When an expected 450 kids—of the human, not caprine, variety—and their families show up this June in Grand Island with 1,100 goats in tow, they'll be representing a livestock industry that's believed to feed the largest number of people in the world, but statistically almost none in the United States. But that statistic could be changing.
During the last two decades, says Louisiana State University ag economist Jeffrey Gillespie, meat goat farming has experienced some of the fastest growth of all U.S. livestock sectors. From 1987 to 2012 (the latest year for which national data are available), the number of U.S. farms growing goats for meat increased three times, from 29,354 to 100,910. The number of animals sold went up five times, from 415,196 to more than 2 million. Nebraska reported 761 farms selling 16,219 meat goats, according to the 2012 farm census.
Even that expansion in production hasn't kept up with demand, Gillespie writes. Before 1991, the United States exported more than it imported; since 1991, however, exports have dried up and imports increased steadily to satisfy the demand for goat meat. By 2014, the United States was importing $94.7 million worth of goat meat annually.
What's driving the expansion? Gillespie believes it's increased immigration. In 2010, about 13 percent of the country's population was born in a different country, with 53 percent of foreign born residents coming from Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Asia at 28 percent. Both regions are comprised of countries where goat meat is regularly consumed.
There continues to be significant demand for goat meat among the immigrant populations after their arrival into the US, as witnessed by the typical increase in goat prices shortly before and during ethnic holidays that feature goat eating. Grocers interested in testing the waters with this commodity may want to do so around these holidays where goat meat is part of the traditional feast:
|Chinese New Year||28 Jan||16 Feb|
|Mawlid al-Nabi / Prophet’s Birthday||1 Dec||21 Nov|
|Western Roman Easter||16 Apr||1 Apr|
|Eastern Orthodox Easter / Pasha||16 Apr||8 Apr|
|Passover / Pesah||11-18 Apr||31 Mar-7 Apr|
|Cinco de Mayo||5 May||5 May|
|Start of Ramadan / Month of Fasting||27 May||16 May|
|Eid-al-Fitr / Festival of Fast Breaking||26-28 Jun||15-17 Jun|
|Rosh Hashanah||21-22 Sep||10-11 Sep|
|Eid-al-Adha / Festival of Sacrifice||1-4 Sep||22-25 Aug|
|Muharram / Islamic New Year||22 Sep||12 Sep|
|Chanukkah or Hanukkah||13-20 Dec||3-10 Dec|
|Christmas||25 Dec||25 Dec|
Source: Interfaith Calendar
Although the ethnic market is the important driver for increased demand, don't neglect the more traditional consumer, who may be open to trying the meat, which is similar in taste and texture to lamb or mutton. Results of a recent survey of goat farmers by Gillespie and his colleagues show 96 percent of U.S. meat goat producers identify as ‘‘white (Caucasian)’’ while only 1 percent identify as Hispanic, 1 percent as ‘‘other’’ and one person or less each as American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, or ‘‘Black (African American).’’
Little goat meat passes through the wholesale channels in the United States, so featuring it likely will require connection with a local source. Need more information?