One summer a few years ago, I spent some time on a dairy farm in northern Italy. The farm, called Finocchio Verde (“green fennel”), produces sheep and goat cheese, so the bulk of my work was milking and pasturing sheep and goats. As one does, I got attached to one of the goats, a baby boy named Pistolino. While the others were munching grass and wild herbs, Pistolino would curl up in my lap to hang out, or allow me to carry him around. I wrote to the farmers later that year and, half in jest, inquired about Pistolino. “He was delicious,” they wrote back.
Accounting for roughly 70 percent of all red meat consumed worldwide, goat meat beats beef and lamb by a good margin. Its popularity extends from India and Pakistan to the Middle East and Africa, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, and, alas, to a farmhouse in Piedmont, Italy. In the United States, where a trendy sandwich without goat cheese is like a cake without frosting, goat meat is still mostly consumed by ethnic communities. And while it is popping up more on fine dining menus as chefs push sustainability, goat is an easy and rewarding project for the home cook. Versatile, flavorful, sustainable, and healthy, there’s very little goat doesn’t have going for it.