Self-sufficient farming, an increase in ethnic population and a health conscious public increase potential for meat goat industry
By Riley Collins and Brenda Reau
Michigan State University Extension
Goat is the most highly consumed meat in the world and interest is increasing in goat meat consumption in the United States. Goats slaughtered in USDA-inspected plants and goat meat imported to the U.S. has steadily increased since 1999. The increase in ethnic populations and health conscious Americans has contributed to this development.
With strengthening producer education and the marketing structure, goat meat is a great opportunity for small farm producers to diversify their farm products. Many Americans are trying to be self-sufficient. For situations when resources are limited, a small herd of goats may be a good option for a small, part-time farmer to raise to achieve self-sufficiency.
Goats are also becoming a more popular option because they are very versatile. They adapt well to hot environments and their foraging preference encompasses a wider spectrum of plants compared to other ruminants. Because they are “nonselective browsers” and eat brush and less desirable plants, goats can help maximize use of marginal pastureland that other livestock — such as cattle and sheep — graze on. Goats can utilize what other animals do not and still produce a quality product.
Another benefit of goats is their meat. The U.S. is becoming more conscious of what they eat now more than ever. Goat is lean, high in iron and high in vitamin B12. These health benefits are increasing the public interest in goat meat beyond traditional ethnic populations.
Marketing options can include: direct marketing off the farm, supplying specialty markets like holiday sales and ethnic populations or commercial marketing firms. The current market is direct marketing to ethnic groups but there are two other potential niche markets for goat meat. These consist of targeting the health conscious consumers wanting low fat diets and targeting the restaurant trade serving ethnic or gourmet foods. These markets are largely untapped and can provide real opportunities for goat producers, especially local producers.
The challenges that this industry has encountered are consumer education, producer education, lack of slaughter facilities and processing plants and the lack of organized markets and marketing channels. The most important factor in the growth of this industry is marketing.
Michigan Specialty Meats Cooperative (http://michiganspecialtymeats.com) is an organization that is participating in the meat goat industry. This cooperative is dedicated to supplying specialty meats from across the state of Michigan. Their products are beginning to be sold in specialty meat stores and restaurants.
The Michigan State University Product Center (http://productcenter.msu.edu) is working with the cooperative to help it in developing the cooperative to market goat meat in Michigan.
The Michigan State University Product Center has innovation counselors located in Michigan State University Extension offices across the state that can assist goat producers in developing and marketing value-added products. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).