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Iowa State University Extension

Phone: 515/294-8899
| Background | Breeds | Production |
| Markets | Prices | Conclusion and Trends |
| Sources |

It is generally agreed that the goat meat industry is on the rise although official statistics are unavailable. The USDA ceased tallying nationwide goat numbers many years ago. Trade publications and breed associations estimate that there are approximately 1,900,000 meat type goats in the U.S. herd, with about 1,350,000 being mostly Spanish and Spanish-cross goats and the remaining 550,000 being mostly Angoras.

In 1999, 492,000 goats were slaughtered at federally inspected plants compared to 400,000 in 1998. According to long time industry observers, another 300,000 were slaughtered in state inspected facilities or informally. The structure of the industry is such that the majority of U.S. meat goats are raised in Texas and other southwestern states and then transported to the slaughterhouses relatively near consumption. Roughly, one-third of all federally inspected goat slaughter takes place in New Jersey.

The total goat market in the US is thought to be growing at a rate of more than ten to fifteen percent annually. By all measures, there are not enough goats produced in the US to meet domestic goat needs. Some 65,000 live head and 8,500 goat carcasses (in 30-pound carcass weight equivalents) are exported from the U.S. annually. U.S. yearly imports have been equaling about 327,000 head (in 30-pound carcass weight equivalents). However, the number of imports diminished in 1999 with the availability of more domestically produced meat.

Spanish meat goats are small, hardy and well adapted to extensive foraging. They are noted for having a cantankerous disposition and tend not to have a good carcass conformation.

Angora goats lend themselves to crossbreeding and are thus a more desirable meat goat. Angora also have the advantage of a desirable pelt, but crossbred mohair must be kept separate from the purebred types.

Nubians and Saanans are the most popular dairy breeds. Both have a large frame size, good dispositions and are easy to manage. French origin dairy breeds are also found in the Midwest.

Boer is a relatively new breed to the US. Boer goats are large framed animals with a high muscle-to-bone ratio. It is a prolific breeder and is noted for its good disposition.

Much has been written about the influence of the Boer breed in America since its introduction in the early 90s. The Boer is a true meat type animal. USDA specifications for cuts from meat type goats will, when completed, most readily apply to goats that have some percentage of Boer in their bloodlines

In terms of lean product produced per unit of input, goats cannot compete with the other meat producing species on lush grasslands, improved pastures or in a feedlot scenario. However, because of their preference for browsing on brushes, bushes and weeds, goats are the most efficient in the conversion of browse pasture to lean tissue. The long-term viability of the goat industry hinges on breeders' abilities to develop a prolific, fast growing animal with desirable carcass traits that can be sustained and productive on a browse diet.
The supply of slaughter goats is seasonal. Most kids tend to be sold for slaughter from four to eight months of age. Producers in Texas kid their herds in the December-January period while those in other southern states do their kidding in March-April. Thus overall, there is an imbalance of supply throughout the year as the heaviest demand period is December-April.

Goats are graded much like cattle, using prime, choice and good grades. There is about a $ .09 to .11 per pound spread between the different grades. Unlike some other species, there is very little price differentiation between the lighter and heavier weight goats. In fact, the heavier goats may transform themselves into better conformation, "jump" a grade, and thus receive a better price. However, the cost of delaying the marketing could exceed the additional income received from a heavier animal.

Keeping the costs low for stocker animals, from weaning to about 40 pounds is critical to having consistent profits. Here is a typical feedlot scenario. At 40 pounds they are worth about $ .70 per pound. To feed them on out on a hay and grain mixture of 324 pounds for 120 days at $ .08 per pound (8:1 feed conversion rate) plus overhead, etc. is $15.00. This results in total costs of $69.82 for an 80 pound animal that can now bring $1.20 per pound live less shrinkage commissions and freight.

Overall goat meat demand is strongest along the eastern U.S. coast and in Florida, but localized exceptions occur. Markets for goat meat are very ethnically oriented. Each consumer group has its own particular product specification and they tend to be located in different regions of the country.

The largest single Muslim market in the US is Detroit with other large populations in southern California and the northeast corridor stretching from Washington to Boston.

Muslim consumers generally want a skinless carcass of less than 35 pounds, which typically must be certified as having been processed along Halal guidelines.

Recent immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa plus some African Americans centered largely in Florida and the New York area want a headless skin-on carcass with the feet on. Furthermore, they prefer the carcass of undermined weight to be heavily singed.

Asians, mostly in California and the northeast corridor of the U.S., want the feet and head removed and the carcass must be snowy white. The skin is scalded and scraped.

Hispanics are located primarily in Texas and the rest of the southwestern US, California, Chicago and New York. Within the Hispanic group, persons of Mexican heritage are the largest consumers of goat meat. They prefer skinless carcasses with the feet off and the head on. They also like lightweight carcasses, called cabrito, weighing about 10 pounds.

For goats graded "good" prices range from $ .57 per pound in the early fall to $.72 per pound in late spring. In the same corresponding period, “choice” was $ .66 per pound and “prime” was $.77 per pound. The peaks for those two grades during the same months were $ .83 for “choice” and $ .98 per pound for prime.
According to industry sources in Texas, if one started with a 60 pound goat in Texas selling for $ .80 per pound or $ 48 per head, the delivered cost for a live goat would be $54 per head. A travel-shrunk goat would typically weigh about 55 pounds at the East Coast slaughter plant. Domestic goat slaughter generally gives a “yield” of 48 percent for the carcass. It is thought that $4 per head is a typical slaughter cost. The processor must also endure cooler shrink, which means the processor has total costs of $58 per head for 25 pounds (or $ 2.32 per pound) of fresh domestic goat meat excluding profits, marketing charges, etc.

A Pennsylvania importer reports that East Coast processors can also import frozen carcasses of Australian goat for about $ 1.50/pound delivered to their plant. This is calculated from $ 1.20 per pound cost of meat and the remaining balance is from handling and delivery charges from the port. Philadelphia is the single largest port of entry for imported goat carcasses followed by San Francisco, Miami and then Los Angeles.

Imported goat meat prices set the floor for the domestic product. There are no quotas for imported goat meat. Australia is a very low cost producer of goat meat. Australian offerings of carcasses are aided by the large demand here for goat meat and an attractive price supported by the low Australian dollar. The real negative aspect of Australian goat meat is that it comes in a frozen state.

The question then remains; can fresh domestic goat meat compete with frozen imported product from Australia? Yes, as long as the various ethnic consumer groups in the US prefer fresh meat and are willing to pay for it. One serious downturn in the economy could force more consumers to purchase their goat meat in a frozen form. Keep in mind that for many ethnic group members the purchase of goat meat is a luxury.

Conclusion and Trends
Goat meat consumption is growing. Although most ethnic groups spend a larger proportion of their income on food, goat meat is clearly a high priced animal protein when compared to other offerings in the supermarket case. However, consumers are prepared to pay the large price difference for domestically produced fresh meat over the frozen imported product. Should the economy soften and unemployment significantly rise, which tends to affect these groups of consumers both first and the hardest, it remains to be seen whether the increased demand for goat meat can be sustained.

Some experts and marketplace observers believe the marketing channels for this product are not fully developed and that plenty of room for expansion remains. Cities in the interior of the U.S. such as Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines, Wichita and Minneapolis all could be good future markets of some importance and they each have substantial ethnic populations.

USDA Ag Marketing Service, Des Moines, IA; USDA Ag Marketing Service, San Angelo, TX; USDA Ag Marketing Service, Washington D.C.
Dr. Richard V. Machen, Animal Science, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX.
Dr. Kenneth McMillin, Animal Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA.


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