Farmers find niche for goat meat

Get out there and try something new, winners of a state goat cookoff say

Staff WriterOctober 7, 2009 

Don't be afraid to cook goat meat. Just take a recipe you love and substitute goat for the protein.

That's what Dave Schirmer advises and what he did for the cookoff at the recent N.C. Goat and Sheep Producers Roundup.

Schirmer substituted goat for beer-braised pork in a carnitas recipe to make burritos; his drunken goat burritos took first place. He also won first place in the lamb cook-off.

Shirmer's advice on goat meat: "Get out there and just try it. Don't be scared to try something new."

For the home cook, finding the meat is getting easier. Many Latin and Middle Eastern grocery stores sell it. There are also vendors at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh and Carrboro and Durham farmers markets.

One vendor at the Durham Farmers' Market is Steve Mobley, who, with his wife, Martha, runs Meadow Lane Farm in Franklin County. Martha Mobley is a livestock extension agent who helped organize the state's first goat meat cooperative in 2001.

As Hispanic and Middle Eastern populations have increased in North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States, farmers in the state have found a niche raising goats for meat.

In 2001, 40 farmers started what became N.C. Meat Goat Producers; now they have more than 720 member farmers. "It has really grown," says Martha Mobley, who organized the state's third roundup for goat producers in five years.

At least for the Mobleys, it made sense to add goats to the Angus cattle already grazing on their family's 1,100-acre farm. Steve Mobley says goats eat what the cows don't eat in the pasture.

Chefs' choice

As more Triangle chefs buy meat from local farmers, they are trying their hands at cooking goat meat.

Schirmer is the prepared foods manager at Chatham Marketplace, a cooperative grocery store with 1,700 members in Pittsboro. He oversees the deli, the coffee bar, bakery and the cheese and beer selections. He says the cooking part of his job is really home cooking on a large scale.

The cook-off's second-place winner was Josh DeCarolis, who works at Jujube in Chapel Hill and Dos Perros in Durham, owned by chef Charlie Deal.

Goat vs. lamb

Both DeCarolis and Schirmer describe goat meat, also called chevon, as less gamey and leaner than lamb. But DeCarolis says it has enough fat that it will withstand braising without becoming dry. Because the animal is pretty much all legs, he says roasting marinated shoulders or legs atop a bed of vegetables is a traditional cooking method that will come out "fantastic."

DeCarolis's advice sounds familiar: "I would say any recipe that you are familiar with that uses lamb, goat can be substituted."

andrea.weigl@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4848

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