Did you catch the first episode of Hidden Restaurants on Channel 4 last night?
It follows Michel Roux Jr on his quest to unearth some of the UK’s tucked-away – but unique and exciting – eateries. This week’s debut episode (there’ll be four in total) saw him visit the Cabrito forest pop-up in Somerset, where goat was on the menu.
Goat meat might not be a very common sight on Brits’ dining tables, but Cabrito founder James Whetlor passionately believes that ought to change – and goat meat’s tipped to be one of the UK’s big new food trends.
Here’s a look at why goat deserves a place on the menu:
Increased demand for goats’ milk
Demand for goats’ milk products has been rising for some years now in the UK, partly attributed to the increase in rates, and awareness, of cows’ milk intolerance. "For some people who find cows’ milk difficult to tolerate, goats’ milk can be a good alternative because it’s easier to digest; its nutritional profile is similar to cows’ milk, but the protein is slightly easier to digest,” explains Fiona Hunter, nutritionist at Healthspan. Even when intolerances aren’t an issue, many of us will now reserve a spot for a tasty goats’ cheese when putting together a cheeseboard or enjoying a cheese and wine supper – and this all this means goat farming has grown too.
However, while goat is actually one of the most widely consumed meats globally, demand for goat meat in the UK is yet to catch up, which has resulted in an awful lot of waste. After all, producing milk requires a pregnant female, which means babies – and many of those babies will be male, which aren’t needed to continue the milk-production chain, and so end up being culled. According to Whetlor, this amounts to around 50,000 a year, an “unacceptable waste”.
“Sustainability’s always been a big part of my interest in food. When I was a chef, I worked in places that really cared about that kind of thing,” says Whetlor, who cooked at River Cottage and a number of London restaurants before launching Cabrito (Spanish for ‘young goat’) in 2012, rearing and selling goats that would otherwise have been discarded as unwanted by-products.
“All we’ve done is lifted the lid a little. Not everybody wants to eat meat, or eat goats’ meat, and you don’t have to – but if you’re enjoying the cheese and goats’ milk products, you kind of have a responsibility in this area because you’re contributing to the system... It’s just asking people to be a little more clued-up about their choices.”
Every little helps
Goat meat is more expensive than other popular types of meat, largely because rearing costs are higher as kids’ feed is pricey. But even if more of us started buying it every now and then, Whetlor believes it would make a big difference. “If everybody who buys goats’ cheese brought a bit of goat [meat] every now and then, the problem [of waste] would go away,” he says.
And as a passionate foodie, he wouldn’t dream of encouraging people to eat something that wasn’t worthwhile. As last night’s Hidden Treasures illustrated, while it’s not unusual to be hesitant about trying new foods – and Whetlor notes that many of us think of goats as a “scrawny animal with a bad temper, tied to a post on a piece of spring” – often when people try goat, they’re very pleasantly surprised at how tasty, juicy and tender it is.
“People expect to hate it, then when they do try it, they’re like, ‘Oh wow, it’s amazing!’” he says. “One of the things that makes goat so appealing, I think, is that it does have so many cultural references. It’s just as at home in a tandoori as it is in a deep south American barbecue, or a braised shoulder or roasted leg.”
Photo credit: Mike Lusmore
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