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Goat meat has been the poor cousin of Australia’s red meat sector, but that could soon change. At the University of New England at Armidale, in northern central New South Wales (NSW), meat scientists have been testing goat meat eating quality and the results are promising.
Research leader Dr Jarrod Lees said samples of high-quality farmed goat meat were tested for tenderness and intramuscular fat. The university also paid the Armidale Lions Club to provide 60 volunteers to taste-test grilled, slow-cooked and roasted cuts.
“We’ve discovered Australian consumers are not entirely averse to goat meat,” Dr Lees said. “I think with some work at the animal level around nutrition and genetics, and some work at processing level around post-slaughter impacts on eating quality, we can have a really good quality goat meat product for the consumer.”
Quality goat meat
The study, which was funded by an industry science and innovation award, is in its final stages, with the last round of taste-testing set for early next month. Dr Lees said the results so far were encouraging, with most of the samples rated as good for everyday eating and up to 25% rated better than every day or premium quality.
He said there was scope for improvement in meat tenderness post-slaughter if the industry adopted standard practices for beef and sheep meat, where electrical stimulation is used to help achieve the right pH balance when the meat is rapidly cooled.
Dr Lees said limited funding meant the study was restricted to farmed goat meat, but he would like to replicate the work on wild-harvested rangeland goats. “There’s a lot of that going on with producers that are trying to get the animals, feed them right, manage them right, inject some good genetics into them.”
Approximately 95% of Australian goat meat comes from the rangelands and is processed for export markets, but the trade is highly seasonal, and supply is volatile. In the first quarter of this financial year, some 370 000 goats were processed – a 75% increase from the same period last year. According to Meat and Livestock Australia’s managing director, Jason Strong, the industry has markets all over the world, but the continuity of supply is an issue.
Harvesting wild goats
He said the industry was in transition as greater numbers of farmers were managing wild-harvested goats to strengthen supply chains. Building exports was a priority but as these managed herds were improved with better nutrition and genetics, there might also be opportunities to build more domestic markets, Strong said.
Dr Lees said this would need to be carefully managed to ensure consumers did not buy poorer quality meat. He said goat meat already had “a bit of a stigma” and it would do the “whole industry a disservice” to provide people with poor-quality goat meat.
Goat meat producers such as Jo and Craig Stewart, who run a South African Boer goat enterprise at Collie in the central west of NSW, say their hard-won markets need to be protected. They sell approximately 40 carcasses a fortnight, mostly to restaurants and specialty butchers, and have a waiting list.
“We’re wanting to see goat meat put on the menu for people at home so that it’s a staple and we want to be producing Australia’s finest goat meat – consistency-wise and quality-wise.”
From paddock to plate
One of the Stewarts’ clients is the two-hatted restaurant, Fred’s in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Paddington. Chef Hussein Sarhan said quality and consistency are paramount.
“The goat has a beautiful fine texture to the meat, really nice balance of fat, delicious flavour, especially this goat, not as gamey as wild goat. It’s delicious in the same way you would enjoy lamb, subtly different but we really enjoy it.” – ABC News