Man! You guys made me think! And 4 years ago, how different an answer you would have gotten! I’ll get back to that, and start with today.

Think about 3 familiar meats: beef, pork and lamb. Beef has a “red” flavor, which comes from iron. Lamb’s flavor, I’d call “musky” (a descriptive, not a fault). The flavor of pork, let’s call “rich.”

If you follow that, okay: goat is milder (less “musky”) than lamb, and more delicate (less  “red”) than beef. Lamb fat is waxy, goat fat is not: it has rich flavor and melty quality akin to pork.

Wup! That’s our goat meat. Let’s talk breeds. Boer goats, a thrifty, prolific South African breed, have become dominant in the US. The Boer* is a rectangular slab of muscle, that keeps well on marginal pasture, of which Kentucky has thousands of acres. They are not known for rich milk, but their kids thrive on it while they begin to browse.

By contrast, dairy goats have a rangy build, a lower meat-to-bone ratio, and more single births, fewer twins and triplets than the Boer and other meat breeds. But the milk! My British Alpine doe, Nightshade, maybe one-tenth the weight of a dairy cow, can produce as much as one-fourth the milk, on poorer feed than a cow requires. It’s smooth, mild and rich. Even the half-Toggenburgs, Hyacinth, Jonquil and the others, cam make a gallon a day at peak.

After some years of Boer goat production, a few farmers began breeding  dairy stock into Boer flocks.  When I got started with goats, this sounded like a good plan. A crossbred doe, like Jonquil, bred to a Boer buck, produces heavy-muscled kids that not only size up quickly on the quality/quantity milk, but are processed “off the doe” (still nursing), giving the meat the rich, delicate quality described.

Lean meat gets a lot of attention nowadays. But remember that all those studies regarding red meat, cholesterol, etc, were based on factory-farm meat, or without distinguishing between sources of meat. And CAFO animals are fed a high-grain diet, even meat fats from slaughterhouse waste, in addition to additives, growth hormones and antibiotics. So we pastured-meat growers will argue that animal fat per se got an unfair health rap.

Some dishes feature delicious lean meat. But fat has a place in the diet of any active human being. Before 2007, my own perception of goat meat was “lean, dry, strong”  – after years of curry, barbecue, chili, stew, based on who-knows-what breeds, from who-knows-where, at whatever degree of maturity. Three 3 years of Boer/dairy cross meat, from broiled loin chops to grilled ribs, biryani to braised shanks, have totally changed that perception.

Click thru the Gallery to see a sampling of my own flock, and the Recipes section for the next question.

*Just to clarify terms: “Boer” (the Dutch Afrikaans word for a farmer) is a breed of goat.  An intact male goat is a “buck.”  “Boar” is an intact male hog.

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