Posted by: acooksca | 07/10/2016

Getting the Right Goat

Jenna with Gatsby

Jenna Burns and Gatsby

My neighbor, Marshall, tells me “I never cared for goat meat. It is stringy enough to use as dental floss.” “You didn’t get the right goat” I tell him. Goat is one of the most consumed meats in the (third) world. Ethnic markets in the U.S., even my local Lucky Supermarket on occasion, sells the type of meat that Marshall has had…tough and sinewy. Then there is Boer goat, a hefty breed that when hand-raised and pampered is the Wagyu of goat. The responsibility for nurturing such an animal can be found in the young hands of the 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Last month I attended Contra Costa County Junior Livestock Auction to support their efforts and gain a deeper communion with the food we eat.

Ed Burns, the leader of the Tassajara 4-H goat project, and I lean over pens in the livestock shed. He explains how differences in care, feeding and exercise show in the confirmation of each animal. His daughter, Jenna Burns and her close friend, Naomi Osterman each have a Boer market goat here today. Two minutes in the live auction ring will be the culmination of nearly a year of their devoted nurturing. Showing up and bidding in the auction is a way to support their aspirations and education. Jenna tells me her experience of raising goats convinced her to take a major in agriculture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this fall.

“Being in the 4H is how I learned to run my own business” I am told by the mother of a young boy who exhibiting his pig in the auction ring. “I learned what it takes to do a job well, be poised and talk to people, how to manage my losses when my animal didn’t sell and reinvest my gains when it did.” She is a successful realtor now.

I wonder aloud how the kids feel about letting the “pets” they raise so intimately go for meat. “These animals are treated very well, hand raised, and have a longer life than commercial farm animals. The kids know that they are market animals from the start. And it offers consumers the chance to take part in traditionally (rather than commercially) raised food. That’s something they can give back to the community.”

Four years ago I bought a goat at this same auction. Every time I prepared the meat my husband and I acknowledged the animal and the young man who raised him. We feel grateful to them both and privileged to join the relationship.


















  1. Tell Marshall is have some of Karen’s goat. That’s the way to go!!

    • Marshal and Michele got a taste the other night. I think we have a convert!

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