Farmers are struggling to breed enough goats to meet demand

It is the most popular meat in the world and far healthier than the leanest chicken breast. Yet goat has long failed to butt its way on to British menus. The nearest many will have been to goat is purchasing a curry at the Notting Hill carnival and feeling daringly experimental.

That is changing, with a clutch of top fine-dining chefs cooking with goat. In fact, farmers are struggling to breed enough goats to meet demand, with one breeder revealing that existing herds were too small to meet a recent request from Morrisons supermarket. "They'd need our yearly supply every day," said Sharon Peacock, who chairs the British Boer Goat Society.

This weekend goat is on the menu at two popular London restaurants, joining caprine dishes at the capital's champions of British fare St John and Quo Vadis, as well as at Manchester's Michelin-starred Aumbry and the Epicurean near Bath.

On the Isle of Skye, Michael Smith from the Three Chimneys is a fan: he recently served a Boer goat tagine to win the main course category on BBC2's Great British Menu and the meat is expected to be a "permanent feature in future series". Chris Peacock, who supplied the meat used in the winning dish from his Lancashire-based Cockerham herd, has been breeding Boer goats for 13 years and now has 500. "We're certainly seeing a lot more interest."

Andre Dang, a food trend consultant, said yesterday that he had been served goat-meat burgers four times at last week's judging for the Great Taste Awards, which culminates in the autumn when UK-wide winners are announced. "For the first time a lot of goat meat was entered," Mr Dang noted, describing the burgers as having "interesting texture and an excellent, slightly gamey flavour".

"Producers are obviously trying to get it into the mainstream," he said, adding: "There's very little fat, so they were more crumbly than normal dense and spongy burgers."

James Knappett, a former chef at the two-Michelin-star Noma, who runs the acclaimed tasting-menu restaurant Kitchen Table in central London, spent last week devising new ways to serve the first goat carcass he had ever bought.

"A supplier offered me one and I cooked it lots of different ways," he said. These ranged from a goat ragout served with tagliatelle to a deconstructed goat curry, with pan-fried meat served pink like lamb, pickled fresh turmeric in yoghurt, coriander shoots and roasted cauliflower.

The trend goes beyond high-end experimental chefs. The Thatched House, a west London gastropub, yesterday put on a goat banquet, starting with goat Scotch eggs and sausage rolls, moving on to goat kibbeh and ballotine of goat belly stuffed with apricots and walnuts, and finishing with goat's milk ice-cream.

There are ethical reasons to eat goat, too: it stops days-old billies from being slaughtered so their mothers' milk can be bottled for sale. Defra estimates that most of the 30,000 billy goats born every year in the UK are simply killed to save farmers the cost of rearing them.

Although none of the big UK supermarket chains yet stocks goat meat, most said they would consider supplying it if customers were keen. With tainted meat still fresh in the memory and our enthusiasm for exotic food (on TV, at least), goat's time may have come.