Farm Africa Blog: James Whetlor joined Farm Africa at the Restaurant Show to talk about Goatober

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th October 2016

United by a love of goats, James Whetlor from Cabrito Goat Meat teamed up with international development charity Farm Africa at The Restaurant Show, where an audience gathered to watch James demonstrate two Africa-inspired recipes while talking about how Farm Africa’s work with goats is transforming the lives of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.

Goats are well-adapted to the dry, dusty soils found in the north of the country, where they can thrive in the harsh, mountainous landscape. Farm Africa works in Tigray to support women, and especially widows, who don’t own any farmland and often struggle to make ends meet. It’s a difficult environment for farmers, and with the region still reeling from one of the worst droughts in 50 years, there is even more pressure on Tigray’s scant resources.

For local farmer Abrahet the gift of goats and the training to keep them has made a huge difference. With three healthy goats producing milk and kids that she can sell, she’s been able to feed her family, buy medication for her children and pay for their school costs. And once her goats breed, Abrahet then passes on three kids to another woman in her farming group, so that the benefits can spread throughout the whole community.

But while goats are a lifeline to women like Abrahet, in the UK billy goats have been seen as a waste product of the dairy industry. As goats are mainly used just for their milk, thousands of males are euthanised each year.

James founded Cabrito Goat Meat in 2012 with the intention of reducing this waste. A former chef at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, he realised there was a market for kid goat after seeing the demand for less common meat in upmarket restaurants. Kid meat also has the added appeal of containing less cholesterol than chicken and more iron than beef.

Cabrito’s first delivery was to Jeremy Lee from Quo Vadis, and since then it has gone on to supply over 60 top restaurants including St John and Bocca di Lupo. Building on this growing popularity, online grocer Ocado has begun selling Cabrito’s kid goat mince, diced cubes and rolled shoulder, making goat meat easily available to the British public.

James says: “The more you think about it, the stranger it is that we don’t eat goat in this country while the rest of the world thrives on it.

“We’re trying to solve a problem in the UK food chain by highlighting waste and finding ways to make it more sustainable.  It seems distasteful to throw things away when farmers in Africa have so little. Cabrito takes animals that are knocked on the head and chucked in the bin and raises them up for meat and puts them into the food system.”

This month, James is promoting the UK’s very first #Goatober, a month-long celebration of goat meat. Top UK restaurants are committing to putting a goat dish on their menus, with the aim of winning over the hearts and stomachs of diners around the country.

“Goatober is a silly name, a great idea and a fun way to engage people. It’s an effort to get everyone in the fledgling goat meat industry together to talk about goat and really get it onto menus,” explains James.

Several very high profile restaurants have signed up to be a part of #Goatober, from the Jugged Hare to River Cottage Canteens, and Shotgun BBQ.

James says: “Fifteen years ago Cabrito wouldn’t exist. Traceability and transparency in food systems has increased hugely. I don’t think you could start a food business now without sustainability built into it somewhere. The bigger, more established companies have a real challenge because it’s very hard to retro-fit sustainability. It’s expensive and difficult to re-do long supply lines that have built up over years. When we started, sustainability was a core principle. We only exist because there was waste in the system.

“There’s a stark contrast between the sort of wastefulness that we have in the West and the preciousness of goats to a farmer in Africa, and that’s why I find Farm Africa so attractive to work with. Goats are amazing animals and I think that Farm Africa’s work really shows that - it shows that you can really build a community around these animals.”

For more information about Farm Africa’s work go to www.farmafrica.org or follow them on Twitter @FarmAfrica. And to get on board with #Goatober go to http://www.cabrito.co.uk/goatober/ 

>>> Read more from Farm Africa here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th October 2016

Farm Africa Blog: James Whetlor joined Farm Africa at the Restaurant Show to talk about Goatober