ELDERSBURG — When she began to raise goats to sell 15 years ago, Pam Adams used to get one or two calls a month. Today, she gets at least three calls a week.
The demand for goat meat is strong, said Adams, president of the Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia Meat Goat Producers Association.
More people are interested in healthy eating, and goat meat offers a healthy alternative to beef, pork or chicken, said Adams, who has 70 goats on six acres on her Bridgestone Manor Farm in Carroll County.
“We have quite a few goat producers and quite a few people come into Frederick County from D.C. and the Chambersburg, Pa., area to buy goats,” Adams said.
In addition, several goat producers set up shop at farmers markets in Bethesda and Washington.
Demand from restaurants in Baltimore and Washington that serve goat entrees, along with a desire for locally raised meat, explain a growing goat meat market, said Will Morrow, co-owner of Whitmore Farm in Emmitsburg, and one of about 100 goat producers in Frederick County. Morrow sells his meat on the farm and at farmers markets.
“Goat meat is hot,” Morrow said. “We can’t keep enough in stock.”
Komi restaurant in Washington goes through 20 goats a week, he said.
Family Meal restaurant in Frederick ran a weeklong goat ravioli special recently using Morrow’s meat.
“It sold like crazy,” he said.
Raising goats has been a health-changing experience for Carol Rollman, owner of Sycamore Spring Farm.
When she was diagnosed with osteopenia — a precursor to osteoporosis — Rollman was upset at the thought of taking prescription drugs, she said. Because there was no family history, Rollman did not believe her problem was genetic, so she began to research the dietary aspects of the disease.
“I was intrigued with the claims that raw goat’s milk could rebuild bone density, so we added on the goat business, and in only 18 months my bone density returned to normal,” Rollman. “I am now a believer and an advocate for this natural treatment.”
Her farm cross-breeds Saanan dairy goats with Boer meat bucks to produce “the really nice, large, dual-purpose goats that have proven perfect for our small diversified farm,” Rollman said, “and by word of mouth, we sell every goat before it hits the ground.”
Goat production has increased in Frederick County, as in other counties and nationwide, said Susan Schoenian, University of Maryland Extension sheep and goat specialist.
The market for goat meat is largely ethnic: Muslims, Hispanics, Africans, Asians and Caribbean islanders are interested, Schoenian said. But Morrow said 90 percent of his customers are white Americans.
Goats grow more slowly than sheep or pigs, so they are less profitable for farmers, so many farmers don’t invest in them, Morrow said.
The University of Maryland offers a pasture test annually to identify farms that have the highest-performing meat goats.
“We’re lucky to have it, and we have it because the demand for goats is so high,” Morrow said. “It’s kind of like having bragging rights — which farm has the fastest-growing, well-muscled goat?”
The top goat then goes to auction and is sold for the most money.
Several meat goat projects are underway at the university’s Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville. A buck performance test identifies genetically superior bucks for breeding, Schoenian said. Goats fed in a pen on hay and grain and those grazing on pasture are being examined.
Increased interest in goat is also seen in 4-H and FFA, at Boer goat shows, and in using goats for vegetation control, Schoenian said.