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NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Okinawa has begun promoting goat meat, once a traditional food here but on the decline due to the increasing diversification of culinary culture.

According to the prefecture’s animal husbandry department, the custom of eating goat meat came to Okinawa from mainland China about 600 years ago and eventually goat broth became a festival treat.

A decline in the number of festivals coupled with a tendency among young people to shun the peculiar odor of goat meat caused a drop in consumption.

The number of goats raised in the prefecture dropped to less than 10,000 between 2000 and last year, and the annual volume of consumption plunged to 165 tons from about 250 tons.

Alarmed by the trend, the prefecture began to promote goats raised for their meat as “regional resources.”

Last year it started researching the quality and nutritional value of the meat and how better to raise goats.

Meanwhile, Okinawa Yagi Bunka Shinkokai (the Okinawa Goat Culture Association) has been working on creating new goat recipes.

Such efforts are paying off. The Tsubame restaurant in the Makishi public market in Naha put goat sausage, saute vegetables with goat meat and “gyoza” dumplings made from goat meat on its menu.

The dishes have now become synonymous with the restaurant, said owner Settei Chochin, 54. They are just as popular as the goat soup and skewered goat meat that make up the restaurant’s staple items.

Goat meat’s peculiar smell vanishes when it is mixed with stir-fried vegetables or used in gyoza dumplings, apparently because it is suppressed by the accompanying leeks, he said.

On the island of Tarama in southern Okinawa, the meat is served at lunch in elementary and junior high schools.

“By creating opportunities for students to eat local goat meat during their childhood, we can protect and promote local consumption of homegrown products,” said Tadashi Tomiyama, chief of the Tarama village board of education.

The meat was introduced last November as part of the island’s revitalization program. An official in the prefectural animal husbandry department said goat meat could possibly become a brand product from Okinawa, together with Ishigaki beef and pork.

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