Goat meat market has room for growth

Although U.S. goat meat production has rose dramatically in the past decade, it lags behind increased consumption.

There continues to be increased market opportunities for goat meat in the United States. Worldwide, goat meat is the most widely consumed meat. The same is true for goat milk which is consumed more than cow milk worldwide. In the U.S., ethnic populations and health-conscious consumers seeking lean red meat are lining up to find a source for goat meat. The consumption of goats in the U.S. has increased 320% from 1999 and 150% since 2002. Since 1990, there has been no goat export market in the U.S. as current supply is just less than 50% of demand for goat meat. Meat from approximately 1.5 million goats is consumed in the U.S. annually. Most goat meat imported to the U.S. originates from Australia, and some is shipped from New Zealand.

Federally inspected goat slaughter has grown drastically in the last decade. Nationwide, there were 779,000 goats slaughtered in 2010 according to National Agricultural Statistics Service data. Although 2010 reports were down slightly from 2008 and 2009 numbers, in 1999 there were only 463,249 head reported through federally inspected slaughter. There is a peak in federally inspected slaughter trends for increased goat meat seasonally associated with the Easter holiday. Additionally, direct marketing demand often sees increases near Muslim holidays, the fourth of July, Christmas and other holidays.

The major goat consuming populations within the U.S. are Hispanics, Muslims and people originating from the Caribbean. Hispanic populations prefer cabrito, meat from very young, milk-fed goats weighing between 15-25 pounds live, or chevon, meat from young goats that are slightly older than cabrito and weigh around 50 – 60 pounds live. Muslim populations prefer goats that will yield lean carcasses, typically weighing around 60 - 70 pounds live. Specialty restaurant chefs are also seeking goat meat and Shape magazine recently listed goat meat as one of the top 50 fall diet foods for weight loss.

Historically, meat goats have been raised for controlling brush and noxious weeds in pastures. Often goats are grazed in combination with cattle to reduce competition of shrubs that cattle pass over when grazing.

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