UK-dweller James Whetlor came across goat meat for the first time during his cheffing days. Four legs? Check. Bright supple meat? Check. But, it’s a goat. ‘What?’ he thought to himself. ‘What on Earth do I do with this?’
He took the chef’s initiative, proceeded with the meat and discovered what had long kept him at bay was his belief, rather than the meat itself. “I found goat meat to be incredibly delicious and versatile; my fondness for it has only grown since. In the UK, it’s easy to generalise about goat meat because it’s much smaller than India where the popularity is so huge.”
James Whtetlor of UK-based goat meat collective and movement Cabrito
So from those days, he saw how the commercial industries breeding goats for milk production culled off a lot of billy goats senselessly. It’s a grim reality, one James wanted to change. That’s when Goatober came about under James’ collective Cabrito. Cabrito works closely with chefs to shed light upon the beauty of goat meat and to dispel any common misconceptions about it too. The movement of Goatober is a month-long observance — so to speak — aiming to popularise goat meat across the West under the ethos ‘ethical, sustainable, delicious’.
Now in India, goat meat is a no-brainer; fresh Chettinad curry or pulusu will always find enthusiastic takers. Not to be mistaken for its peer mutton (sheep), goat is naturally a lot more gamey due to the animal’s musculature and most preferred when it’s around six to nine months old. You’ll find a lot of chefs interchanging goat for mutton — full disclosure to the diner. According to India’s National Dairy Development Board, as of June 2017, more than 135 million goats made up the country’s livestock population — and the numbers are climbing.
Drawing on that parallel, James explains, “These billy goats are considered a waste product, not a bi-product, and are destroyed just hours after they’re born because they can’t produce milk.” While it’s difficult to pinpoint the culling numbers around the world, goat meat does make up 60% of the world’s red meat now. Many goat farms in the UK insist that the culling is necessary as a means of disease control as well as land management, because overgrazing is a result of surplus livestock.
“So deep is this naivety and distrust in goat meat,” James continues, “so alienated are we from the idea that goat meat is edible, that we’d rather have them killed. We aren’t asking people to eat something totally unheard of: we are fighting the senseless culling through Cabrito and Goatober.”
Goat meat mentions
- Meatopia, founded in the US, is a festival celebrating high-quality and ethically-sourced meat, all cooked over ethically-sourced wood and charcoal by some of the world’s top chefs.
- Food on the Edge, Ireland, celebrates cutting-edge foods. On October 22, James Whetlor spoke at length about goat meat and billy goat culling around the world.
- Fire and Feast Meat Festival, Johannesburg, is a weekend-long love affair of meat, fire, braais and music: the event of the year for all discerning diners, foodies, braai-masters, butchers and industry experts.
- Dì de la Bresaola is a meaty wonderland in Chiavenna, Italy, which heralds all forms of our favourite deli meats.
So James rolled up his sleeves and made it his mission to understand the discourses. Through the diverse chef community in the UK, he observed a lot of respect towards the meat largely from eastern cultures. “This contrast is primarily due to the differences in farming, really,” he continues, “because in the UK, we see a strong commercialism here through the goat milk industry. One of my friends, a Kashmiri-born chef at Brigadiers London, grew up on a farm with goats, so these animals were an intrinsic part of the pastoral mix for him. And from people like him, we get asked, “Well, why don’t you eat it? It’s delicious!’”
In fact, Chef Shanti Bhushan of Brigadiers London is ecstatic as he introduces Londoners to goat meat, “We now use goat shoulder cooked as sikandari raan, chops as bhunna gosht, and the mince as chapli kebab — all making for very classic Indian dishes. Goatober is such a novel and sensible idea to showcase how wonderful kid goat meat is and saving the billy goats is a genius idea.”
Chef Paul Noronha of ITC Grand Central Mumbai, backs this up, “It’s definitely a cultural and historical thing at the end of the day. Goat meat makes up a considerable percentage of India’s livestock. While James says the UK’s climate and animal migration choices by man are integral to the current goat situation there, India definitely shines when it comes to rearing goats and the practice itself has become a routine art of sorts. We know from the look of the animal, just how it would taste and smell and how well it would cook.”
Chef Paul Noronha of ITC Grand Mumbai
Possessing a wealth of experience on goat meat, Chef Paul lists the favourite Hyderabadi goat dishes, ranging from piping hot pulusus to the succulent, fall-off-the-bone goat stew. “The possibilities of goat meat are endless once you open your mind to it,” he points out, “and we all know the best goat meat comes from Rajasthan; that’s why people love laal maas. It very much depends on the climate in which the goats are reared; arid is best.”
So did you celebrate Goatober? Did you think to contribute to this movement, or are you still raising your brow and wondering, ‘Why even eat meat at all?’