Old World Meats Make a Comeback as a Sustainable Choice

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By Jacqueline Church

Are bunnies the new chickens? Is bison the new beef? Will goat nudge lamb off the menu? While bison, goat, and rabbit aren’t new, per se, they are garnering fresh interest among chefs and home cooks (and media) eager for sustainable options.

new-meats-postDemand for bison and goat is on the rise nationally, says Becky Faudree, Whole Foods’ global meat purchasing team leader. “Bison is one of our strongest-growing categories. We recently began carrying goat, and currently it is only offered in a few regions. Even with the small amount offered, we have seen an increase in sales. We anticipate the bison and goat categories will continue to grow.” Whole Foods may not sell rabbit yet, but other gourmet butchers do. Here’s what you need to know about these chic meats.


Sustainability story: Because bison are entirely prairie-grazed, they cause less damage to the environment than cattle raised on feedlots. In fact, bison are credited with helping to restore prairies. If you choose a producer like Wild Idea Buffalo, you’ll also know that they are never given antibiotics, growth hormones, or steroids. Wild Idea Buffalo are also slaughtered humanely in the field under South Dakota state inspection.

Taste: similar to beef.

Health benefits: Ground bison has about 25% fewer calories and half the saturated fat of grass-fed ground beef.

Best use: Use it in any recipe that calls for beef; our Buffalo Blue Burgers are a tasty introduction. Take care not to overcook lean bison.

Where to find it: most supermarkets, online, and even big-box stores.


Sustainability story: Goats forage for their food and require little land and water, making them a more environmentally sound choice than conventionally raised beef, lamb, or even chicken. In Muslim communities, where goat is a popular meat, it must be raised and slaughtered humanely, according to Islamic law. This satisfies growing consumer demand for humanely treated animals.

Taste: Young goat (kid, less than 6 months old) tastes like mild lamb.

Health benefits: 4 ounces of goat has 122 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 gram saturated). A similar portion of lamb has 256 calories and 19 grams of fat (9 grams saturated).

Best use: Goat can be cooked, for the most part, very much like lamb. Shanks may be braised; steaks sautéed or grilled; and more sinewy cuts stewed. Remember, though, that goat is very lean, so take care not to overcook.

Where to find it: Goat is new to mainstream American shoppers, but it accounts for more than 60% of the red meat eaten worldwide. Look for it at some Whole Foods stores in the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, and South; in Latin, Caribbean, and some Asian markets; and at halal butchers that cater to Middle Eastern and North African communities. Goat is turning up at farmers’ markets, too. It may be labeled chevron, cabrito, or capretto.


Sustainability story: Rabbits can be bred four to seven times per year. “They have a high meat-to-bone ratio, and they require little in terms of resources,” says Jennifer Hashley, co-owner of Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds in Lincoln, MA (which raises rabbits as well as chickens) and director of Tufts Friedman School’s New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Bunnies’ feed typically includes fast-growing, sustainable alfalfa in addition to foraged fare, says Hashley.

Taste: like chicken.

Health benefits: Rabbit has as much protein as chicken, but about 35% fewer calories and less than half the total and saturated fat.

Best use: Rabbit has long been a staple of French, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. It can be used much the way you would use chicken pieces–braising the legs works especially well. It’s also nice marinated and grilled.

Where to find it: At farmers’ markets and gourmet butchers (you may need to call ahead to order it).

jackie-thumbJacqueline Church is an independent writer whose work has appeared in Culture: the Word on Cheese, Edible Santa Barbara, and John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. She often writes about gourmet food, sustainability issues and the intersection of the two on her blog Leather District Gourmet. Currently, she’s at work on Pig Tales: a Love Story about heritage breed pigs and the farmers and chefs bringing them from farm to table.

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Braised Rabbit with Easy Pan Sauce

By Alison Ashton

You’ll want a tender “fryer” or “young” rabbit for this recipe; fryers typically weigh less than three pounds. Ask the butcher to cut the rabbit into six serving pieces, which makes this a simple dish you can prepare on a weeknight. If you purchase a whole rabbit, Saveur has helpful instructions for cutting it up. Serve with Oven-Baked Polenta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and sauteed spinach.

rabbit-recipe2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) fryer rabbit, cut into 6 serving pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon cold butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle rabbit with salt and pepper. Add half of rabbit to pan and cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer seared rabbit pieces to a plate and repeat with remaining half of rabbit.

