GOAT meat is in vogue. It is gaining a prominent place in inner-city butcher shops and expanding into mainstream markets.
With booming domestic demand and growth in traditional export markets, Australian pastoralists are reaping the rewards of harvesting rangeland goats or better managing goat herds as a resource.
But securing consistent supply and quality is challenging the fledgling industry.
South Australia lags behind other States in the development of the goat industry with no room to move within tough legislative boundaries which prevent any management of rangeland goats beyond trucking them off the property, or shooting.
In NSW and Queensland, pastoralists are cashing-in on rangeland goats on their properties, with some value-adding to rangeland stocks by introducing Boer goat genetics to boost muscle development.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) goat meat industry development and agribusiness manager Blair Brice said there were big opportunities in harvesting rangeland goats to feed burgeoning global demand.
“There is huge opportunity for producers in supplying goat meat, both rangeland-harvested or farmed,” he said.
“There is very strong demand at the domestic and export level and the challenge we need to overcome is developing a consistent supply of a consistent quality.”
Mr Brice said prices, which peaked at $3.90 a kilogram, carcase weight, had now come off slightly, in line with other meat markets.
He said reasons for the drop included the high Australian dollar, increase in supply on the back of fantastic seasons in the pastoral zone, and price pressures on commodities as a result of the global financial crisis.
But he said that despite these pressures, demand was booming.
“New markets are showing more interest, especially South East Asian markets including Vietnam and Korea,” Mr Brice said.
“As an industry, we need to tap into Asia more, and the opportunities there.
“We need to work with the pastoral industry to manage goats as a resource, rather than a pest.
“NSW is the leading light in this approach, and so is Queensland. There are no legislative impediments to managing rangeland goats as there are in some other States.
“Producers are allowed to develop infrastructure to manage goats and benefit from the income received on minimal investment.”
Mr Brice said the main challenge for the industry was to get more producers involved and to lift standards.
“MLA is working with producers to develop management opportunities and techniques that deliver a product of consistent quality for the domestic and export (both boxed and live export) markets,” he said.
“Going forward, as chefs and butchers become more familiar with the product, they are demanding it more strongly and consistently.
“It is up to the industry to develop supply of a consistent quality.”
Sydney butcher Daniel Speranza attended his first Broken Hill Agfair recently and conducted a series of butchering demonstrations with MLA to show the versatility of goat meat.
“I have only just started working with goat meat,” he said.
“There is a lot of interest in the cities, and it is not just from ethnic markets.”
He said cabrito – a lean, young goat meat consumed by ethnic groups – used to be the most popular but now chevon goat meat was gaining ground.
“Goat is breaking into the more mainstream Australia market and we are supplying and consuming more chevon goat meat,” Mr Speranza said.
He was surprised at the “huge interest” he received from a goat meat display set up at the recent Sydney Royal show.
“Basically, any cut you can get from lamb, you can get from goat,” Mr Speranza said.
“As it is quite lean, you have to cook it medium rare, or use a wet cooking method or slow-roast to keep the moisture in.”
Domestic butchers mainly use farmed Boer goats with more size and muscle.
“Anything we want to value-add to needs to be bulky and field goats are too lean. These animals are used for the export market,” Mr Speranza said.
“Mainstream domestic markets are starting to accept goat meat as another red meat source.
“With a little more persistence in marketing and raising awareness of its nutritional benefits, it will really kick off.”