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Goatober meets… James Whetlor from Cabrito Goat Meat

Interviews » Goatober meets… James Whetlor from Cabrito Goat Meat

How did Cabrito come about?

The genesis of Cabrito, the ethical kid-goat meat company I founded with my partner 6 years ago, happened at River Cottage as I used to be a chef there. I grew up on the other side of the hill from Park Farm and it was inevitable I would come home at some point, after cheffing in London for 12 years at restaurants including The Eagle and Great Queen Street. Watching re-runs of River Cottage on TV at 1am after a shift used to make me nostalgic for where I grew up! It was a life-changing decision and was the start of Cabrito.

I was working at River Cottage in Axminster, when by chance, I acquired four goats from a farmer and reared them on some land I was looking after for the Summer. When October came around, they were ready for slaughter and I put them on the menu at River Cottage. The first time we served goat, it outsold beef. I cooked roast leg of goat with lentils and salsa verde, curried the shoulder and stuffed the belly. It was a light bulb moment! I thought, “If goat sells this well in Devon, it’ll sell to London restaurants too.” I sold my first goat to Jeremy Lee at Quo Vadis in Soho. Soon I quit my job and was selling goat meat full time and driving 1000s of miles every month from Devon to London.

How has Cabrito grown and developed?

Cabrito has a one-sentence mission statement: to put all billy goats born into the dairy industry into the meat industry.We are now supplying some of the best restaurants in the country including St John, Mark Hix and Temper in London It can’t be underestimated how important River Cottage has been to the success of Cabrito. Letting me put goat on the menu all those years ago at the Canteen doesn’t seem a big deal now but at the time it was huge. The influence River Cottage has had on food producers such as Hodmedods and chefs and food writers such as Gill Meller and Tom Hunt is important. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall blazed a trail and allowed people like me to believe we can make positive changes in the food industry.

You’ve been an instrumental part in growing Goatober. How did that happen?

Never did I think starting Cabrito would lead to the job I have now. It’s hard graft all the way, a lot of driving and meeting new chefs, farmers and dairies but it’s also a lot of fun! Goatober originated in New York in 2012 and was the brainchild of a brilliant cheesemonger called Anne Saxelby and Heritage Food USA. It’s amazing that Goatober is now an international campaign. Last year we had events in London, Bristol, Manchester, New York, Amsterdam, Rome and Ibiza and for Goatober 2019 we’re in Australia and Trinidad and Tobago who are using Goatober to build an entire marketing strategy around Trini reared goats. It’s so humbling and gratifying to see that the idea can make a difference at a farming level to people who need it.

Your book ‘Goat’ (Quadrille, £20) has been described as ‘genre defining’. Did you always want to write a book?

’I have always been interested in the politics of food. I’ve always cared about where it came from and how it was grown or reared. In my book Goat: Cooking and Eating, which won the James Beard Foundation prize for best single subject and also an award at the Guild of Food Writer, I try to answer some of the ethical questions and deal with the issues about taking a waste product in the dairy industry and putting those animals in the meat industry. It’s also a cookbook with 70 recipes including some from fantastic chefs who cook with goat, that help answer the question that I’ve probably been asked the most, ‘How do I cook goat?’

Find out more about James and buy Cabrito goat meat products at www.cabrito.com

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