An Angus farm enterprise has branched out into selling its own goat meat which could see some different and exciting products becoming available on the local food scene.
Newton Farm, Inverarity, near Forfar, is a working farm which, through necessity, has diversified into offering holidays and tours which have proved extremely popular.
And with a herd of more than 100, Louise Nicoll has added another part to the business by selling goat meat – and it is already tickling people’s tastebuds.
Goat meat may not be massively popular or many people’s meat of choice, but Louise is on a mission to change people’s perception of the product which is an extremely healthy alternative to the more mainstream offerings.
Nutritionally goat meat has more iron and protein, and has lower levels of saturated fat, carbohydrates and cholesterol than beef or chicken.
The plans to diversify the business came into being in 2013 when the farm business had just been the subject of a cross-compliance inspection which resulted in an 11-month delay in receiving the 2012 Single Farm Payment.
Louise explained that they had to come up with a “survival plan”, with the plan to increase their bed and breakfast offering and add tours being born.
As the bed and breakfast / holiday business on the farm began to take off, Louise said people were surprised when they turned up to stay to find they were living on a working farm – so it was a no brainer to capitalise on the interest people were showing.
“The first thing we were being asked was ‘Can we see the animals?’ and we didn’t really have many that that time, with only a cat, a dog and some cattle.
“However, I rehomed four alpacas and then took in three Anglo Nubian goats from Fife Animal Park when it was closing due to welfare issues. Then I took in a miniature pig, Lucy, which had been living in a house in Dundee,” she revealed.
Goat meat plan
It seemed a natural progression for the farm to open to visitors and the animals became stars of the show as tour goers flocked to Newton Farm.
That began Louise’s love of goats and, along with husband Graham, they began to bring more on to the farm but, much as they loved the animals, it had reached a point where they had to look at a different enterprise.
“I has been a struggle for me thinking about the goat meat side of things. We were at 100 goats and we were at the point where we thought we need to do something because they are very expensive to feed and to look after,” said Louise.
“It’s been a conversation for a while. We were speaking to a local restaurant before lockdown and looking at producing something for them. They were really interested and we were kind of set to go, but then lockdown happened and it scuppered everything to do with that.
“As the summer has progressed we knew we had to do something as we wouldn’t have any room for kidding next year. We needed to move things and I have been involved in Appetite for Angus since it started and we decided to try and do something for their first virtual market.
“I just felt really passionately that we needed that full message of farm to fork. We had the farm and we had the tours, so we were halfway there but there was no fork. It is a difficult conversation sometimes but it was one we knew we had to have.”
Without having any idea how to progress the goat meat plan, Louise linked up with Yorkes of Dundee where expert butcher, Iain Doig, took her under his wing and explained how easy it would be to provide some great cuts from the goats that would be amazing products.
“Through a chance meeting we ended up in discussions with Yorkes of Dundee and they have been really helpful and instrumental in helping us take the goat to market and that has allowed us to take things forward.
“They have made it a really, really easy process for us and their butchery has been excellent and we have had feedback from catering companies on how good they butchery has been.
“Their advice and help has been amazing because it has been daunting for us to think how we take everything thre to market. They have the facilities and the labelling and can deal with that.
“We decided to initially have half goat packs available in an effort ensure that there wasn’t any of the goat wasted and it was then a case of seeing how it tasted when cooked.
“We wanted to make the best use of the whole animal and because of simplicity it made sense to do it that way, boxed and delivered straight from the butcher and that is the most practical way of doing it and you have a selection of cuts to enjoy and do different things.”
In addition to having the half goat available, the decision was taken to have some goat burgers made as simple way for people to try the meat.
“We developed the burger option as well. A couple of friends who are extremely good cooks tried the meat and made some dishes with it and the feedback was brilliant. That gave us confidence to try it and sell it at the first virtual night market and it sold out,” a delighted Louise revealed.
Having never tasted goat in my life, I sampled the burgers for myself and I can honestly say they are fantastic. The aroma while the meat was grilling was making my mouth water and cutting into them it was immediately apparent how moist they were – nothing worse than a dry burger!
If you are put off by the thought that it’s goat then my advice is don’t be. The flavour is something I had obviously never experienced and, for me, it was a level higher than your more familiar beef burger. I will definitely be using them again and I think they would work extremely well on a barbecue in the summer.
As she looks to the future at Newton Farm and her goat meat offering, Louise has identified an area where there are plans to build a cooking / barbecue area where the tours would conclude with a food offering, allowing people to try the meat.
“When we finish our tours, which can take round half an hour, people are famished, but the sad thing is that they leave and normally go to McDonald’s which really isn’t completing the farm to fork journey that is the message we are trying to relay,” she continued.
“It’s early days in the planning, but we have an area which we hope to build a cooking and eating section to conclude the tour where people would get the chance to try maybe some slow cooked goat meat in a stew or a burger. I would also love to do some goat bridies and it would be great to get a local producer involved in that.”