It’s the dirty little secret of the dairy goat industry.
Most male kids are killed at birth and their carcasses are tossed out as waste.
Birds and bees on the goat farm
Male goats serve little purpose on a dairy goat farm. They impregnate the female does so that they can produce milk, but artificial insemination minimizes even that need. After that, you don’t even want them around because of their smell. If you keep them around when the does are lactating, no one will go near the resultant cheese.
This is no ordinary farm smell—male goats are so stinky that they sully everything on the farm by association. It’s a smell so foul that it takes your breath away; so foul that even the liberal, permissive, and food-centric city of Berkeley, California has banned male goats from its city limits.
Male goats have scent glands on their heads that release an acrid, penetrating oil that’s like a skunk’s spray on steroids. Since the goats have little to do on the farm, they spend a lot of time excreting oil and spreading it all over themselves and everything in reach. Their other hobby is urination. They like to roll around in their own pee until their coats are yellow and matted and even smellier.
Of course about half of all kids are born male. Females tend to give birth to twins or triplets, so goat farms end up with a lot of these charming creatures. Without a strong end market for goat meat, the billy kids are disposed of immediately before they can become a logistical nightmare and financial drain on the farm.
The other red meat
Goat meat is a hard sell. Goats have a lowly reputation as gamey, scavenging beasts. At a time when adventurous diners are eating pigs from snout to tail and exploring the outer limits of offal, goat meat is the final frontier—at least to Americans. Goat is the world’s most popular meat, accounting for 70% of all red meat eaten globally. It’s got a lot to recommend it. Goat meat is lower in fat and higher in protein than chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. It conforms to halal and kosher laws. And goats are the ultimate free-ranging animals— they’re browsers rather than grazers, happy to munch weeds on tiny plots of land.
122 days til Goatober
Killing billy goats is ethically troubling and indefensible from a position of sustainability. Heritage Foods USA launched No Goat Left Behind in 2011 with the twin goals of raising awareness of the plight of male kids and raising the culinary profile of goat meat. The month of October was dubbed ‘Goatober’ when the Heritage Foods program partnered with farmers and restaurants in New York and the Bay Area. They’ll be bringing it to more cities for the 2012 season.
Save the billies and look for a Goatoberfest near you.