We talk #Goatober with James Whetlor

Goatober 2017 is a month-long celebration of the dairy billy goat meat industry that will see events taking place all over the country. We caught up with self-proclaimed ‘goat meat evangelist’ James Whetlor to work out why #Goatober is a really important cause. Well, he seemed to be our goat-to guy (sorry).

Goat is creating a whole new market. How do you possibly go about constructing that?

The male billy goats we sell simply didn’t exist before we came along, as they were being euthanised at birth, so there was no product, as well as no market.  We had to build both.  The product side required building relationships with the farmers and the larger dairy groups in order to persuade them to keep the goats alive, work on the carcasses to get them to optimum weight, and to sell them on to me at Cabrito, overturning the industry norm and making the dairy system more sustainable. The sales side, in comparison, was much easier. I knew there were restaurants that would take the kids and once we got it into a few high-profile places like St John and Quo Vadis it became easier to convince other chefs.

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So is it a case of getting the industry excited first then that trickling down to the consumer?

I had the advantage of a cheffing background, so that was the market we decided to tap into. I had seen in my time cooking that the chef/supplier relationship had become more and more important and felt I could exploit that, if we could get the product right. So it wasn’t some well thought out business plan, but that was all I knew!  The thing about chefs is they are paid to make the product look and taste as good as it can be, so we get to ride on the coattails.

Tell us about the meat itself, what are a few dishes that really showcase goat

Goat is versatile. It’s as at home in a tagine as it is in a lasagne. Almost every culture on earth has goat meat as part of its diet so inspiration is everywhere. My personal favourite is kibbeh nayeh, raw chopped goat which is a bit like a tartare but with bulgur wheat, chopped herbs and lemon. It’s so far from what people expect goat to be, which might be tough or pungent. It’s light and fresh with a lovely texture.

Goat also loves fire and smoke. I’m lucky enough to have a smoker in my garden and the shoulders in the ‘Kamado Joe’ for 5 or 6 hours creates a pulled goat so soft and sticky that it’s hard to beat.  We recently did tandoori goat at Meatopia with Romy Gill and her tamarind marinade made an outstanding dish.

From a more European perspective goat marries up with garlic, lemon, white wine and hard herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage beautifully. Either roasted or grilled on a BBQ after a marinade, or as a pot roast. It really is a global food.

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Where would you like to see yourself, and this initiative in five years’ time?

The aim of Cabrito is to put all the billies born in the UK into the food system. It’s our one-line mission statement!  I think that is achievable but maybe in 10 years, rather than 5.  As for Goatober, we have some exciting plans. I’m already working with some Dutch dairies and an NGO that works on food waste across the Eu with the aim of pushing Goatober out through Europe next year. The idea of Goatober came from a group called Heritage foods in the US.  It would be brilliant to pull all the strands together and have events in the UK, the EU and the US, making Goatober a global initiative to end the waste.  A bold ambition for sure, but it’s definitely achievable.

Other cultures have brought goat meat dishes to the UK, what kind of meat and dishes have become common, and is this a representation of the meat in general?

When people think of goat, they think of curry and the famous West Indian dish curry goat.  The association with slow cooking and strong flavours is such that goat meat had become stereotyped but there is so much more to goat than curry. The kids are like the lamb or veal version of goat and are so versatile. The classic curry dishes use the older, stronger tasting goat meat, which take more cooking and have a more pronounced flavour to complement the chillies and aromatics of the curries.

What are some of the cuts of meat you’ve chosen to retail?

Anyone looking at what we sell would recognise them from lamb. A rule of thumb is that anything you can do with lamb you can do with kid goat.  One question I get asked is ‘How do I cook goat?’  If the cuts are recognisable it will help take this question away and give the cook more confidence with the product.

Our purchasing decisions have consequences. If you are buying goats milk, or goats cheese you are contributing to a system that has male kids as a waste product. You can offset that but buying a bit of goat meat every now and again. That I think is the best reason to be buying goat meat, that and it’s absolutely delicious.

Find out more about Goatober on the

Cabrito Goat Meat Ltd company website

and find events near you.