Food & Drink Saturday, December 26th Words by: Lauren Rogers, pictures by: Mark Bowen

You're kidding: Goat meat finds favour in Herefordshire

Food & Drink Saturday, December 26th

You're kidding: Goat meat finds favour in Herefordshire

Kimchi, cronuts, avocado oil – food trends come and go, but whether you roll your eyes at overpriced coconut water or jump on board with the rum revolution, some stick around longer than pulled pork sandwiches. Here in Herefordshire, there’s one trend where the county was well ahead in 2015.

So before you pack the bento box or start your own homebrew, have you tried Herefordshire goat meat?

Acres to roam at the Happy Goat Company farm in Wormelow.

Lean, virtually fat-free and with a flavour somewhere between lamb and beef, goat meat was tipped for big things in 2015. Apart from being named checked as a food trend by the Observer Food Monthly magazine, it was cropping up on Saturday Kitchen and appearing on restaurant menus across the UK.

Globally, it's one of the most eaten meats - making up 10% of all meat consumption worldwide and 60% of all red meat. Beef and lamb have long reigned in Britain but in Herefordshire, kid meat is readily available - and growing in popularity. Yet more proof that we're so much more than cider and cattle.

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At the Happy Goat Company in Wormelow, Aimee Parry's herd has grown from two pets in 2010 - Rosie and Monty, to almost 100 today. On the day we visit, we found nanny goats with six acres to roam on this family-run farm and, inside warm sheds, a medley of Boers, Toggenburgs, Saanens and Anglio Nubian. It was breeding time. 

The animals reared here go on to supply half a dozen restaurants and cafes around the region, and Aimee recently started producing a ready meal – a comforting homemade goat, apricot and almond tagine cooked in the family kitchen.

Happy Goat's aren't the only ones to see the popularity of kid meat growing. In Madley, you'll find Golden Valley Goats - which also produces goat's milk - and near Ross-on-Wye, Trecorras Farm Kids, which supplies chefs here and in London and recently published a goat meat mince pie recipe.

For 21-year-old Aimee, her first encounter with goats was a summer job milking at a large commercial farm. She fell for their “individual personalities” and after giving a home to Toggenburg Rosie and Anglio Nubian x Saanen Monty struck on the idea of starting a business. Ethics played a part - she was uncomfortable with the fact that some 30,000 newborn billy goats are slaughtered every year in the UK, as only females are used for milk and cheese.

Her herd grazes free range on a Herefordshire hillside, just a 10 minute drive from the city. 

IMG 8890"They are free to run, and play and forage outside,” said Aimee, wielding a pack of Digestive biscuits - the ultimate goat treat.

"They have very happy lives here."

"It has been a fast learning curve. There were bumps in the road early on - it wasn't easy, but I wouldn’t want to farm anything else now."

For Aimee, kidding days are "the most exciting".

"Goats show hardly any signs of kidding, unlike sheep, and just drop kids on the floor whilst your back is turned for a minute.

"These are very busy days and nights, early up late to bed and up in the middle of the night for one walk around. But most days it’s the normal feeding before and after work, bedding down and replenishing hay supplies. 

"When you go out in the morning or out at night you never know what you may find. A goat wondering around the farm yard is common and you usually can't find how they escaped: goats that have jumped over a fence to somewhere they shouldn't be is a daily occurrence.

“And because we don't dis-bud [remove the horn buds] any goats there's always the same girl with her head stuck somewhere. She never learns. Whereas sheep normally stay to one field and are satisfied, goat grass is always greener on the other side!”

When asked why she chose 'happy goats' as the company name - and she is asked a lot - Aimee has a quick answer. Yes, the goats are destined to be sausages and tagines, but it comes down to food morals - the animals are free range, loved, looked after and responsibly 'dispatched' when the day does arrive.

Getting ready for market will see Aimee and her partner, Tom, rise early to take the goats to an abattoir just over the Welsh border. It's then two or three days preparing the meat for sale - "that’s when we’re making sausages, burgers, dicing the meat and making the tagine. Farmers’ market days are an early start too," added Aimee.

Comparable to lamb, goat meat is commonly used in curries and slow cooked tagines - but it's versatile.

The Pilgrim Hotel in Much Birch is one Herefordshire venue serving Happy Goat Company burgers.

"We keep it simple, and let the produce speak for itself," said sous chef Gillian Coldrick.

"We serve them with homemade buns, chutney and salad. People might have travelled a long distance and they like to try the local produce, as well as something different.

"We like to keep up with the current trends and goat meat is definitely on the up at the moment. It contains virtually no fat, so it’s a very healthy meat as well as being tasty.”

At Trecorras Farm, on the edge of the Wye Valley, farmers Julie and John Joseph have had success this year selling their kid meat into both local and London restaurants.

They've also been working with cooks and chefs to produce kid meat recipes - this kid meat mince pie recipe was developed in conjuction with Katherine Marland of Kather’s Kitchen Cookery School, near Devauden in Monmouthshire. It's one to test over the Christmas holiday.

As well as good quality kid meat, it's not hard to buy locally produced goat's milk and cheese here in Herefordshire.

Neal’s Yard Creamery in Dorstone uses unpasteurised milk from Tim and Richard Barter’s farm near Ashleworth in Gloucestershire, and their Dorstone goat's cheese known for its fresh lemony flavour and mousse-like texture is based on a classic French recipe, aged for just three weeks.

Golden Valley Goats has been producing fresh whole pasteurised goat's milk for some time - £1.25 a litre direct from the farm, and regularly on sale at Presteigne Farmers Market as well as Hopes of Longtown, Pentethley Farm Shop, Hereford Provisions at Hereford Buttermarket and a handful of farm shops and delis around the region.

Whether goat meat will keep trending in 2016 remains to be seen - it's not on the Pinterest 100 but then again why follow the crowd, when you can lead?

The kid meat mince pie recipe was kindly supplied by Trecorras Farm and Katherine Marland of Kather's Kitchen.

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