CONSUMER DEMAND FOR GOAT MEATNo. M-04
Extension Goat Specialist
Livestock Marketing Economist
Livestock Marketing Specialist
Extension Goat Specialist
Much of this information is drawn from an earlier study (Pinkerton
et al, 1993) and from a very recent assessment of Florida goat sales and
utilization of products by the authors. We initially contacted goat industry
personnel already known to us and therafter contacted persons and firms
identified by the original informants as being market players of various
magnitude. We then interviewed on site those who agreed to share information
concerning industry production, processing and marketing practices. We also
gathered assorted statistical data from state agencies, the U.S. Departments of
Agriculture and Commerce, Canadian government entities, and from certain public
Frequently, interviewees provided additional
investigative leads while they were imparting historical and current knowledge
of the goat trade across time and place. As expected, interviewees varied widely
in willingness to share operational aspects of their firms. Many held quite
divergent attitudes toward their suppliers and customers. Moreover, some
interviewees spoke only guardedly while others spoke rather freely about their
competitors. Considerable variation in assessments of future industry
developments and prospects was also encountered. As always in such situations,
we were obliged to make value judgements on the validity of the respondents
replies and observations and, subsequently, to search for affirmations and
contradictions among the aggregate findings.
The economic concept of demand holds just as it
does with supply; that is, demand represents a schedule of amounts and prices
over time, and the sensitivity between price and quantity can be expressed in
terms of elasticity. Demand is thus a reflection of the "consumption
personality" of the industry.
There are indications that consumption has
moved up substantially since the mid-1980s at more or less stable prices. Figure
4 shows that total goats slaughtered at federally inspected plants has more than
doubled since 1980 from a base of less than 100,000 head. This apparently
reflects the continuing satiation of demand, a phenomenon strengthened by
significant levels of immigration. With supply and demand both shifting upward,
indications of a growing industry are in place. Figure 4 also reveals the number
of goat slaughter plants in operation has declined by more than half since 1984,
probably reflecting development of a more mature, solidified industry.
major demand for goat meat comes from myriad ethnic groups; the predominately
white, middleclass population consumes relatively little goat meat. Ethnic and
religious identity is often a significant component of a consumer's
self-concept. Ethnic persons may expend great effort to keep their
identification from being merged into the dominant society. Both food preference
and religious affiliation show evidence of this determination (Solomon, 1992).
Thus, the consumption of goat meat is interwoven into the fabric of tradition
and religious observation; e.g., the quantity taken and the prices of goat meat
rises dramatically each year at Christmas, Easter and Ramadan.
this persistence in maintaining ethnic practices, whether related to habit,
tradition, or religious beliefs, the demand for goat meat is thought to be
relatively inelastic. This means that the demand for a certain volume of goat
meat will hold in the face of strengthening prices. It also means that a
decrease in price will not do much to create additional goat meat sales. Further
increases in demand will come with increases in ethnic populations and
improvements in their purchasing power. However, one caveat should be noted.
Ethnic income, on a per capita basis, largely comes from employment in the blue
collar and service industries, and is, therefore, more subject to economic
aberration than salaried employment. The current economic recession has had an
impact on goat meat consumption, particularly in and around New York City. This
impact has come in terms of prices; processors are willing to pay for quantity
and quality taken. Prospects for an increase in general demand for goat meat
appear to be good, partially because immigration, which averaged 61,150 persons
per month in the last decade will likely continue at an unabated pace and many
will be goat consumers, Figure 5. Also, the economic status of many recent
immigrants continues to improve. Contrarily, acceptance of goat meat as standard
fare will likely increase slowly among consumers with traditional allegiance to
beef and pork.
Additional sources of demand are coming from the "health food"
sector and from the yuppie community now beginning to consume goat meat as a
gourmet item. To date, these are relatively minor forces, but this niche market
seems open to development. Goat meat is a relatively "high ticket" item. While
this may seem incongruous with low income economic consumption, it is not, for
at least three reasons: 1) ethnic households have a higher proportion of wage
earners than households of other consuming groups, 2) immigrants are accustomed
to paying more of their discretionary income for food, and 3) goat meat is
regularly featured as holiday fare, particularly at religious celebrations, and
cost is of less concern.
Early on, the majority of American immigrants
came from Europe, but immigration patterns changed dramatically after World War
II (Soloman, 1992). Recent arrivals are more likely to be Asian or Hispanic. For
example, in Detroit, the largest share of recent immigrants comes from
Hispanic populations are highly concentrated. Over 50 percent of the
total live in only six cities: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Antonio, San
Francisco, and Chicago (LaFranchi, 1988).
As might be expected, the makeup of
foreign born in the various metropolitan areas differs in rather extreme degree.
While foreign born residents in Houston and Los Angeles come mostly from Central
and South America, persons with European ancestry comprise the largest group in
New York City. In Miami, most foreign born immigrated from the West Indies.
Figure 1 pictures the separation of ethnic cultures for the four cities just
Ethnic restaurants are a fast-growing segment of the food
industry. In a recent study (Zelinsky, 1987), restaurant patronage in the U.S.
increased by only 10% in a four-year period, but rates increased by 43% for
Mexican eating establishments and 54% for Asian restaurants. Chinese is the most
frequently served cuisine, followed closely by Mexican and Italian. These three
groups account for more than 70% of the total, and goat meat consumption is
common to all three cultures.