Add onion to pan and sauté 2 minutes. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until wine evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add broth and seared rabbit. Cover, and cook for 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of the thigh registers 155. Transfer rabbit to a serving dish and keep warm.

Place sauté pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until pan juices reduce by half. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Pour sauce over rabbit. Garnish with basil and pine nuts.

Serves 6

  • http://JacquelineChurch.com Jacqueline Church

    Alison thanks for this recipe. I just had the most delicious rabbit last night in Bergamot Restaurant in Cambridge. Dying to try it at home!

  • http://www.dadekianphoto.com/ David Dadekian

    Great article. I’ve had them all and I would love to try some goat at home so will find a source soon. I have to say though, I love rabbit and I don’t know that I’d go along with the tastes like chicken line.

  • http://JacquelineChurch.com Jacqueline Church

    Mary & Rich know a source up on the North Shore for fresh local goat. I havent’t tried the Halal market here. I think rabbit is similar to a game bird though more delicate than many. I think in the familiar taste lexicon, it’s the most comparable flavor people would know.

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/liahuber/ Lia Huber

    David … I think rabbit has a bit more delicate texture and somewhat sweeter (I know that sounds weird for a meat) flavor than chicken. How would you describe it?

    I was thrilled to see that Lou Preston is raising goats for Mateo Granados up here by us (I was surprised to see them wandering in the vineyard this weekend). Perhaps these meats really WILL start showing up more frequently and more accessibly.

  • http://www.chezus.com Chez Us

    Great article. I have not had goat but am very curious. I do love bison as well as rabbit. I have cooked with bison at home; but, have yet to try rabbit. I am actually very inspired to find some for this weekend.

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/ldgourmet/ ldgourmet

    I am so excited – I helped inspire the inspirational Chez Us? Woo Hoo! And my first recipe is – of course – not straight outta anyone’s book but sort of my own mashup of the classic French Lapin a la Moutarde – posting soon!

  • jpcooks

    Great article, Jacqueline! I haven’t had goat since I was in Aruba quite a few years back. I think I’m going to the local halal butcher and pick some up! Thanks again!

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/liahuber/ Lia Huber

    I got goat rib racks at the farmers market last week. Can’t wait to try!

  • http://JacquelineChurch Jacqueline Church

    Sounds interesting, rib racks..don’t know if I’ve seen those before. Had another excellent goat dish at CLINK. the restaurant in the Liberty Hotel here this week. Absolutely ethereal. I got the chef to share the recipe with me! Cant wait to try it. How will you make the rib racks, Lia?

  • karen

    One of the farmers at the market I went to yesterday had goat, but I passed since I wasn’t sure if I would like it. Now I’m wishing I had bought some! I’ll be sure to next time.

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/liahuber/ Lia Huber

    I think I’m going to do a Middle-Eastern spin on barbecued ribs … maybe with some kind of pomegranate mop. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  • http://artisanbeefinstitute.com/ Carrie Oliver


    I am curious what to look for when it comes to rabbit (e.g. questions for the butcher, appearance, etc.). The only stores in which I’ve seen rabbit are a bit sketchy, places I wouldn’t buy any of the meat on the shelf.

    Also, my two cents with regard to bison, I’d suggest that people inquire whether the bison are bison or have been crossed with cattle (sometimes called beefalo) – they’re both fine but different. Also, if one is interested in 100% pastured bison (or beefalo), asking the purveyor to confirm the livestock were raised without the use of feedlots is important.

  • http://JacquelineChurch.com LDGourmet

    Carrie: You are so right about the bison. Part of what makes it more sustainable is the natural grazing which, of course, feedlots negate whether with beef or bison!

    Rabbit is something I’ve only bought and cooked once and did so from a small, local farm. I’d stick to someone you know or a good specialty butcher like Savenor’s here in Boston or D’artgnan online. http://www.dartagnan.com/Search.aspx?key=rabbit

    – Jackie

    • Micah Nyatsambo

      Blood Farm
      (94 W Main West Groton, MA 01472 (978) 448-6669) in MA has Rabbit and Goat! I stock up on Rabbit. Also check out http://www.thebutchershopboston.com. I remember goat being stringy and gamey as a kid. Has anything changed? My mother loves it and I am willing to give it another go.

      • http://JacquelineChurch.com LDGourmet

        Thanks for the reminder about Blood Farm! They have been recommended to me a couple of times and i keep forgetting about them.

        Did you see my post on Chef Margate’s Goat at CLINK? Exquisite. It will make you a believer. Truly amazing.

        Thanks for dropping in with the info!


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