Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waste Not!

Burn & Scrape--a traditional African practice
As a meat goat producer, I've counted over thirty different nationalities of customers over the years. With 80% of the world's population eating goat meat (the most widely consumed red meat on earth), I've been exposed to a variety of recipes as well as methods of preparation--one of which is leaving the hide on the carcass after slaughter. Prior to evisceration, all the hair is singed and scraped from the hide leaving only the skin. 

What? You might ask, but the truth is skin is the largest organ of all mammals (including humans) and is comprised of lipids--aka: fat. 

In subsistence cultures, little is wasted when an animal is harvested for food. Unfortunately, the USDA doesn't see things that way, so we, as Americans, often discard up to 50% of an animal's live weight prior to consumption. 

Throughout the years I've watched as my customers have slaughtered and butchered their animals according to their own cultural traditions, often taking every part of the animal except the contents of the stomach. Some even capture the blood! 

But skin? The first time I was asked to burn & scrape a whole goat it wasn't that much of a surprise as several customers had been doing that to the heads and feet of their animals, but until asked I had never seen or done this myself. 

In speaking with a Nigerian customer, I told him about the others who burned the heads and feet and he responded with the question as to whether I could do the whole goat that way. So one day he came out to the farm and we slaughtered a goat together, him coaching me through the process of traditional African goat processing. 

That whole experience got me thinking that for my next Goat Roast I would prepare the goat with the skin on. After doing so, never again will I remove the skin from a whole goat prior to roasting--no basting, no drying out, stuffing stays put and it adds a most incredible depth of flavor. 

I also no longer remove the feet and head from my roasted goats as they are always a treat for my Nigerian friend who taught me the ways of Africa.  

So now when I engage with African customers, I can offer them a 'taste of home' by having their goats processed in a traditional manner. Nothing pleases me more to see their faces light up when I asked if they would like the carcass burned and scraped. 

As producers, we must be open to cultures and preparation methods uncommon to our own scope. Over the years, I've eaten raw liver, eyeballs, goose intestines (thought it was pasta!), lungs, pressure-cooked bones and an assortment of offal our government deems inedible.  While some may consider it fodder for a trendy reality show or catchy travel blog, the reality is this is how humans have eaten for thousands of years and they're not going to stop any time soon.