Why We Raise Goats

By Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman
nimans june18 goatkid post.jpg

Photo by Nicolette Hahn Niman


Although they're the most widely raised livestock in the world, goats are still a relatively uncommon sight on U.S. farms and ranches. An even rarer sight is a herd of goats raised for their meat. So a lot of people have asked us how and why we got into goat-tending.

For us, it started in earnest a few years back when Bill became intrigued with the notion. He'd had some limited experience raising goats for milk in the early days, when he was homesteading on his first 11-acre farm. He enjoyed having goats because they're interesting, engaging animals, and they provided something tremendously valuable: homogenized milk. Bill used the milk for his own consumption, making fresh day-cheese and yogurt. And he used it to nurse some orphan calves given to him by a neighbor in exchange for some labor. But Bill had not had any goats on the farm since the mid-1970s.

Good goat meat is not only tasty, it is highly nutritious. While as tender as lamb, it's low in cholesterol, has less fat than chicken, and is high in Omega-3s compared to other meats.

More recently, he started thinking about goats for other purposes. They make an excellent complement to cattle, we'd learned. That's because goats prefer and thrive on coarse, brushy vegetation cattle won't eat. If you've ever seen a herd of goats being used to clear land, that's why. In fact, researchers have found that there's only about an 18 percent overlap between what cattle and goats will eat in a typical pasture. They've even found that you can improve the quality of vegetation available for cattle grazing by keeping goats on your land.

On top of that, Bill had tried goat meat at Gabriel's, a restaurant in Manhattan's Upper West Side and liked the way it ate. A lot. With a little investigation, we found that good goat meat was not only tasty, it was highly nutritious. While as tender as lamb, it's low in cholesterol, has less fat than chicken, and is high in Omega-3s compared to other meats.

Shortly after that experience, we began looking into starting up a goat herd. Within about a year, we had hundreds of goats roaming our pastures. Stay tuned for more of our goat experiences. Also, see this New York Times story by Kim Severson.

If you want to try goat meat for yourself, the following restaurants regularly feature it on their menus: Oliveto, Pizzaioli, Frantoio,Terzo, Osteria Stellina, and Chez Panisse in the Bay Area; Tap Tap in Miami; and Blue Hill and Stone Barns in the New York City area.

If you want to make it in your own kitchen, it's best to wait for the fall, which is prime season for good goat meat. A variety of cuts are available starting in September at BiRite Market in San Francisco or online at Preferred Meats.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/06/why-we-raise-goats/19555/