Get your goat: Why the gamy meat could be disappearing from local menus

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Parallel 38’s meatball dish is a carnivore’s dream: beef, pork and goat beneath oregano puttanesca. Photo: John Robinson Parallel 38’s meatball dish is a carnivore’s dream: beef, pork and goat beneath oregano puttanesca. Photo: John Robinson

Pork is passé. Beef used to be for dinner. And lamb is no longer exotic. Is goat the next frontier?

“It’s a wonderful product—delicious, healthy and a cultural centerpiece,” says Clay Trainum, co-owner of Autumn Olive Farms.

Indeed, Charlottesville foodies can find (or could find) goat in some delightful preparations around town—in the meatballs at Parallel 38, roasted whole for Ivy Inn’s exclusive Easter party and as a substitute for lamb in many Indian dishes at fan favorite Milan, from the gently curried Rogan Josh to the spicy Vin D’Alho.

“Goat adds an extreme amount of flavor without using a ton of product,” Parallel 38 owner Justin Ross says. “Gaminess is a term people are afraid of, but it has a place when you balance flavors with it.”

There is one thing keeping goat from overrunning area menus. It’s pricey on the retail side, according to Trainum. While Autumn Olive once traded heavily in the goat game, marketing its carefully raised Boer Bok animals as nutrient-dense and flavor-packed owing to their diet of invasive grasses and plants, the farm has since been priced out.

Trainum says years ago goat ran about $2 per pound on the hoof (aka per live animal), meaning restaurants could in turn sell a reasonably priced entrée and make a decent profit. That all changed when the price spiked. With the animals coming in at nearly $4 per pound these days, Trainum says they’d cost him another $6 to $7 per pound to process, plus more for labor and transportation.

“It’s priced out for restaurants unless they can charge in the $30 range for entrées, and that’s a tough sell,” he says.

According to Trainum, the market price is driven primarily by folks in the Northeast, where the cultural experience of eating goat is worth the high tag for special occasions. For now, that’s keeping local restaurateurs like Ross from serving goat regularly.

“It got too expensive,” Ross says. “The problem is now the farmers aren’t raising them and the market fell out. But if you put it out there, maybe it will come back.”

Milan’s Rogan Josh Curry

In a bowl, blend 1/4 teaspoon hing, 1 1/2 tablespoons red chili powder, 3/4 tablespoon ginger powder, 1 tablespoon fennel seed powder and water into a watery paste. Put it aside. In a blender, mix 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, six green cardamom pods, four small cinnamon sticks and two mace spice pods into a coarse powder. Add boiled onion paste in this mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a pan, then add four black cardamom pods and 500 grams of mutton and roast it. Now add masala watery paste, a pinch of saffron, water and salt, then cover with a lid and cook at 175 degrees for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes mix in masala powder and cook it for 30 minutes. Add fresh cilantro on top.

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