milk.

In contrast, the fat in cow milk readily rises to the top. To distribute the fat more evenly, cow milk must be homogenized. Goat milk can be turned into cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream without the need for homogenization. 

My experience with goat milk and cheese has been that it is heavily scented. Milk goats that are not separated from the buck, or male, produce milk that has a distinctive goat smell and taste. Many find that scent offensive. With my upbringing that has not proven to be a problem.

Lower Carbon Foot Print

Unlike cows and sheep that graze, goats are browsers. They are capable of turning more woody and broad leafed plants into adequate nutrition. This means that they require less intensive production practices than what is necessary to feed cattle and sheep the hay, alfalfa, corn, and silage they need to stay healthy. Because woody plants are much easier to grow and require less water and fertilization, goat is a “greener” alternative meat source.

Presently, goat meat availability is restricted to tight cultural market sources and may command higher prices than other meat cuts. As interest and consumption become more common these irregularities in the market will self-correct. I include recipes for goat meat in my homemade diets and suggest that you consider this alternative meat source for yourself, and for your pet.

Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Thinkstock

Comments  6

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  • Absolutely!
    08/01/2013 12:03pm

    I couldn't agree more! I have had the good fortune to spend a great deal of time in Jamaica, and that is where I was first introduced to goat. I've made some wonderful friends on the island, and through spending time with them have been able to experience the "real" Jamaica, as opposed to what one sees on a resort. That includes eating where the locals eat, which is OH so much better than the "Americanized" versions of local dishes often served on the resorts. My friends eat very little red meat overall, but when they do it is typically goat. Curry goat is probably the most popular way it is served, and it is absolutely delicious. It is also served in stew.

    I have of course taken the occasional buffet on resort, and frequently curry goat will be among the offerings. Watching the reactions of some people (usually Americans) when they find out the dish is goat almost makes one a bit embarrassed to admit coming from the same country. They will wrinkle up their noses, make faces and generally act like two-year-olds facing something they don't like. I've tried to encourage them to try it - they just look at me with an expression of disgust like "OMG you actually ATE that?"

    I really don't understand the prejudice - most of those people probably wouldn't think twice about ordering a rack of lamb, and personally I don't see goat as being much different at all. In fact, to me the flavor is somewhat reminiscent of lamb - perhaps a cross between that and mild venison - sweet, and very pleasant. I absolutely prefer it to beef, and if it were readily available for a reasonable price it would be a first choice for my husband and I when we wished to have red meat. We also love goat cheese and as for milk, wouldn't have any problem using goat's milk rather than cow's.

    For anyone who hasn't tried it, seriously - give it a shot! Ideally, find someone who can prepare it properly (may well be an "ethnic" restaurant) and if you've previously been put off by the idea of considering goat as "tasty noms", get ready to have your mind changed! Bon appetit!

  • 08/01/2013 12:29pm

    In my teens and early 20s my fa a small dairy goat farm. In the spring another herder from Wisconsin would come down to our area and pick up any young animal that we didn't want usually neutered males to take to New York to be dressed for the Greek market there. I've had goat meat and can be quite good properly cooked. And that's why most people don't or won't eat goat meat. it can be hard to prepare for the American taste buds. The Greeks and Africans know how to prepare meat well. So give it a try at an ethic restaurant that serves goat. As another poster said it has a close taste to lamb and goat meat is better for you than beef that is so true.

  • Dinner
    08/01/2013 06:27pm

    While I will wrinkle my nose and make a face if offered insects or worms, I promise to try goat if it is ever offered.

    I think a lot of the "food prejudice" is simply what we're fed when raised. Most people in the US have been raised on beef, pork, fowl and fish with maybe some venison thrown in. To be honest, I don't know too many people who are very adventurous when it comes to something really unusual for dinner.

  • Yes and no
    08/03/2013 12:52am

    If served goat curry, I'd probably eat it. But on the other hand, I'd really love to have a pet goat to keep in my back yard to crop my grass -- I met a pet goat in Japan, and she was adorable. And you can't eat your pets, now can you? I think the line may be drawn by how people see animals -- a friend of mine has a pet cow, and she won't eat beef. And being a cat and dog owner myself, I can't picture eating cat or dog, although people in Southeast Asia do. There are some pretty strong enculturated biases going here.

