Vermont Chevon: The Status of Goat Meat in Vermont

By: Natalie Lovelace, UVM’s Real Food Calculator Intern

In mid-November, Caylin McKee, UVM Dining Sustainabilgoat tour 5ity Manager, Annie Rowell, Sodexo’s Vermont First Coordinator, Jim Rogers, UVM
Dining Retail Operations Director, and I took a trip to Vermont Chevon in Danville, Vermont. Vermont Chevon, which was founded by Shirley Richardson and Jan Westervelt in 2011, is revolutionizing the goat meat industry in Vermont!

As we toured the pen housing the seven adult male goats, called bucks, all of which were named, Shirley explained how she got into the goat goat tour 3industry. Shirley was previously a high school principal and started raising a show heard of cashmere goats when she retired in 2004. “Sheep aren’t smart enough and I was not going to do cows,” she said, with a tone that assumed we all obviously knew why she wouldn’t want to work with cows.  Once she started to sell the meat from her wool goats, she learned about the unsustainable goat meat industry in the US. 97% of the almost 35 million pounds of goat meat consumed in our country in 2011 was imported from Australia1, where goats are considered one of their major pest species2 and are hunted similarly to deer in the US. Meanwhile, there are many farms in Vermont that have a surplus of goats because they are only being raised for their milk, meaning there is little use for kids and bucks. Shirley connected the dots, “My mind said, ‘Opportunity!’”

Vermont Chevon currently acts as a finishing farm for cull goats that Shirley buys directly from area farmers. She makes sure her price is competitive with the prices farmers could get at auction, which she notes are high because of strong demand from international populations that are accustomed to eating goat. A 120 pound goat will sell for more than a 1,000 pound cow at auction. Shirley is also experimenting with breeding meat and dairy goats, which she has found results in a faster growing and overall larger goat.

In addition to making goat meat more available in Vermont, Shirley also wants to transform consumer qualms about eating goat, which is actually the most widely consumed meat in the world. Even though it is the most nutritious meat, with 40% less saturated fat than chicken and half as much fat as beef3, it is not commonly served in the US. In addition, Shirley explains that it is more sustainable to eat goats who have served multiple functions in their lifetime. She currently sells her goat meat to a variety of restaurants and her goats have even been featured in some of UVM’s dining halls. She sells around 200 goats a year, but is hoping to grow this number by working with other farmers to raise goats on their farm. Raising goats not only diversifies farms, but also has the potential to bring additional value-added products to their market.

In a state with a large refugee population, whose main meat source is goat, it is shocking that goat meat is not more widely available in Vermont. Vermont Chevon is not the only organization working to make this meat goat tour 4more accessible. Pine Island Community Farm in Colchester is also raising goats for meat, which individuals can then purchase and slaughter onsite. As consumers, it’s important to keep in mind that purchasing goat meat raised in Vermont is not only supporting local meat, but also helping to transform the industry as a whole into one that is more sustainable. Shirley’s business fits well with Sodexo’s Vermont First commitment to increase local purchasing across Sodexo accounts throughout the state. As UVM’s international population increases, UVM Dining is interested in sourcing more goat so that those students can have a familiar protein on their plate.

 

Sources:

1http://sheepgoatmarketing.info/education/meatgoatmarket.php

2http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive-species/publications/australian-pest-animal-strategy

3http://vermontchevon.com/why-chevon/nutritional-benefits/

Vermont First Stakeholder Forum Creates Connections for Vermont Suppliers

“There are two types of leadership. Leadership by statements of commitment, and then leadership by action. Leadership by action is what is happening right here today.”

Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture

In the midst of a December rainstorm, 65 producers, distributors, support organizations, and administrators joined the Sodexo Vermont First team at the first Vermont First Stakeholder Forum at Castleton University.

The dual purpose of the event was to foster collective learning about how the Sodexo supply chain works and also identify the potential opportunities for local products within that supply chain.

Through the work of programs like Vermont First, Sodexo is one of the leaders in the food industry responding to increased demand for local and sustainable food.  Here is a glimpse of the scale of changes happening across the US food industry:evolution in the food industry 1st slide

We see a parallel story happening within Sodexo North America.

evolution in the food industry 2nd slide

This brings us back to the context of our Vermont story.  In a state the size of Vermont, we often feel that Vermont’s role and contribution to society

sec ross at forum
Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross addresses VT First Forum audience

is to use our strong connections and political culture of participation to be the testing grounds for change.  At the Vermont First Forum yesterday, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, drew upon this sentiment in his comments regarding Sodexo’s work through Vermont First:
“[Vermont First is a] model that can be replicated across the country, and I’m thrilled that Sodexo is leading the way.”

Highlights

As we finalize the 2015 local purchasing numbers, a few trends are emerging – both in areas of growth in our local purchasing as well as areas that deserve a closer look in collaboration with our distributor and producer partners.

TOP SPEND - 2ND SLIDE

 

What’s next?

Through Vermont First, we have introduced an extensive food purchase tracking system that captures purchasing trends in greater detail than we have been able to capture before.

vermont first report 2015 - 2nd slide

Stay tuned for this information over the next few weeks.  You will be able to find that information here on the Vermont First blog, Vermont Farm to Plate, and through local media sources like Vermont Digger.

Continue reading Vermont First Stakeholder Forum Creates Connections for Vermont Suppliers