O'Hare's goats won't eat oats, but with some luck, a little ivy

  • Article by: BRIDGET DOYLE , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: May 8, 2013 - 8:17 PM

In an effort to be more ecofriendly, Chicago’s famous airport is hiring a herd of hungry ruminants to help maintain its property.

 

As airplane travelers descend at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, they will soon be able to choose between watching the skyline or ... a herd of goats. The city’s Department of Aviation is expected to announce that it has awarded a contract to Central Commissary Holdings LLC — operator of Lincoln Park restaurant Butcher & the Burger — to bring about 25 goats onto airport property, helping the airport launch its pilot vegetation-management program.

Joseph Arnold, partner at Butcher & the Burger, said the goats now live on a farm in Barrington Hills and will make “the perfect lawn mowers” for the city’s largest airport.

In about a month, Arnold said, the goats will be delivered to O’Hare and begin their task of munching away at overgrown greenery. According to the city’s request for bids last fall, the animals will be expected to clear about 250 square feet of vegetation per day.

Arnold said the restaurant’s partners and head chef Allen Sternweiler were excited about the idea of lending their goats to the city. Butcher & the Burger, which opened in October 2011, operates as a build-your-own burger spot and butchery.

“We raise our own hogs and chickens, and bought these goats on a whim a while ago, not thinking a goat burger wouldn’t be on the menu,” Arnold said. “When [the city] put the bid out, we thought it was a really cool local, sustainable idea.”

The goats, which will be herded by a shepherd, will roam 120 acres at four sites on the airport’s property that were identified by the city for the grazing program. They will be kept away from runways.

Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said rocky terrain, hilly areas along creeks or streams and roads covered with dense brush are the target grazing areas.

The move to bring in goats is one way for the airport to become more sustainable and ecofriendly, Andolino said.

Andolino would not say how much the city plans to save with the new vegetation-management program, but she said it was “putting the best product with a difficult terrain.”

“The embankments cause wear and tear on our machinery and are difficult … to reach,” Andolino said. “It’s not like mowing your lawn.”

The O’Hare goats will be shepherded by the same woman who takes care of the herd in Barrington Hills, Arnold said. The goats will take shelter at night in a trailer or tentlike structure, Arnold said.

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