Goats! They’re having quite a moment, aren’t they? It would seem that these slit-pupiled creatures are constantly in the news: clearing overgrown lots, recycling old Christmas trees, destroying invasive species and taking joyrides with Jose Canseco. Goats are hip, trendy and, dare we say it, tasty. They’re more intelligent than you might think and goat populations, both feral and domesticated, are quickly on the rise. With the Year of the Goat upon us, it would seem that something big is on the horizon. Should we all prepare to bow down to our caprine overlords?  

It’s safe to say that probably isn’t necessary (yet). Members of the Childhood Goat Trauma Foundation can leave their homes and go about their days as normal. (If you don’t actually own goats, there’s probably no good reason why you should learn how to appease them.)

However, it is worth noting where all of these goats are living — you know, just in case.

Also observing that goats are indeed having a moment, Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog has pulled together data from the 2012 USDA Agricultural Census to create a map of “literally every goat in the United States.” As Ingraham notes, there were 2,621,514 cloven-hoofed samplers when the USDA last conducted its census. This is a population larger than Washington, D.C., North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined.

So where are they you may ask?

Judging by the huge mass of brown dots on Ingraham’s map (each dot representing 500 goats), the goat uprising will occur in Texas. So please, plan according. Central California and a large swath of northeastern Arizona also boast exceptionally large goat populations. Several states — including aforementioned North Dakota and Wyoming — would seem to have very few goats. Low human populations, however, don’t necessarily translate to a more modest goat populations as is with the case of Vermont — that’s primo artisanal soap territory right there.

In a second map, Ingraham breaks down the United States’ goat population by county. Of the 3,143 counties in the U.S., a whopping 2,996 of them are home to commercial goat farms. Think about it: that’s only 147 counties in the entire United States without goats. Of the top 10 goat counties, eight are in Texas, a state where, in a total of 22 counties, goats actually outnumber humans. In Edwards County, a central Texas county best known for mohair production, goats outnumber humans 22-to-1. Obviously, a place to avoid if the relentless bleating of browsing animals makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

As it turns out, a large majority — 80 percent, to be exact — of the country’s goats are being raised for meat. This figure might strike some to be surprising, considering that goat meat isn’t exactly the dinner table staple that it is in other parts of the world, particularly Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. In fact, goat meat — called chevon, or cabrito if the meat in question comes from a juvenile animal — is the most widely consumed red meat in the world, according to a fascinating 2013 article from the goat cheerleaders at Modern Farmer that explores why Americans have long shied away from goat meat and how small-scale goat farmers are attempting to reverse the trend.

Who then is eating all of these goats? Immigrant populations hailing from countries with goat-heavy diets can claim some responsibility as can adventurous foodie-types who’ve acquired a fondness for the lean and affordable meat that doesn’t really taste that odd or off-puttingly exotic — it’s incredibly similar to lamb.

Native populations are also huge consumers of goat meat as pointed out by the AZCentral.com. Two of the top goat-producing counties in the country, Navaho County and Apache County in Arizona, are home to the Navaho Reservation:

Goats, along with sheep, are a mainstay of the livestock herds on the Navajo Reservation, which covers large areas of Navajo and Apache counties. Navajo farmers have raised and herded goats through the canyons and atop the mesas for generations.

The goats are an important food source on the reservation. Goat meat winds up in stews and soups, with fry bread and beans or grilled as a steak. The milk is used to drink and, sometimes, to make cheese.

Outside of meat production, 16 percent of goats in the U.S. are raised for milk. The remaining percentage of American goats are Angoras raised for mohair production.

So there you have it, folks. Goats. There are a lot of them right now and there will be a lot more of them in the future. The time is now to embrace the goat. 

Via [Washington Post], [Modern Farmer]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

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