Goat meat exports are booming, so why aren't more Australians eating it?

Goat meat exports are booming, so why aren’t more Australians eating it?

Australia’s goat industry is enjoying a renaissance, but the lean red meat remains barely visible on dinner tables across Australia.

Only 9 percent of the goat meat produced in Australia is consumed here, while exports are booming.

Queensland goat farmers Keeleigh and Brian Allport have made it their mission to reverse sluggish consumer awareness.

The couple bought their first goat mob in 2018 to help clear unproductive land on their property in Moonie on the Western Downs.

Within three years they had established their own brand and geared their business towards producing goats for the domestic market.

“We’ve always wanted to do something in the beef industry,” said Ms. Allport.

“But we felt like it was too saturated, so we had this opportunity with goats and we were like, ‘Let’s try it and see where it takes us.'”

Brian and Keeleigh Allport first bought goats to clean up unproductive land.(Supplied: Keeleigh and Brian Allport)

The couple initially sent 30 goats a week to a processor in the Brisbane Valley, which supplies butchers and small supermarkets with their goat meat.

In four years, business had increased 16-fold, and by October of this year, the Allports will be shipping 500 a week.

They have almost fully vertically integrated the business from their own cold chain, storage crates and refrigerated trucks to operate a paddock-to-plate operation.

“We realized that if we had control of the entire supply chain, we would be in a better position to capture these value creation opportunities,” said Ms. Allport.

“Every decision we make, every cog in our wheel has to be a little closer to the processor and consumer.

A large pen with pasture goats
When Grassland Goats started, it felt like 50 goats at a time for a processor.(Supplied: Brian and Keeleigh Allport)

Why choose goat meat?

In earlier years, goat meat was a more common staple in the Australian diet because it was more affordable and accessible, but it’s slipped off the radar.

Chef and TV presenter Ed “Fast Ed” Halmagyi explains that there are two main reasons why we rarely see goat meat in supermarkets anymore.

“The beef and lamb industry has done so well in increasing production that we have developed more affection there,” Mr Halmagyi said.

Containers of goat curry and rice lined up on a countertop
One of the challenges facing the Australian goat industry is the lack of consumer familiarity with the meat.(Supplied: Kelly Eastwood)

“[We’ve] lost that sensibility of how to cook it and cook it well. So now it’s not so much that they don’t like it, but they don’t understand it.”

He said goat meat, when properly prepared, is considered leaner, healthier and tastier than other red meats like lamb and beef.

“For stews, curries, casseroles, there’s nothing that can compete with it in terms of taste, texture and tenderness,” Mr Halmagyi said.

“It’s amazing stuff.”

A man sits in a yard with goats feeding them hay
Chef and TV presenter Ed Halmagyi says goat meat is tastier than other red meats.(Delivered: Ed Halmagyi)

Mr Halmagyi said encouraging more people to eat goat meat could be likened to the chicken-and-egg paradox.

“If you don’t stock it, people won’t buy it,” he said.

“If you want to see more goat meat, go and buy it from your local butcher … that will eventually make it to the supermarkets.”

A growing industry

Australia’s goat industry is relatively small, although it is the world’s largest exporter, accounting for 27 per cent by value of global exports.

More than 1 million goats were processed across Australia in 2021, up 42 per cent on the previous year.

The situation is similar with goat meat production, which grew by 34 percent in 2021 to a total of 20,847 tons slaughtered weight.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), relatively low consumer awareness and industry access has been a major limiting factor in domestic market growth.

Joe Gebbels, program manager for sheep and goat research and development at MLA, said that although the domestic market is a relatively small part of the overall market, it is a big moneymaker.

A row of goat carcasses hanging in a cold storage room.
Goat meat production increased by 34 percent in 2021, with average carcass weight increasing by 7 percent.(Supplied: Keeleigh and Brian Allport)

“This year, it’s probably going to be worth around $20 million to $25 million,” said Mr. Gebbels.

Mr Gebbels said the industry is likely to see further rapid growth in the coming years given the good seasons and the rapid breeding of goats.

“We’ve seen about 35 percent growth in numbers between 2020 and 2021, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales, because of these improved conditions,” he said.

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