Meat Goats in America

In the United States, Goats were raised for fiber or milk before 1990. They were also used for weed and brush control in pastures. Goat meat was a byproduct and most of it was exported. Since 1990 the demand for goat meat in the United States has increased faster than the goat population. More goat meat was imported than was exported in 1993. During the late 1980’s and the 1990’s the governments of New Zealand and Australia were trying to eliminate their feral goat populations and most of the resulting goat meat was exported to the United States. Some was also exported to China, India, and other Asian and middle eastern countries. New Zealand was successful in eliminating all of their feral goats. Today most of our imported goat meat comes from Australia. The Australian Government has successfully eliminated the feral goats in some areas, but in other areas they can only control the population. Their goal is to keep the feral goat population from getting any larger than it is today, which is estimated to be about 2.6 million head, with about 1.0 million head per year harvested for export. The domestic goat population in Australia is only about 200,000 head with little interest among ranchers for increasing that number. By comparison the domestic goat population in the U.S. is about 3.1 million head. Currently about half the goat meat sold in the United States through normal retail channels is slaughtered in USDA inspected plants and half is imported, mainly from Australia. Many goats are slaughtered by the consumers or are slaughtered in non-inspected plants. No information is available as to how many.

The American meat goat industry has been enjoying a strong and growing demand for goat meat. Most of the world’s population (about 60 to 70%) prefers goat meat to any other red meat. Beef and pork are preferred only in the United States, Canada, and northern Europe, but the population of the United States is changing with many immigrants coming to this country from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Southern Europe.

Since the nations of the world that prefer goat meat as their primary red meat are developing nations, it can only be assumed that as their economies improve the demand and prices they will pay for goat meat will also improve. The supply of goat meat available for export from Australia probably will not increase. One can only conclude that the American meat goat industry has a very bright future. It is the fastest growing segment of American agriculture, and will continue growing for some time.

Little effort has been made to promote the nutritional benefits of goat meat and to sell goat meat to the ever growing number of people wanting to eat healthier foods. Goat meat is reported by the US Department of Agriculture to be lower in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey. It is also higher in protein and iron than any of these meats. Goat meat is high in vitamin B12 and has balanced amino acids. Since goats are ruminants, goat meat is a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA,) a fatty acid that prevents and cures cancer and many inflammatory conditions in laboratory animals. Results of clinical studies with CLA in humans are still pending.

Ken Ziemer, has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. He started raizing goats in 1962 and breeding Boer goats in 1999. For more information on breeding and raising Boer goats and other breeds of meat goats check out Critter Ridge Boer Goats.

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