There's a new red meat in town - and it's goat.
Bend farmers Patricia Moore and Jennifer Cole sent their first shipment of goat ribs, loins and ground goat - packaged as ”The Gourmet Goat” - to Newport Avenue Market last month.
While not a mainstay of the American diet, more than 80 percent of the world's population regularly consumes goat, according to Moore.
”The only people in the world that don't really eat goat are Americans and Northern Europeans,” said Moore, 48, who started raising goats three years ago. ”Goat is eaten in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and Africa.”
In France, it's called ”chevon,” perhaps a more palatable term for Central Oregon consumers, Moore and Cole say.
Getting their goat to market wasn't easy. It took perseverance, and a cooking and tasting demonstration for Newport store managers.
Changing the mind-set
Newport meat manager Randy Yochum walks to the end of aisle six, where The Gourmet Goat is sold, and admits he was skeptical at first.
”It was way better than I thought it was going to be. I thought I'd hate it,” confessed Yochum, holding a packaged goat chop. ”They made us goat meatballs, goat riblets and goat loin chop - the riblets were the best, they were excellent. After tasting everything, I told them they were in.”
Other store managers were uncertain about goat meat, too.
”I came in a little apprehensive, I'm a real steak and potatoes kind of person, but I was really impressed with the taste and texture,” said Jeff Grandmason, the market's pricing coordinator. ”It was so flavorful, not gamy at all. It was tender, too. You just touch it with a fork and it would fall off the bone.”
Yochum says he plans to hold a public taste-testing of Gourmet Goat products in the spring.
”I like to work with local producers, but they must have a quality product,” Yochum said. ”Our customers demand quality, so when they ask me if I like eating goat, I want to be able to give them an honest answer. I will not compromise my integrity.”
Yochum sorts through the freezer case and checks the labels on the goat-meat packages.
”You know, this is really a good price. Here you have (goat) ribs for $12.99 per pound, the same cut in lamb is $15.99 per pound, and species wise, there's less fat in goat,” Yochum said.
Back at the farm
Moore calls out to her goats at her 80-acre farm in south Bend.
”Hey boys, over here,” Moore yells as she drops hay into their feeding trough. ”These are my gentle giants; they're my bucks - one buck can impregnate 50 to 60 does.”
Moore knows all her goats by name. She attends to them with compassion, which is part of the philosophy behind The Gourmet Goat.
”We want a quality, healthy product, raised with a lot of respect to the animal and the land,” said Moore, petting one of the goats. ”We don't use growth hormones; we don't force-feed to fatten them up, like some cattle ranchers do. We want a nonstressed animal. And we don't use steroids of any kind.”
Moore and her partner, Cheryl Powers, tend to the farm. And business partner Jennifer Cole and her husband, Ed Barnes, tend to 200 head of goats on their farm in Tumalo.
”I met Jennifer because she was our veterinarian and we started talking about goats, and we realized we shared the same philosophy about raising goats, so we thought we'd partner together,” Moore said.
The Gourmet Goat LLC was founded Jan. 4, she said.
Cole, owner of Cole Veterinarian Services in Tumalo, runs her practice and goat farm simultaneously. She has raised goats for decades.
Cole started raising cashmere goats, yarn from which was $200 per pound in the early 1990s.
That market disappeared when China, Pakistan and Afghanistan flooded the market with their cashmere fibers, Cole said.
”It went from $200 per pound to $2 per pound. You used to pay $2,000 for a 3- to 4-ounce cashmere sweater in some places, now you can go to Costco and buy one for about $30,” said Cole, explaining why she gave up goat fibers for goat meat.
The new red meat
Cole says people who tried goat long ago and found it tough and gamy will be surprised by their meat because their Boer goats were bred for meat and are slaughtered before they turn 1 year old.
”The Boer goats first came to the United States in 1993,” Cole said. ”That first buck cost $19,000 at an auction in Texas. Now there are hundreds of thousands of these goats here, they're like the Black Angus and Hereford cow is to the beef industry.”
The dairy goats are different from the Boers in that they're much smaller, Cole said, adding that Boers originally came from South Africa and can weigh up to 250 pounds.
Cole and Moore plan to process and market their goat meat products themselves, and have applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture processing certificate. If they're certified, they can butcher and package their own specialty cuts of meat, eliminating a middle man.
Currently, they take their goats to the Willamette Valley for slaughtering, butchering and packaging.
Powers handles the labeling and artwork for The Gourmet Goat.
”We make about 90 cents to $1.10 (per pound) on the hoof, and right now that doesn't cover your feed or petroleum products on the farm,” explained Moore, a former professional Bay Area chef who calls goat farming her retirement career. ”If we can make our own specialty cuts and sell to the restaurants, too, we can create a better product for market.”
Moore envisions they will eventually produce a Saratoga cut, a boneless rolled roast and 2-inch chops.
A lean meat
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3-ounce cut of goat has 122 calories, 23 grams of protein and 2.6 grams of fat - giving it about the same nutritional value, ounce for ounce, as a skinless and boneless chicken breast.
The same USDA report shows goat meat is 50 percent to 65 percent lower in fat than similarly prepared cuts of beef.
”The goat meat has such a lovely, delicate flavor, you don't want to hide it with a bunch of sauces,” Moore said. ”It doesn't have an aftertaste. It's naturally sweet. If people have had goat in the past, they may have had an old dairy goat, which tastes nothing like Boer goat.”
The Gourmet Goat hasn't received organic certification yet, but Cole assures customers that their meat is all natural, with no hormones.
”It takes about three years to get the organic certification, but right now I think we go above that certification,” said Cole, who whips up a special batch of vitamins and minerals for the goats.
Moore also wants to dispel the myth that goats will eat anything from old shoes to tin cans.
”I can tell you goats are smart and very picky eaters ... once something hits the ground, a goat will not eat it again,” explained Moore. ”They are clean animals. I always make sure my feeders are clean because I don't want to waste hay.”
Cole interjects, ”They are much pickier than cattle, if you have hay that's been rained on, and is getting moldy, you can still feed it to cows, but a goat would rather starve to death than eat bad hay.”
Goats also are easier on the land, Moore said.
”They don't destroy pasture and rangeland because they don't overgraze,” Moore said. ”The conversion for cows is about 6 pounds of feed for every pound of human food. For goats, it's about 1 to 1.”
Establishing new markets
Cole and Moore have contacted local restaurants about creating a new entree, and Moore says she's ready to do a taste demonstration for area chefs.
They hope Central Oregonians will embrace their product and spread the word.
”You've got to have an open mind,” said Judy Shaw, who recently tasted The Gourmet Goat products. ”If you have an open mind you open yourself up to some really wonderful things, like this goat meat. It's not like beef, but it is really, really great, and that was a surprise, because I would never have guessed it was goat.”
Cole and Moore don't expect goat to be an American supermarket staple, but they think the goat-meat market will expand once people take a bite.