Chicago O’Hare Airport Hires New Grounds Crew: Goats

As the old phrase goes, “never hire a man to do a goat’s job.” At least that’s what O’Hare, Chicago’s international airport that moves over 60 million passengers a year, is hoping to prove. Starting this summer, people may be able to look out their windows while landing and see a herd of goats grazing on the vegetation around the runways.

The city of Chicago’s Department of Aviation hoped to find an eco-friendly way to manage the 120 acres of vegetation is has on O’Hare’s property, so they awarded a contract to bring 25 to 30 of the pastoral creatures to the Central Commissary Holdings LLC, which owns a popular restaurant Butcher & The Burger in Lincoln Park. The goats are currently living on a farm in Barrington Hills, IL, where I assume they are training for their upcoming summer job.

Butcher & The Burger is a build-your-own-burger type restaurant with an accompanying butchery. Joseph Arnold, a partner at Butcher & The Burger told the Chicago Tribune “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.” Luckily for the goats, Arnold never had the chance to turn them into patties. “When (the city) put the bid out, we thought it was a really cool local, sustainable idea. We’re all from Chicago, and this is the type of thing we’re all about,” said Arnold. He truly believes the goats will make “the perfect lawn mowers” for the city.

But the job wont be easy for the little goat fellows. They will be placed at four different locations on the property where the terrain is particularly rocky along different formations like cliffs and streams. The nature of this land would make it a bit troublesome for traditional mowers to do the job. Hiring goats to clear 250 square feet of hard-to-reach vegetation per day seems like a bright idea, after all.

This isn’t the first time an airport has brought on four-legged help to tend the grounds. San Francisco airport brings in a herd for two to three weeks every June to clean up the area. Their logic is that two endangered species live on the property, the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red Legged Frog, and the goats allow the airport to trim the grass without harming the creatures.

Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport also tried to bring in some goat laborers back in 2008, but kicked them out after a week. The program was discontinued because the goats were much too effective. “Goats, indiscriminate eaters, eat everything, including the trees and native plants that we wanted to protect,” said Christina Faine, an airport spokesperson.

The goats and their personal shepherd will make the journey from Barrington to the airport in June. The grass doesn’t know whats coming.


Bridget Doyle, “Goats to graze among runways at O’Hare”, Chicago Tribune
Aaron Cooper, “Chicago airport gets goats”, CNN

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