Goat: The World's Favorite Meat

If the current over-industrialized state of beef, pork and poultry production is getting your goat, then you may want to consider doing just that.

Many Americans may be more familiar with goat products made from its milk, like specialty soaps and artisanal cheeses (chèvre), and its fibers, which produce luxurious goat hair yarns such as Cashmere and Mohair, but for most of the world, it is goat meat that is top choice. Now, with growing demand from immigrants for whom goat meat is part of their food culture and savvy foodies interested in authentic ethnic cuisines and local sustainable food sources, Capra hircus is starting to stand out from the herd in the US as well. 

The Other Red Meat

Goats were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans over 10,000 years ago and today, over two hundred different breeds provide meat, milk and textile fiber for people around the world. Due to the relatively low cost of raising goats, it is an affordable and important resource in many developing countries: According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, nearly 93% of all goat livestock are found in Asia and Africa. As such, an estimated 70% of the world’s population consumes goat meat as part of their regular diet. Though still barely a blip on America’s food radar, more people worldwide eat goat over all other kinds of red meat, and there are plenty of good reasons why you should, too.

Given serious concerns over the environmental and social impact of factory farming – from rampant deforestation for pastureland and the use of grains as animal feed, to pollution from livestock farm waste and fears over the health consequences of antibiotic and hormone use in meat animals – it’s a good time to consider an alternative to beef, pork and poultry. Goat meat may just fit the bill:

  • Goats are adaptable to even the most marginal environments and harsh climates, from snowy mountainous terrain to sub-Saharan desert, which means that no clear-cutting of forests for pastureland is required.
  • These ruminants prefer foraging for their food among brush, bark and weeds, so the amount of grain they do consume is just 1/3 of that for beef and 1/5 for pork.
  • A goat’s willingness to nibble on just about any fibrous plant makes it an effective and natural method for weed control. However, they may damage or kill healthy trees and shrubs, so their areas of foraging must be monitored.
  • Although antibiotics may be given to goats for disease prevention or treatment, the USDA prohibits the use of growth hormones. Imported chevon is also sample-tested for drug, pesticide and pollution residue before being allowed into America markets [source: USDA Fact Sheet].

Goat meat is not only a great option as an environmentally friendly and sustainable product, it is also an excellent alternative protein as part of a balanced diet. Compared to beef, pork and chicken, goat has substantially less calories, fat and cholesterol, while providing a good amount of iron and equal protein:


(Per 3oz)










Fat (g)





Saturated Fat (g)





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Iron (mg)










Sources: Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES),




Although goat is leaner than other kinds of animal protein, it is still considered ‘red meat’ like beef and should be consumed in moderation.

Goat Cuisine

Now, just one question remains: How does it taste? Most meat comes from young goats less than a year old called kids, and are classified as cabrito (less than 3 months old) and chevon (between 6 and 9 months old). These meats are mild-flavored, tender and comparable to lamb, while meat from older goats is tougher and has a stronger taste. If you enjoy the flavor of lamb and mutton, chances are that you’ll like goat as well. As a matter of fact, goat and sheep can be raised together due to their non-competitive eating habits – one forages among weeds and shrubs while the other grazes on grass – and in some cuisines, these meats are considered interchangeable in recipes.

Goat meat figures prominently in the food cultures of the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, with preparations ranging from braised in Moroccan tagines, roasted like Mexican cabrito asado, marinated and cooked with rice in Indian biryanis, and stewed like Jamaican curry goat. Goat is also found in Central Asian cookery – no surprise, given that China is the world’s top goat producer and Mongolia its number one goat meat consumer. Interestingly, the Oxford Companion to Food singles out the Philippines among Southeast Asian cuisines for its unusual use of goat in such dishes as papaitan (goat bile soup), kilawin kalding (a raw goat appetizer) and kalderatang kambing (goat stew).

Because it has such little fat compared to other meats, goat can become tough when cooked at high temperatures. Therefore, slow cooking with low, moist heat such as with stews and braises are best, while marinating the meat before high heat methods such a grilling or roasting is also recommended.

Kalderetang Kambing

Adapted from Spanish calderetas, or stews, this Filipino specialty varies by provinces but is best known as a goat dish. My father rarely cooks, but when he does, it is usually kalderetang kambing. While he was willing to share his recipe, it turned out to be the kind of recipe without exact measurements. So, the following has been adapted from his preparation and from the book Philippine Food and Life, by Gilda Cordero-Fernando.





1 lb goat meat

Salt and pepper

½ cup white vinegar

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed and divided

2 large onions, roughly chopped

1-24 oz can diced tomatoes

2 large potatoes, cubed

1 large carrot, cubed

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup olives

1 bell pepper, sliced

Season goat meat with salt and pepper, and marinate in vinegar and 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic for a couple of hours.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat and brown marinated goat meat. Reduce heat to low-medium and cover the meat first with chopped onions, then diced tomatoes and garlic. Do not stir! Cover and let cook until the onions have dissolved and meat is tender (check after about an hour). Add potatoes and carrots, season with salt and pepper to taste, and continue stewing until vegetables are tender. Add grated cheese, olives and bell pepper and stir well. Heat through until cheese melts into the sauce. Remove from heat and serve with steamed rice.

Where to find goat meat:

The header image for this article was taken by the talented Daniel Flathagen and holds a Creative commons license.

Tracey Paska lives, eats and writes in Manila, Philippines, where she revels in the fact that she can wear flip-flops outdoors in January. When she's not exploring Manila's foodscape, she freelances for a national food magazine and writes about the complex and fascinating connections between food, culture, and society on her blog Tangled Noodle.