Developing the Meat Goat Industry through Cultural Awareness
Interest in meat goats has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. Goat is the most frequently consumed meat in the world. In the United States, meat-goat production is increasing because of goats’ economic value as efficient converters of low-quality forages into quality meat, milk and hide products for many specialty markets. Preference for goats is growing in populations of health conscious, ethnic and faith-based consumers. National estimates indicate there is nearly a 500,000-head deficient in current demand for meat goats. These interests are leading to viable, commercial, value-added enterprises. Where resources are limited, meat goats are a livestock enterprise that small farmers can raise efficiently and profitably, enabling them to become self-sufficient. However, these producers must identify with the diverse populations that consume goat and with our country’s changing demographics.
While meat-goat production has been increasing, this enterprise did not have supporting infrastructure relative to a commodity-based organization, university-sponsored education and research, or well-known marketing channels. To address these needs, a task force was formed and directed by personnel of The Ohio State University Extension, consisting of producers, multidisciplinary OSU faculty, ethnic and faith-based community leaders, other state universities and colleges, Allied Industry, and other interested persons. The mission of the Ohio Meat Goat Industry Task Force is to enhance the production and marketing of meat goats through education and practical experience.
The objectives of the Ohio Meat Goat Industry Task Force are: •Identify and access emerging ethnic markets having a preference for goat meat in their diet. •Develop producer networks, alliances, and/or cooperatives to meet the demands of emerging ethnic/cultural markets. •Provide leadership for education and research.
Extension members of the task force have been instrumental in developing educational materials and events. County educators published the Ohio Meat Goat Production and Budgeting Fact Sheet, which has been adopted by over 400 producers, as a guide for establishing this value-added enterprise. Educators designed and conducted regional workshops and seminars to transfer knowledge to over 1,100 participants. Extension personnel led producers on a study tour of eastern Pennsylvania and New York markets, designed to reach Halal and kosher markets. The need for current information prompted the development of the Buckeye Meat Goat Newsletter that is received by 650 producers. A Web site has been developed to enhance the exchange of production and marketing information to allow greater access to emerging ethnic populations having a preference for goat meat.
Building Leadership Capacity
This task force is taking a unique approach to building infrastructure of the meat goat industry by using a social approach to market development within emerging ethnic and faith-based consumers. This foundation infrastructure will create value-added opportunities for refugees in our urban centers and small farms in Ohio. Additionally, economic development in the creation of agricultural jobs will do much for community development in the rural/urban interface. Three producer-driven marketing networks have been established to initiate the infrastructure and marketing of fresh chevon. Task force members have lead roles in on-farm research and demonstrations. Producers have been instrumental in securing grant funds and teaching at field days. The task force has enhanced their effectiveness by partnering with agencies such as the Ohio Cooperative Development Center, Heifer International, Somalia and East African Organization, Jewish Family Services and the Economic and Community Development Institute.
Outreach •National Association of County Agricultural Agents; Poster Presentation and Animal Science Seminar •OSU Animal Science Department In-Service •Purdue “Train the Trainer” •National Conference on Grazing Lands •Farm Bureau National Meeting •National Small Farm Conference •International Conference on Goats •Community of Practice for eXtension •Working relationships with Langston University, Wilmington College, Tennessee State, Alabama A&M, Tuskegee University, Cornell and Virginia Tech.
Developing an Industry
The task force has successfully pursued and received $63,000 in research and extension grants. This funding is being used to conduct ongoing feasibility studies of ethnic markets, Ohio’s processing infrastructure and development of farmer/consumer cooperatives. A statewide survey revealed a 10-fold increase in the adoption of meat goats as a value-added, income-generating enterprise and provided baseline data on production demographics and marketing strategies. Focus group interviews with five different Muslim, faith-based housewife groups has yielded consumer preferences that have been utilized in producer training sessions and presentations at national and international professional meetings. Research and data analysis is accomplished through partnerships with multiple colleges and universities. On-farm meat-goat research encompasses breed comparisons, forage utilization and the development of benchmark data.
To meet the growing ethnic demand for goat, the educators were instrumental in establishing graded sales With the cooperation of a commercial livestock company and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, these sales have seen bi-monthly marketing of over 500 head. Meat goat grading has educated producers on the importance of quality to increase revenue by as much as $13 per hundredweight and reduced marketing cost by $3 per head. The educators made presentations on cultural marketing at the International Conference on Goats in Queretaro, Mexico. They have been invited to present at the annual meeting of the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education to highlight achievements in building cooperation and leadership in cultural market development.
There is a real opportunity for farmers to network through co-ops or other ventures to build the meat-goat industry. As with any commodity, capturing niche markets can add value. Producers working with the Ohio Meat Goat Task Force can serve as examples for other developing enterprises. As the saying goes “If you build it, they will come.” Meat goats just may be a “Field of Dreams” for animal agriculture.
Progress continues in the ability to market a fresh and safe product directly to emerging ethnic and faith-based consumer populations to capture the most value. Behavioral changes have included an increase in farmers producing for emerging markets; an increase in communication abilities between producers and markets; the development of packing and/or processing facilities where needed; and coordination for both consumers, retailers, and producers through cooperative activities. In summary, farmers, ethnic markets and consumers have developed functioning marketing partnerships that fit the social and ecological paradigm.