I am curious about everything. I have an insatiable urge to know “who” and “why” and “where” and “when” and “what” and “how” and the most important one, “why not”. The other day I was poking around on the Internet to see what else is new and I stumbled upon yet another thing that I didn't know. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I read that goat meat is the most widely consumed meat in the world. That's right, goat meat! Approximately sixty-three percent of the world’s total meat consumption can be credited to goat meat and it is estimated that eighty percent of the world’s population eats goat as a staple in their diet. How about that? When I read about this it really humbled me. How come I didn't know this? It is probably because like many Americans I have lived the majority of my life in a bubble. I always thought that beef was king and that “Where's the beef?” was the cry of the masses. Now I find out that worldwide, more people eat the meat and drink the milk of goats than any other type of animal and that three-fourths of all the goats in the world are located in developing countries. I have seen estimates that the total world population of goats is now around 765 million animals and that less than ten percent of that number are in North America. I really don't know how they come by that number though. I wasn't aware that there is a goat census and I would think that goats move around a lot making them hard to count. Nevertheless, the fact is that there are a lot of goats.
I knew from experience that goat is eaten quite a bit in Mexico in a number of forms. We have “cabrito al pastor” in which the whole carcass is opened flat and impaled on a metal spit and set over a fire. Then we have "cabrito al horno" or oven-roasted cabrito. Then there is "cabrito en salsa" in which the animal is cut into portions, browned in oil and braised in a tomato-based sauce with onions, garlic and green chilies, and other seasonings. We also have "cabrito en sangre" or cabrito in blood sauce where the blood of the animal is collected when it is slaughtered and it becomes the basis for the sauce that the goat is braised in. Another thing we have is “birria de cabrito” which is the meat from a young goat that is steamed. Last, but not least we have “barbacoa de cabrito” where the goat is wrapped in leaves and cooked in a pit barbecue. I didn't really know much about how goats are used in other countries but I am quickly learning that eating goat meat is a pretty big deal. Goats were one of the very first animals to be domesticated by humans, some 10,000 years ago and goats are mentioned many times in the Bible and they are also mentioned in the Quran and there are few, if any, religious taboos that prohibit people from eating goats.
There are many reasons why goats have become such an important source of meat. First of all, goats thrive in poor conditions where cattle and other types of livestock would likely starve. Goats are good foragers and cost about half as much to feed as other livestock. This is because goats prefer plants that are undesirable to other livestock. Goats prefer shrubs and broad leaf weeds over grass. The result is more grass for the other livestock. Goats can also be raised on land that is unsuitable for other purposes. It takes seven or eight goats to eat as much as one cow. The goat pregnancy period is fairly short. A female goat normally gives birth between 145 - 155 days after mommy goat and daddy goat rub noses (or whatever it is that they do). Goats usually give birth to twins but on rare occasions can give birth to four or five. Goats are very prolific. A female goat reaches puberty early, usually at about twelve months for her first mating and can give birth after subsequent matings at least three times every two years. Finally, there is one other good reason why goats are popular for meat. A single small goat will feed a large family unit without the need for subsequent refrigeration, or in other words the whole goat is consumed at one meal. This is in contrast for the need to preserve the meat from larger animals after they are slaughtered. For the diet conscious, a three ounce serving of goat meat represents about 122 calories and provides three grams of fat while the same size portion of beef represents about 245 calories and provides 16 grams of fat. Goat has about the same caloric content as chicken but has lower cholesterol content than chicken, beef, pork, or lamb.
I found it very interesting that the goat market is very diverse and that it has a lot to do with ethnic and religious preferences. For example, the Muslim people observe a day called Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice ) which this year is celebrated on Monday, December 8th. 2008 in conjunction with the mass assembly of Hajj pilgrims around Mount Arafat, just outside Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The festival commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Muslims who can afford it, sacrifice an animal (usually a goat or a sheep) as a reminder of Abraham's obedience to God. According to Muslim law, the animal must be at least a year old. You can tell this by looking at a goat's teeth because goats get their adult teeth at about one year of age. The sacrificed animal has to be a male also. The animal must be humanely treated prior to slaughter, have its head turned to the east, toward Mecca, and a prayer spoken while a very sharp knife is used to cut its throat. The slaughtering ritual is somewhat similar to that used by the Jewish people.When a Jewish rabbi says a prayer called the “bracha” (or “brachot” ) over the “shechita” (slaughter) right before killing the animal The intention is the same as when you say a blessing before you eat to acknowledge that God is the source of all life. I remember reading that the American Indian does the same thing before killing wild game. I wonder why Christians don't do the same before killing things. Hmmm, perhaps McDonalds and Burger King do that for us. There is one other thing that I wonder about. Although goat is the most consumed meat throughout the world, the USDA only lists milk, broilers, cattle, hogs, calves, eggs and turkeys on its agricultural commodities roster. Maybe if the U.S. Government learned a bit more about goats it would learn a bit more about Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mexicans, Indonesians, Filipinos, Chinese, and the people of India and South America, etcetera, and the world might be a better place. It's just an idea...
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