GERMANO, Ohio – Secret recipes’ rave reviews come from an unusual taste, a surprising combination, or something a little different.
Between two layers of baked beans, steaks roast to tender perfection. In another concoction, homemade ricotta cheese bakes with ground meat and tomato sauce, sandwiched between lasagna noodles.
Carol Kennedy gets requests to make both dishes – but only after she reveals to often-unsuspecting diners the reason her dishes are so appetizing.
Goat meat is her secret ingredient.
The Harrison County goat herder has turned a farmstead’s need into a money-making venture.
Cleaned up. Eight years ago, Carol Kennedy and her husband, Keith, added a handful of Pygmy goats to their farm on the Carroll-Harrison county line.
The Kennedys heard goats could help clean up their overgrown pastures. Struggling against the perception that goats stink, Carol said they bit the bullet and bought the goats.
Milking now. Soon another urge hit her. She had helped a neighbor milk cows and found she was good at it.
However, keeping a cow on the farm would provide more milk than their family of two could drink. Lesser-producing dairy goats were a more viable option.
“It’s awful hard to milk a Pygmy,” Kennedy joked. Soon they added milkers to the mix. Kennedy found herself flooded with milk.
There was only so much fudge or cheese she could make and give away.
Something more. She searched for ideas for non-perishables. She added soaps to the mix of items she sold at farmers markets. Then an idea hit her.
Keith Kennedy’s beef cattle – grazing in the same pastures as Carol’s dairy goats – were destined for a freezer.
An influx of Middle Eastern immigrants pushed to find fresh goat meat near their new homes in the Buckeye State. It was the perfect niche market.
Before long, the meaty Boer breed held its own in the pasture.
“We really have the variety pack of goats,” Kennedy said of the 65 head she keeps on roughly 100 acres.
Multi-purpose. Kennedy estimates she sells 100 goats a year for meat, 4-H projects, brush-eaters and pets.
She maintains a flock of breeding stock, nearly all dairy-Boer crosses, and hopes to someday have 300 breeding does.
A full barn. Kennedy’s caprines wander pastures year-round, munching on hay and a high-protein feed to build muscle mass.
Keeping the goats in good body condition is important not only for ones destined for the plate, but also for breeding stock, Kennedy said.
Her breeding and health management keeps output high – most of the goats kid twins, and quite a few throw triplets.
Kids are born around the new year or in May and June, a move that helps Kennedy as she moves toward dividing the goats into uniform, marketable groups.
Kennedy can send her goats to market as young as 3 months, but most are sold around 6 months or 100 pounds.
Market help. Right now the goats are sold and butchered as needed, Kennedy said, but she would like to move toward cooperative marketing.
“There are a growing number of goats in Ohio. I know of a group that put together several farms in southwestern Ohio [for marketing].
“I know other farmers in this area with 10, 20, 30 goats, but not a way to market them,” she said.
Working with other producers would help them secure higher prices for the delicacy they provide, she said.
Though she admitted she doesn’t get a bad price when goats are sold through the sale barn, she knows that buyer resells the goat for three or four times the profit in an area with higher demand – Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh.
Ethnic feast. Goat meat is the primary protein choice for several ethnic groups such as Somalis, Hispanics and Muslims, according to Kennedy.
Columbus, Ohio, has around 17,000 Somalis, the second highest population concentration in the United States, according to the 2000 Census.
Census data also shows a Muslim population of more than 7 million scattered between Detroit and Louisville, Ky.
USDA data shows the United States imported 52,000 metric tons of lamb and goat meat in 2000, up almost 200 percent since 1995.
Keeping up. All indications say the market is there, but the supply can’t keep up.
Carol Kennedy can feel the pressure.
One year she advertised ‘goats for sale’ in the Cleveland area. Buyers cleaned out her stock in less than two weeks.
In their desperation to have the meaty dishes they grew up with, buyers even wanted to buy her breeding stock.
“I don’t advertise meat for sale in Pittsburgh or Cleveland, but I’ve sold a lot there by word of mouth for the past few years,” she said.
Get into goats. More and more Ohioans are getting into goats, and a lot of them are in the same situation as Carol Kennedy, she said.
“More city people are moving to the country. Husbands are working and the wives are at home but they want animals.
And Kennedy suspects more women are leaning toward goats because they are fun to work with and each has a different personality.
“A 1,000-pound cow can hurt you fast, but a 100-pound goat is more manageable,” she said.
Economics. The project makes economic sense on the hilly east central Ohio farm.
The goats will graze the weeds and grasses Keith Kennedy’s cattle pass up, and give the couple more bang for their buck per acre.
Kennedy figures she can graze eight goats to one cow and sell the meat at a premium that could beat even the best prime rib any day.
“Pound for pound, there’s better money in goats. A 500-pound feeder calf may bring $1 a pound, but I can regularly get $1.25-$2.50 [per pound] for a 50- or 100-pound goat,” she said.
But this goat herder isn’t starry-eyed about her profits.
“Sure it takes a pile of goats to equal one steer, but the goats take a heck of a lot less inputs and don’t eat as much.”
Winning over. Chevon – goat meat – can be cut in steaks, chops and roasts. Kennedy said the meat tastes like lamb, but with less greasiness.
The meat is also low in fat but high in cholesterol.
Neighbors aren’t turning up their noses at invitations to Kennedy’s kitchen.
“Usually if I tell them what it is before, they won’t eat it. But almost everyone always says it’s pretty good.
“Some you’ll win over, but some still say they will never eat here,” she said. “I try to open doors a little at a time.”
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
Web page filled with meat goat links:
meat goat budgets: