The new Bolognese dish at Artisan West Hartford is a showstopper. The gold-yellow pasta is bathed in a red ragu, topped with a ball of goat-milk ricotta and dotted with chunks of soft, tender meat. The dish is powered by an uncommon ingredient: Connecticut-raised goat meat.
from the Caribbean to Greece and from the Middle East to Africa and parts of Asia. As a 2018 Huffington Post article put it: “The rest of the world loves soccer. The rest of the world also loves to eat goat meat.”
In Connecticut you can find it at halal markets and various international restaurants, but it’s yet to make it into the mainstream. Frederic Kieffer, executive chef at Artisan and L’Escale in Greenwich, is hoping to change that. “People have a problem with lamb sometimes tasting a little strong and it seems like a goat would be stronger, but it’s actually the opposite,” he tells me during a recent visit to his restaurant. “They are very sweet tasting and a lot healthier than beef or lamb.”
Artisan West Hartford started offering its goat Bolognese in the fall. The dish has since become a favorite of mine, and is one of the most popular items on the menu. It’s not yet available at Artisan Fairfield, but Kieffer hopes to offer it there in the future and that more people will start seeing the advantages of eating goat.
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And there are many advantages.
Goat meat is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, lamb and chicken. A similar serving of goat meat has a third fewer calories than beef, and a quarter fewer than chicken. Goat meat also has more protein and iron than beef. And, according to goat proponents, because they are browsers rather than grazers, goats do not tear up root systems as cows do. Goats are also more sustainable in other ways.
“There are few commercial-scale goat farms, so the impact on the land is eased. And it takes far fewer resources to raise one pound of goat meat versus beef,” author Bruce Weinstein tells me in an email. Weinstein lives in Colebrook with his partner Mark Scarbrough. Together they wrote the 2011 book Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese, and they have written about the advantages of goat meat for The Washington Post.
“There is a misconception that goat meat is very strong flavored, gamey,” Weinstein says. “True, old goats can be rough, but young-meat goats have a light flavor, not as gamey as lamb. I often refer to good goat meat as a cross between pork and dark-meat turkey.”
Other goat-meat proponents over the years have included author Michael Pollan and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern.
Kieffer gets the goat meat for Artisan from Little Things Farm in Newtown. Owner Heather Kimball says that although she’s not currently supplying other restaurants, there is interest in goat meat. “It is a meat in high demand and that demand is very much increasing,” she says. “People are learning about it and wanting to try it, or those who tried it before and liked it.”
Kimball raises her goats naturally on her 30-plus acre farm and believes that a stress-free and natural environment adds to the quality and flavor of the meat.
Goat meat is frequently cited as the world’s most-consumed meat, but according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture’s November report on global food markets, it trails poultry, pig, cattle and other bovine meats. However, it is on the rise in the U.S. This January there were more than 2 million goats being raised in the U.S., a 2 percent increase from 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Even so, in Connecticut the meat from these animals remains rare.
“Aside from local farms, the only place I can reliably find goat meat is at an Indian market in Canton — in the freezer,” Weinstein says. “I would eat more goat if I could find more goat locally.”
Goat milk and cheese are seemingly more and more common in the state. This is another reason Kieffer is so passionate about offering goat meat at Artisan. Goats must breed in order to produce milk, but with no demand for the kids, farmers are left with the difficult choice of either killing them or taking on an extra financial burden. In 2011, Heritage Foods, a New York City nonprofit that sells locally raised, high-quality meats, launched No Goat Left Behind, an effort aimed at saving these goats by, ironically, encouraging more people to eat them.
“We raise those animals for the milk, and at some point you’ll do nothing with them,” Kieffer says. He adds that because of the environment, it’s more important than ever for chefs to use the whole animal, or as much of it as possible. “You can’t just use one thing.”
Kieffer buys the entire goat from Kimball and uses more than 90 percent of the animal. “I try to do the right thing,” he says. “As chefs we have to embrace all our responsibilities.”