  • 08/03/2013 01:14am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQCe4qEexjc Philip Wollen : Animals Should Be Off The Menu debate

    "I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world" --Thich Nhat Hanh Vegan Buddhist Monk, Author of "Peace is Every Step"

    "Veganism is an answer for almost every problem facing the world in terms of hunger and climate change." Sam Simon (Simpson's CoCreator)

    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for the survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
    - Albert Einstein

    "A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite."—Count Leo Tolstoy

    "Veganism gives us all the opportunity to say what we 'stand for' in life-- the ideal of healthy, humane living. Add decades to your
    life, with a clear conscience as a bonus."
    - Donald Watson, Founder of The Vegan Society

    "...no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals."
    - Henry David Thoreau

    "My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency and I was frequently chid for my singularity." - Ben Franklin

    "I don't like the idea of killing my fellow creatures in order to eat their dead bodies." - George Bernard Shaw

    "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian." ~Paul McCartney

    "I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we (humans) do." - Cesar Chavez

    “Kindness and compassion toward all living things
    is the mark of a civilized society.”—Cesar Chavez

    Author C. David Coates wrote an eye opening poem which, like a mirror, exposes us to truths we may not wish to see.
    "Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed. Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic
    animals. Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for 'Peace on Earth.'"

    Each of us has the power to choose compassion. Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: http://veganvideo.org/ & http://tryveg.com/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQCe4qEexjc Philip Wollen : Animals Should Be Off The Menu debate

    Violence Begets Violence www.violencebegetsviolence.org/ is dedicated to the teaching of moral and ethical values and to protecting Earth and all its creatures.
    "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
    -Dr. Martin Luther King

    www.nonviolenceunited.org

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fup4zuUXn8E&list=PL90F57F728FF0CE76
    Forks Over Knives- Review - With Dr. John DeWitt

    Forks Over Knives http://www.forksoverknives.com/ Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

    Earthlings http://www.earthlings.com/ It is the human earthling who tends to dominate the earth, oftentimes treating other fellow earthlings and living beings as mere objects. This is what is meant by 'speciesism'. By analogy with racism and sexism, speciesism is a prejudice or attitude or bias in favor of the interests of the members of one's own species and against those of members of other species.


    Diet for a New America, by John Robbins Covers the catastrophic environmental effects of the meat industry on the global environment. He states that meat cultivation is the single biggest contributor to the devastation of our natural resources. The erosion of our topsoil, the poisoning and depletion of our water systems, and air pollution largely created by flatulence from farm animals along with the vapors emitted by the decomposition of carcasses contribute to furthering septic planetary conditions.

    The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell - The negative impact of animal foods on the human condition is overwhelming


    "There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."—Isaac Bashevis Singer



    "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages."
    --Thomas A. Edison


    "As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together." --Isaac Bashevis Singer



    "For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love."
    --Pythagoras




















  • 08/07/2013 10:03am

    I understand that goat's milk is easier to digest. I can't recall the exact reasons, but part of it is as I believe you mentioned the size of the fat molecules. When you said you've found goat milk and cheese "heavily scented" do you mean that it's "goaty"? Trader Joe's has some pretty good goat cheese that isn't goaty and reasonably priced. I've also had some good goat feta locally produced. Goat dairy and I assume other goat products can be more expensive since there isn't the same demand and also probably not large scale (and awful) factory farming of goats. Plus there is less milk to obtain from goats.

    By the way, if anyone lives around the midwest there is a raw pet food delivery company called My Pet Carnivore which offers goat meat and organs: https://www.mypetcarnivore.com/index.php?page=shop.browse&category_id=37&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=130

    They deliver once a month in various locations in about 5 - 6 states, and they also ship. Just wanted to let people know about this resource. Of course, the goat meat could be lightly cooked for those who don't want to feed raw.

    Carp eyes...Wow, impressive. Quite adventurous. Who knows, it could be good, but I'm not going to be trying it.

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