Ultimate Guide: How to Butcher a Goat
Picture this: The skies are grey in Ohio today and winter seems intent on holding on for a bit longer. Slushy snow covers the ground and the spring grasses haven't broken through yet. If this were a normal day, the highway would be plowed clean, but this isn't a normal day and frozen drifts that look like bison stand in the fast lane. The apocalypse came to Ohio slower than it did to New York City or Los Angeles, but it came nonetheless. The power grid failed months ago, and every last can of beans has long been gone from stores near and far. Other people are huddled in the darkness, trying to avoid thinking about the never ending hunger gnawing at their insides and praying for just one potato.
Not you, though. You rest in your leather recliner, stocking-covered feet on a stump by the fire. The steady, steaming drip of molten fat sizzles. The aged oak crackles like it's having a little laugh at the situation all around. Casually, you turn one of the logs, carefully noting the deepening red char building on the goat haunch slowly roasting over your fire. It'll be done in just a few minutes, and your mouth is already watering in anticipation of the juicy, smoky delicious meal before you.
Goat: The Preppers Best Friend
Goat meat probably isn't the first thing that pops into your head when you're thinking about some delicious, roasty barbecue. That's okay, because you're like most other Americans – raised on beef, pork, and chicken. Goat seems exotic, like something you would eat on a trip to a far-off country. Truthfully, many of the far-off countries you might visit will feature goat on the menu, and not just because they don't have cows. Goats are one of the most useful, versatile, and easy to care for meat animals out there. In fact, goats were one of the very first domestic animals, dating to the foundations of civilization in Europe and Asia.
Now, obviously the apocalypse isn't happening right now, but that doesn't mean you should just sit back and fail to pick up a few skills. You know, just in case. Today, the Bearded Butchers are going to walk you through something that we haven't even done before – butchering and cooking a goat.
Goats are actually quite remarkable creatures. Where cows are grazing animals, goats are more opportunistic feeders. So they don't require the amount or quality of feed to stay healthy. Those of you who have been around goats will testify that these beasts will eat anything. They chew through rope, eat door panels off cars, and happily devour invasive weeds covered in thorns and stickers like it's bubble gum. Goats also don't need as much water as cows. Let's say that the apocalypse did happen, finding resources like food and water is going to be tough enough just to care for yourself, how are you ever going to manage caring for a cow, too?
Then, there is another huge problem. When you slaughter a cow, you have lots of meat. That's great when you're feeding a bunch of people, but the truth is that a large portion of that animal is going to waste long before you can use it. Goat is a much more manageable beast, and in the northern winters of Ohio, storing 30 or 40 pounds of goat meat isn't hard at all, even when there is no electricity.
How Long Does it Take to Raise a Goat for Slaughter?
There are two types of goat meat: Cabrito and Chevon. Cabrito is very young goat, between one and two months old. Chevon is older goats, typically between 10 months and one year. Very rarely, goats are slaughtered up to the age of 16 months. This is because goats get very tough meat as they grow. Another reason goats are harvested young is because it is most common to harvest bucks, reserving does for breeding and milking purposes.
Once a buck goat hits puberty, they become very smelly animals and the scent contaminates the meat. Cooking adult buck goat is like trying to cook a catcher's mitt that smells like a teenagers unwashed gym clothes. For this reason, most young bucks are "wethers." A wether is simply a buck that was castrated at a young age. Think about that the next time you use the word "bellwether", which literally means the lead wether who wears a bell so the other goats or sheep follow.
Ranchers who responsibly raise goats for meat separate the unwethered bucks from the rest of the herd because that horrible smell won't only contaminate him, it'll make the entire herd taste nasty. A wether goat, harvested before it's one year old will give you delicious, more tender meat.
How Tough is Goat and What Does it Taste Like?
When goat is made Cabrito-style, it's about the same tenderness as lamb. Chevon-style is less tender than lamb, but more tender than many types of wild game. Goat has a flavor similar to that of lamb. It's slightly gamey, has a hint of grassiness, and a very pronounced heartiness. Properly raised and humanely slaughtered goat is quite delicious, regardless of if the meat is smoked, roasted, or ground.
Step-by-Step How to Butcher a Goat
Slaughtering and skinning a goat isn't any different than deer or lamb. You will follow the same practices to gut the animal and remove the lower shank portions and the head. Make your incision around the anus carefully so as not to puncture the intestines and work the skin from the neck back to the tail. Make sure to keep the cavity clean and rinse it out when you are done. After skinning, you will want to hang the carcass for 24 hours before butchering it the rest of the way.
In an apocalypse, you'll want to save every part you cut off. The skin has numerous uses from clothing to blankets, while the intestines and stomachs make excellent water or wine jugs. Organs and fat you won't eat make excellent bait for other animals like bear and fish. You can boil the bones into a healthy soup, or they make excellent handles for tools. The meat on the skull is some of the most tender and delicious parts of the entire animal.
One of the reasons a goat is such a fantastic apocalypse animal is the broad variety of uses you can find. Nearly every part of the animal is useful for something. Waste not, want not, and maybe we can push the apocalypse off by a few centuries.
