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The Debunker: Do Goats Eat Tin Cans?

by Ken Jennings

March brings the first soft breezes and crocus buds of spring, as the earth awakens after its winter-long sleep. I can only assume this new season of life and fertility explains why the Agricultural Council of America has named March 21, often the first day of spring, as "National Agriculture Day." But how much do you really know about farming? In honor of the equinox, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings is here to plant some seeds of knowledge among your weeds of agricultural ignorance.

The Debunker: Do Goats Eat Tin Cans?

This Debunker installment needs a little caveat. Yes, goats will absolutely eat tin cans… if they are cartoon goats from a 1940s Warner Brothers short. If they are real flesh-and-blood goats, then I'm sorry but the answer is no.


The stereotype of the can-chewing goat is based on the fact that goats, unlike most farm animals, are browsers, not grazers. They'll nibble at just about anything to see how it tastes. (Unrelated: I just found out that I too am a browser, not a grazer.) That includes items made out of paper, cloth, or even wood. And they're voracious. In my home city, it's not unheard of for urbanites to keep backyard goats as an economical way to wipe out just about any invasive plant you can think of, even thorny Himalayan blackberry brambles.

But, as the FDA reported in a 2000 veterinary newsletter, "one must distinguish between what the animal actually consumes, and what it might pick up out of mere curiosity." I have no doubt that farmers have occasionally observed goats nosing around a tin can, maybe to get the delicious paper and glue off the label, or for a few scraps of something edible inside. But that doesn't mean that they somehow have the non-mammalian capacity to digest metal. The FDA titled this section, in bold face, "Goats Do Not Eat Tin Cans." So unless you think the federal government has undertaken a massive cover-up of goat nutrition, like they did with the fake moon landing, this case is closed.

Quick Quiz: The head on the cover of the 1973 album Goats Head Soup is not a goat's. It belongs to what man, wreathed in pink chiffon?

Ken Jennings is the author of eleven books, most recently his Junior Genius Guides, Because I Said So!, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at or on Twitter as @KenJennings.