Got Goat

Any farmer's market regular knows you've gotta get to the stands early if you're shopping with a list. On mine this past Saturday? Asparagus, tomatoes and raspberries. None of which was left for the taking when I arrived at the Tower Grove Farmer's Market an hour before closing. Instead I plunked down $7 and left with a bag full of goat brats.

It seemed only fitting after listening to my significant other wax poetic for the last year about the "goat grabs" he got to attend during a military tour in Iraq. Living with the Iraqi Army, he got to stick his sand-soiled hands into heaping family-style piles of spit-roasted goat every time someone of note came to visit the camp. (That was after the animal had been slaughtered and hung outside for a few days; apparently, the more bugs that feast on the drying meat, the more tender it becomes.)

The goat we ended up eating for Saturday lunch was known as Big-Boob Betty. She was raised on locally grown hay, grain and oats on a farm called Our Garden in New Florence, and originally she was meant for milking.

Voluptuous though she was, Betty hadn't a drop of milk for her babies. "She wasn't a very good mother, so I decided not to breed her again," explains Annette Beach, Our Garden's owner. "We went ahead and butchered her."

She was delicious.

The Wright City slaughterhouse where Beach took Big-Boob Betty had a ready-made andouille seasoning that it ground in with the meat. On the grill, the brats turned a rich, maple-brown color. Off the fire, the meat had a deep, smoky flavor.

I thought they seemed a tad greasy (hence, fatty), but a little online research shows that goat is actually leaner and lower in fat than either beef or chicken. Go figure.

All the goat sites I found (here's the best one) claim goat meat is one of the fastest-growing agricultural markets in the U.S. I didn't come across any reliable statistics to back up that claim, but I trust the facts cited in yesterday's New York Times Magazine food column (reg. reqired) by Paula Disbrowe, who says most of the meat raised in the U.S. currently goes to Muslims and Hispanics.

Most of the goat farmers New Florence's Annette Beach knows ship their meat out of state. This is her first year processing meat, but she's got about 30 goats at Our Garden, and plans to continue. Don't know how many St. Louisans will grab for goat meat, but I'm definitely getting to the market earlier the next few weekends so I can be sure to cross those brats off my list.

-Kristen Hinman

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