As we turn our focus towards buying groceries to sustain ourselves during this uncertain time, supermarkets have been wiped out of certain items; chicken, toilet roll and pasta just to name a few. Our shopping habits are changing, with more and more people turning to delivery services like the fresh produce boxes we mentioned last week or to local farm shops or butchers, supporting local farmers and British agriculture whilst too avoiding the madness of the supermarkets. One such meat product we might not ordinarily give much thought too is goat. We explore the market with James Whetlor founder of Cabrito Goat Meat.
In 2012 Devon-based James Whetlor began championing a new approach to ethical meat-eating in Britain, by taking on and rearing unwanted billy goats. It was some eight years ago, whilst keeping a few goats on a friend’s smallholding to help clear the ground, that James Whetlor learned a stark reality: That male kids born into the dairy industry are euthanised shortly after birth, due to their inability to produce milk rendering them redundant and ultimately ‘worthless’.
Today, James’s mission is to transfer all billy goats born into the dairy industry into the meat industry because, as he passionately declares, ‘You cannot justify killing animals purely on the basis that they aren’t useful to you as an industry.’ Whilst the number of male billy goats born into the industry has reduced over the past few years as a result of AI and selective breeding, the question still remained of how to prevent the unnecessary waste, or as James openly describes it ‘an ethical car-crash’.
Unlike countries such as China, Pakistan, Nigeria and India, there is no cultural history of eating goat meat in the UK. There is however, a high demand for goat-derived dairy products, such as goat milk, cheese and skincare products. James believes that there is an unmet demand for goat meat in Britain, from those moving here from countries where eating goat meat is the norm, and he feels strongly it would be a welcome addition to our existing national cuisine.
After working as a chef in London for 15 years and at River Cottage in Devon – where a few of his goats ended up on the menu, James developed a vast culinary knowledge. With firsthand experience of preparing and serving the meat, he saw how well goat was received and founded the company Cabrito Goat Meat.
Asked why goat meat is not – as yet – a regular on British menus, James believes it is considered by many as a ‘second class’ meat, with a perception that historically goat would be eaten by the poorer classes in society, who couldn’t afford beef or lamb. This is, in fact, not the case and is a misconception James is passionate about stopping in its tracks.
‘As a nation, we were lacking in imagination, and I wanted to change that. I just couldn’t accept the ridiculous amount of unnecessary waste.’
Calling upon his contacts in London and from his years of chef work, James began working with goat dairies to supply restaurants up and down the country. His first sale was to industry-darling Jeremy Lee at Quo Vadis in March 2012, which he recalls as a proud and memorable moment. Through word of mouth and with thousands of miles travelled along the M3 and M25 from Devon to London, James was soon selling to the country’s top restaurants and today supplies over 70 well-known eateries.
Working closely with Foodchain and Delamere Dairy in Cheshire, with 12 dairy goat farms nationwide, James is making huge progress in achieving his goals. The national goat herd is approx 100,000 with around 70,000 of those kept as dairy goats. Whilst the sheep population is at approximately 23.1 million based on 2015 figures, the current number has probably drastically increased. In comparison to sheep, who are shorn for their wool as a by-product, goats aren’t as lucrative. Yes, the females are able to produce milk as a by-product but given they don’t produce wool
and there isn’t as much meat per animal, the desire to rear goats for meat isn’t as appealing in an already challenging farming industry.
Choosing goat meat is a more sustainable option to offset the mass production and waste of lamb. Eating goat just once a month goes a long way in helping the problem of waste and improving things in this country. Whilst goat meat isn’t readily available to buy from your local supermarkets in the way that chicken, pork or beef are, there are options. James recommends ordering British goat meat online from retailers such as himself at Cabrito, or approaching your local butcher who should be able to get hold of pretty much anything you want with a polite
request and some notice.
Back to the mission and James appreciates that whilst stocking goat meat widely in all UK supermarkets isn’t the right model, approaching a select number of stores in specific locations would solve the kid goat meat problem almost overnight. Sadly however, despite him approaching supermarkets regularly on this topic, time and time again he explains ‘they just don’t want to know.’ Never one to be phased, James has found another route, and is working with product developers to introduce ready-cooked product into stores later this year, which is hugely exciting. He suggests with a hint of in-the-know that the first places we can expect to see goat popping up is on pub menus – a goat burger perhaps.
Now hungry and intrigued, I ask James to share his favourite way to serve goat. ‘There’s too many delicious ways!’ he enthuses, but advises it is similar to lamb but firmer in texture and refers me to his recipe book Goat: Cooking and Eating. He does however, allude to his favourite recipe, although just like an expert salesmen, he adds, I must buy the book to get the complete dish. ‘It’s called The Kibbeh Nayeh,’ teases James, ‘it’s raw, chopped kid with herbs, lemon and sunflower seeds or pine nuts. It’s delicious!’
Published in April 2018, the book has been widely acclaimed and won two awards, including the Guild of Food Writers Award for best single subject. Aiming to readdress and reposition goat meat, the book contains over 100 dishes from slow-cooked curries and stews to stir-fries and homemade sausages. A ground-breaking, essential reading for anyone with a true interest in British-reared food, as if that’s not enough, fifty per cent of royalties from the book will be donated to the charity Farm Africa.
It seems nothing will deter this man on a mission, and before I say goodbye James passionately reminds me to share his knowledge and recipes with our lovely readers: ‘We should all be eating more goat. It’s sustainable, ethical, highly nutritious and very delicious.’
Could you give goat a go? At a time where we’re all having to adopt change, do things different and change our living and consumer habits, now has never been a better time. With households up and down the country baking and purchasing recipe books like never before in an attempt to cure boredom with trying their hand at new dishes and delights, if you’re curious about what you could create using ethically sourced, sustainable and sure-to-be-delicious goat, you can get your hands on a copy of James’ book by clicking here.