17/05/2005 - 22:00

No butts about goat export growth

17/05/2005 - 22:00


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It may be a surprise to many but, until a couple of weeks ago, the goat was the world’s most widely eaten variety of meat.

No butts about goat export growth

It may be a surprise to many but, until a couple of weeks ago, the goat was the world’s most widely eaten variety of meat.

Recently eclipsed by pork as the international meat of choice, and a staple in the diets of millions, goat retains an almost niche market status in Australia.

Aiming to boost the profile of local goat businesses, Meat and Livestock Australia, a producer-owned company that provides services to the red meat industry, is trying to lift the profile of Australian goat to our export markets.

Australia is currently the second largest meat and livestock exporter in the world after Brazil.

Our overall meat exports total about $3.5 billion and, when income generated from supporting industries is factored in, the value of livestock trade is more than $6 billion.

And while goat may not be a regular feature in the diets of Australians, this country is the world’s largest exporter of goat meat. The industry is valued at $54.7 million and is supported heavily by producers in Western Australia.

This state accounts for 51.4 per cent of live exports, the majority of which head to Malaysia. Behind WA is South Australia, which contributes 21.3 per cent of the national export herd.

Growing these figures has been difficult in recent years in the absence of clear and reliable supply networks.

MLA’s trade and marketing manager, Lachlan Bowtell, believes goat meat is the next major growth area in livestock trade.

“We need to focus on sustainable local industry,” Mr Bowtell says.

“By taking the lead from countries that have made goat their number one meat, we can grow our own market here in Australia.”

Marron farmer turned goat breeder, Shane Ryan, believes that with a dramatic increase in the quality of goat meat in this country, the stigma attached to the product will disappear.

With 950 goats on his Primo Estate farm in Nonganup near Bunbury, Mr Ryan is successfully breeding his entire herd with premium South African Boer goats.

Superior to the feral goats that have dominated Australia’s goat population, Boer genetics specifically designed for meat production were first trialled in WA during research tests in 1996 as part of a project funded by MLA.

Mr Ryan has seen a dramatic increase in the demand for his animals from interested Perth butchers.

“Our first supply was six. Our best week was 102, and now we are averaging 30 to 35 goats a week,” he says.

So confident is he of his Primo product that Mr Ryan extends a money back guarantee to all of his customers.

“Up to 12 months ago I used to have to ring them. Now they ring me,” he says. “It’s always been about service and your word.”

Mr Ryan’s foray into goat breeding is representative of both the strengths and weaknesses of the emerging livestock market.

On the one hand goats are hardy, versatile animals able to reliably produce fibre and meat in a range of climate conditions.

But even though goats can easily integrate into wheat and sheep or grazing enterprises, as MLA’s WA development manager Roy Manning explains, getting the product to consumers is often difficult due to varying supply chains.

While the MLA offers its support to farmers such as Mr Ryan, promoting the product to a bigger audience is determined by how much of the MLA’s $16 million domestic budget is made available.

Despite the logistical and financial issues, however, the industry looks in good shape.

Goat meat has much less fat and cholesterol than sheep meat and is high in protein. For chefs, the meat does not disintegrate when cooked and has cuts similar to lamb.

Domestically, with more than 154 different ethnic groups comprising the demographic of Australia, the traditions of Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern goat cuisine have made slow and steady inroads into the Australian culinary vernacular.

Internationally, world prices for cashmere and mohair have risen dramatically since lows in 1994. Worldwide stockpiles have steadily dropped and with an increasingly high-quality product being successfully farmed, the full range of goat products has strong potential markets overseas.

So while Australians may profess to love their lamb and like nothing better than a shrimp on the barbie, goat could soon be coming to a table near you. No kidding.


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