For protein quality, goat is attracting attention as a healthy alternative

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A young goat grazes in wild capeweed. Most of the world depends on goat as a healthy high-protein meat choice.

A young goat grazes in wild capeweed. Most of the world depends on goat as a healthy high-protein meat choice.

LAMAR, Mo. – Among Americans, animal protein has traditionally come from beef, pork, and poultry, and more recently fish and seafood.

Now goat may soon be added to the list as a healthier protein choices that 75 percent of the rest of the world has been enjoying for a very long time. The growing popularity comes from immigrants arriving from other cultures. Plus, it can now be found on the menu in ethnic restaurants as well as on the farm as livestock in the Ozarks.

Now, goats are being imported not only for their meat but for their genetics, including  prized South African Board goat, bred specifically for the quality of its meat.

Goat numbers have been increasing, especially in southwest Missouri. Most goats are being raised for meat production, but there is a growing dairy goat industry in Missouri, with some goat dairies producing artisanal and gourmet cheeses.

The domestic supply of goats was based off of a supply that formed from feral goats that had escaped when North America was first being settled. Fencing and predator protection are typically bigger issues with these small livestock breeds as compared to cattle.

Goats are are prolific breeders and offer a quick turnaround on investment. Does may be bred at nine to 12 months of age and regularly produce twins or triplets. Producers can see their first crop of kids within 18 months of starting.

For now, 90 percent of goat is imported from Australia and New Zealand. But with a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture totaling more than $540,000, a team of three faculty members at Missouri State University’s Darr College of Agriculture believe they can be helpful in improving production, marketing, production and processing. Dr. Elizabeth Walker, Dr. Melissa Remley and Dr. Benjamin Onyango specialize in several areas of goat farming, including .

“We have brought this team of people from across disciplines together to address a larger problem,” says Onyango, associate professor of agriculture. “There’s a large gap between the demand for goat meat in this country and what we are actually producing. We are hoping to help fill this gap.”

Though a negative social stigma and lack of access may stand in the way of consumers, the team has some ideas of how to break through these barriers. After the team discovers what the major underlying problem behind goat production in the Ozarks is, it will have another issue to tackle: how to educate farmers.

“We’re assessing our state industry, what kind of producers we have and what they need,” says Remley, also an assistant professor of agriculture. “By doing this, we can figure out if they are struggling from a marketing standpoint, if production facilities are too far away, if they don’t have the right foliage for the goats, the list goes on.”

“Once we’ve addressed the major problems with production, then we have to figure out how to produce information that farmers can understand and share amongst themselves,” says Onyango, a native of Kenya. “The disconnect between consumption and production is very vast right now, so it will be a big challenge.”

The project team will work with other experts from Lincoln and Fort Valley State universities for three years.

Spring 2016 Free Portrait Days

Dr. Benjamin Onyango

With a recent grant from the USDA totaling more than $540,000, the team hopes to aid producers with limited resources in improving their techniques, and therefore production, through education.

“This is an important grant because goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world,” says Walker, associate professor of agriculture. “People usually assume it’s beef, but when you look at religious and cultural preferences around the world, goat is actually much more consumed,

especially in developing nations.”

Goat meat is leaner than beef with just as many grams of protein per serving, and actually lower in saturated fat than chicken. Goat meat also has more iron per serving than beef, pork, lamb, or chicken.

“Consuming goat meat hasn’t been part of our culture, but it’s popularity is rising as people search for healthy, lean, hormone-free sources of protein,” says Lindsey Stevenson, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist with MU Extension in Barton County.

Lindsey Stevenson

Lindsey Stevenson

Goat farming in the United States is subject to USDA regulations and inspections. No hormones are allowed in production practices and antibiotics must be used within federal guidelines.

“Look for goat meat sold at traditional grocers or specialty markets. Goat meat can also be ordered online,” says Stevenson.

Stevenson even added an easy recipe to give this healthy animal protein option a try posted on the  Southwest Region News Service blog.

For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; Stephanie Johnson in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online  at http://extension.missouri.edu.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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