— WICKSBURG, Ala. (AP) — With her head through the wooden hole of a milking stand, Naomi the goat seemed to pay little attention to Teresa Foster.
Naomi was just too busy eating to care about being milked by Foster.
"When she's done eating, she'll let you know," Foster said. "She generally tosses the top of the lid off into the grass. That says, 'I'm done.'"
Foster and her family - husband Rick and five children ages 4 to 15 - got their first goat five years ago when a neighbor gave them a baby goat. Today, the Fosters have 10 goats with a mixture of milking goats and goats sold for meat. They've even sold some of their goat's milk as an ingredient for soap.
"Everybody's had a hand at milking the goats," Foster said of the family's daily chore.
In a health-conscious world, people are often looking for alternatives and goat meat and goat products are getting more attention. Goat milk has generally been considered a good alternative to whole cow's milk for people who are lactose intolerant and has similar nutritional values as whole cow's milk. Goat cheese has fewer calories, fat and cholesterol than cow's cream cheese.
But where goats really shine from a nutritional standpoint is in its meat. It's leaner than beef, pork, chicken and lamb.
Melvin Price has been raising goats since 1992, starting with boer goats. He and his wife, Elsa, own M&E Kiko Goat Farm in Newville. Price moved to kiko goats about six years ago. Since he recently sold some of his goats during a Southeast Kiko Goat Association sale (where one of Price's goats sold for $1,525), the M&E herd is now around 45 to 50 goats.
"It's growing every year," Price said. "It's getting bigger and bigger . Goat meat is the most eaten meat in the world. Americans don't believe it, but worldwide, there's more goat meat consumed than any other meat there is. Goat meat is also healthy because it has less fat."
Goat meat does indeed make up about 63 percent of all red meat consumed worldwide.
A 3-ounce serving of goat typically has 122 calories, less than 3 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of saturated fat and still provides 23 grams of protein. To compare, a 3-ounce serving of beef has 179 calories, nearly 8 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Three ounces of chicken comes in at 162 calories, 6.3 grams of fat and 1.7 grams of saturated fat. Pork and lamb are even higher than beef when it comes to calories and fat content.
Dan Hussey and his son Wade opened D&W Processing in Wicksburg about four years ago. The facility custom processes and sells meat, including deer, lamb and goat. The goat meat sold at D&W is from grass-fed goats that come from throughout the Wiregrass.
While goat meat is often associated with ethnic food, Hussey said more non-ethnic customers are warming up to it. Cuts of lamb and goat are typically pricier than beef and other meats, but Hussey said people are willing to pay a little more for a leaner and fresher cut of meat.
"It's just like deer meat. It's lean just like deer," Hussey said. "The younger generation has really gotten more health conscious about what they eat. It's starting to come on strong."
Goat can be prepared like beef and comes in a variety of cuts, Hussey said.
"It's going to continue to grow," he said. "How fast we're going to get grow, I don't know. But . the lamb and the goat are becoming more and more popular."