Breaking Down a Goat Carcass
Now that your animal is skinned, gutted, and clean, it's time to break it down into usable sections. If you want to watch a video, we show you just how and where to make the appropriate cuts on our YouTube channel. We will start with removing the tenderloins. You'll want to use the tip of your knife to start an incision where the loin rests against the flank behind the ribs. Use one hand to pull while using the tip of the knife to cut through the connective tissue holding the loins in place.
Once the loins are out, it's time to remove the rear legs from the carcass. For this task, you want to cut through the meat to expose the spine just above the hip bones. Use a hack saw to cut through the spine and remove the rear portion. Make swift straight cuts around the haunch between the leg muscles. Next, you will use some pressure on the ball joint in the hip, then use your knife to cut between the ball and socket, freeing the hind quarter. Do the same thing with the other side to produce two haunches and the hip bone section.
Next, you will want to pull the back strap from your goat. Make an incision below the ribs to remove the flank steaks and set them aside. Make a cut along the ribs to separate the meat from the bones, staying as close to the ribs as possible. You will want to find the vertebrae along the spine and make an incision just alongside the bones all the way through to the neck. Now you can remove the back strap and cut the fat from it.
Working on the same side, cut the rest of the rib meat from the carcass and set it aside. Flip the carcass over and do the same thing on the other side, making sure to find the seams between muscle groups. It's always a good idea to use a little pressure rather than digging in with your knife. You will often surprise yourself how easily different muscle groups pull away from each other.
The next thing to remove is the shanks from the front legs. You'll do this just like a deer, make a circular incision around the joint, apply pressure to expose the joint, and use the tip of your knife to cut the shank away. Starting from the chest, make another incision and follow the line of the shoulder all the way around to the neck. This will remove the shoulder blade. Do the same on the other side to remove both front legs and shoulders. The only thing left is to remove the neck meat, which is excellent for stew.
Since goats are smaller animals, they take less time to break down than cows or even deer and the portions are easier to store. Don't throw away your trimmings, either, because they all go into your ground meat production. Who doesn't like a little Apocalypse Gyro?
Goat Muscling: What to Look For
Unlike cows, goats build fat from the inside out and do not produce intramuscular fat. That means when you look at goat meat, it isn't going to have the marbling you are used to seeing. Instead, it's lean, bright red, and shows the grain well. One of the primary things that meat goats are judged by is how they are muscled. Since goats are often slaughtered at a young age, they will have thicker muscling and fat than an older goat.
There are a few areas you will look at on a live goat to determine if it is a good choice for harvest. This is also the method 4-H and other organizations use to judge the quality of a goat. The first muscling to look for is the width of the rear hind quarters. A properly muscled goat will be wide and thick, not narrow. Then you will look at the line from shoulder to tail. It should be nearly flat. The shoulders should also be flat across. A goat lacking muscling will have a peak-roof shape at the shoulders and a deep saddleback.
When you are picking out goat meat at the local butcher, look for thick muscling rather than marbling. Shanks should be substantial and meaty, not thin and narrow. Picking out a good cut of goat is a lot like picking out good lamb. You'll go by shape, color, and feel much more than you would if looking at beef.
Smoked Goat Haunch Recipe
Now that our goat is all broken down and ready, let's get something smoking. If you haven't checked out our favorite new toy, take a look at Burch Barrel and pick one of these up for awesome grilling and smoking all summer. We recently reviewed their product and you can use our code BEARDEDBUTCHERS for 10% off!
Start by raising the lid and grill grate all the way up so you have plenty of working space. Get a good bed of coals going and set logs in an inverted pyramid. This way, as the logs burn, they feed into the fire. For our coals, we used lump charcoal from Rockwood to get things started.
You'll see in our video that we do a side by side roast with this goat. One haunch is unflavored, just the real deal. For the other we are going to whisk together some olive oil and our Bearded Butcher Blend Cajun Seasoning to add a kick of spicy flavor. We use a mop brush, but you can use a regular brush or even your hands to get a good, even layer.
Using some metal hooks, we are going to hang the goat haunch directly over the fire and let the heat and smoke cook it to perfection. This is one of the features of the Burch Barrel that we truly love. Because you can lift and lower the hood and grill together, it makes for the perfect campfire cooking pit.
The time it takes will depend on a lot of factors, including how big your haunch is, how big your fire is, and how close your meat is to the flame. For us, it took several hours to hit an internal temperature right around 160 degrees, which is where USDA says it is safe.
The Taste Test
After letting the legs smoke and sear for a good while, it's time to put our efforts to the ultimate test. Seth is using a KA-BAR fighting knife to slice in the video since it's the apocalypse, you can get yourself one if you like it. The knife is a legend for lots of reasons, not the least because it looks cool.
One thing that surprised us when we tasted our first goat was the lack of gaminess and how tender it actually was. We aren't really sure what our expectation was, but it certainly wasn't that this piece of meat would be so delicious. If this is what the apocalypse holds for us, we are ready for it.
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