Many Latins, and some Orientals, are illegal
immigrants, a group understandably difficult to count. It is estimated that
anywhere from 1.8 to 5.4 million persons enter this country illegally each year;
again, their preference for goat meat is well known.
Religion per se has not
been studied extensively in marketing, possibly because it is seen as a "taboo"
subject. However, the evidence that has been accumulated indicates that
religious affiliation has the potential to be a valuable predictor of consumer
marketing behavior (Hirschman, 1983). The teachings of Mohammed, identified with
several religious groups collectively known as followers of Islam, appear
mysterious to most Americans. A goat is often slaughtered for special occasions,
holidays, or celebrations. In the Mohammedan calendar, there are two important
feasts, the "small Eid," celebrated at the end of the fasting months of Ramadan,
and "the great feast of Eid." Muslims in a financial position to do so are urged
to slaughter a sheep or goat for these feasts (Ecker, 1981). There are said to
be some 14 million Muslims now in the U.S., almost all in the urban centers.
Hispanics spend 15 percent to 20 percent more of
their disposable income on food than the national average. Goat meat is
frequently holiday fare in most Hispanic homes. Family activities are important
and spending time en familia influences the structure of many consumption
activities. Mexican-Americans prefer to serve "cabrito," preferring young high
quality, milk fed kids (live weight 15-25 lb) for this purpose.
Koreans prefer young goats of good quality, but in the 60-70 lb liveweight
range. They typically consume goat meat only during the cool weather
Jewish ethnicity exerts an exceptionally strong influence on
consumers, since it incorporates both cultural and religious dimensions. Jewish
celebrations of their New Year and Passover are similar to Greek and Italian
observations of Christmas and Easter. Preferences among the three groups are for
high quality kids weighing from 20 to 40 pounds live. To satisfy an increase in
demand for kosher food, each year about 500 new kosher products appear on the
market. This trend is driven by 1) increased religious observance by young Jews,
and 2) the belief among many gentiles that kosher food is of higher
Certain people, predominately of the Moslem faith, but also groups
of African descent from the West Indies, prefer older goats of lesser quality,
and many times want intact males. Many wish to perform the slaughter function
themselves; strongly felt religious significance is a part of this observance.
Near the major cities of the northeast and southeast, rather extensive
facilities exist on nearby farms to accommodate their particular wishes.
1. Currently, goat supply is not in close accord with consumer
demand across time; accordingly, there are wide fluctuations in prices paid to
producers and paid by consumers; these tend to discourage improvements in
production and to slow increases in demand.
2. The geographic disparity
between areas of goat production and areas of goat processing and consumption
adds substantially to marketing costs; more slaughtering in or near present and
future production areas could reduce consumer coasts and increase demand.
The southeastern area of the U.S. has appreciable, but as yet largely
unrecognized, comparative advantages in goat production capability and in
proximity to east coast ethnic markets relative to the traditional southwestern
area; these advantages, if properly exploited, could alter the industry markedly
4. University research and extension programs in production,
processing and marketing of goat meat are scarce and should be initiated and
sustained to assist in rapid, orderly industry development.
5. Mass marketing
to ethnic sub-culture consumer began receiving enormous play, principally in
marketing journals and trade magazines only recently; consumption of goat meat
will likely be favorably affected by these investigations and exhortations.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from SRDC which has
made this endeavor possible. They also recognize the many producers, traders,
processors and purveyors whose contributions are found throughout this
Special gratitude is extended to Mr. George Dealaman, Dealaman
Enterprise, Inc., Warren, NJ whose family firm has been processing goats for
over 70 years. Without his sustained, personalized assistance, we could not have
gained sufficient access to the NYC wholesale trade. We also note with
appreciation the help of Dr. John Addrizzo, MD, and owner of NY State Meat Goat
Associates, Mt. Marion, NY., who shared his experiences in raising goats and in
custom processing and distribution of product. Both added immeasurably to the
content of this report.
We are also indebted to Dr. Robert Herr, goat broker
and feedlot operator, of Navron, PA and to Mr. Mike Lange and Mr. Gerald
Moffett, Texas goat brokers, who shared their industry experiences. Special
thanks are due to Mr. Tim McKinney, Langston University 4-H Goat Specialist, who
was a dedicated collector of auction data, rain or shine, for 24 months and to
Ms. Pat Miller, Florida A&M Extension Specialist, who contributed much to
our understanding of goat marketing in Florida.
Ecker, F., 1981. Socioeconomics of sheep and goat production in Pakistan's
Punjab. Verlag Brietenbach Publishers, Ft. Lauderdale.
Hirschman, E.C., 1983. Religious affiliation and consumption processes: an
initial paradigm Research and Marketing, JAJ Press, Greenwich, CT.
LaFranchi, H., 1988. Media and Marketers discover Hispanic boom. The
Christian Science Monitor, April Issue.
Solomon, M.R., 1992. Consumer Behavior. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA.
Zelinsky, W., 1987. You are what you eat. American Demographics: 6, July.