By Stephanie Morris
Meat goats are a relatively new addition to the United States. Although you can eat any goat, you will get more meat from goat breeds bred for meat production. We’ve listed 9 options below, starting with the one that has the highest meat yield.
Table of Contents
The most popular meat goat in the United States is the Boer. It is called the “Red Head” because of its white body and red head.
Although they are from South African, they were imported to the United States in the early 1990’s from Australia and New Zealand and have since become the most popular goat in the US meat industry due to their large, muscular body and high carcass value.
The Dutch word Boer means “farmer.” Boers are a popular show goat in the FFA, 4H and livestock shows. The Boer goat comes in a variety of colors: red, black, and dappled, in addition to the red heads, are becoming trendy but the color of the goat makes no difference in the quality of the meat.
Boers have a high fertility rate and commonly have triplets and sometimes quads. They grow fast and put on muscle well.
They are the largest of the meat goat breeds with the does commonly weighing 200-225 pounds and bucks 240-300 pounds, according to Ohio State University. They generally bring the most dollar per pound as well.
They are not as resistant to parasites as some of the other meat goat breeds. The Boer is the primary source for the US goat meat market.
The American Boer Goat Association and the United States Boer Goat Association are the two registries that track, record, promote, and protect the integrity of the Boer breed.
The Kiko breed came to the US from New Zealand in the 80’s and early 90’s but it has really grown since the 2000’s when breeders started crossing them with Boers.
Kiko’s are great mothers, and have been developed with little human intervention whereas a lot of the purebred Boers need more hands-on management.
The Kiko goat does extremely well with foraging on pasture and not needing supplemental grain for finishing.
The Kiko is a hardy breed that is also parasite resistant and resilient, meaning that they tend to have very low loads of parasites, and if they do get them, they handle it well.
They have twins, and triplets frequently and can raise them on their own as Kiko dams produce a good amount of milk for their kids. They also have less upper respiratory issues and hoof rot problems.
They are commonly used with cattle producers to eat the forage that the cows leave behind. This breed has economic value and advantages over other breeds due to the strict culling that has been used to develop it.
The International Kiko Goat Association helps the breed stay within its characteristics and track pedigrees.
The Spanish goat came to Texas in the 1540’s with the Spanish explorers. This breed is known to be tough, hardy, good mothers, and good foragers.
They are smaller-sized goats and need less food than some of the other larger meat goats.
They have been referred to as brush goats as they have helped farmers keep brush under control, which is also a good fire suppression tool.
This breed is not as consistent in terms of growth rate, productivity, or size as some of the other meat goats.
They are an active breed and can be flighty. They were the most popular meat goat breed until the Boers were introduced to the US.
They can be any color and have medium pendulous ears. They are commonly crossed with Nubians. They have a high population in Texas.
The fainting goat or The Tennessee Stiff leg goat has a recessive gene that when the animal is startled or overly excited causes their muscles to stiffen up and the animal falls over.
The Myotonic goat is a heavily muscled breed that is the only indigenous breed to the US. Because of the heavy muscling, they yield 6-10% more usable meat, although they are a smaller breed.
Their unique characteristic of fainting makes them more susceptible to predators but easier to keep in fencing as they don’t jump as well.
They breed out of season which allows breeders to provide a meat source when other goat breeds do not. They are known to have a variety of kids from singles to quads. This breed is fairly rare with estimates being around 5,000 animals in the United States.
The hardy Savanna goat was imported in 1994 from South African Landraces. They are white with short coats. They have a thick, black-pigmented hide that provides sun protection and deters parasites.
They are good foraging goats and can survive on weeds, shrubs, and thorny bushes like in Africa. They have been used to cross-breed with Boers.
American breeders are continuing to develop this breed and adapt them to the different environments in the US.
It is often difficult to find a Savanna goat, and inbreeding is something to watch out for in the US. Artificial insemination is one way that breeders are working to solve this problem.
The Nubian is considered by many to be a dual-purpose breed. Although it is a primary dairy breed, they are large goats with does weighing at least 135 pounds and bucks 175 pounds.
They are a sociable breed and known to be vocal. They come in any color variation and are known for their pendulous ears and Roman noses. This breed has a high fertility rate and fast growth rates with the high-fat content of its milk. This allows them to grow kids quickly for the Easter goat meat markets.
The Nubian is commonly used as a cross with the Boer for increased milk production and fat content for the kids to grow even faster.
The Kinder is a medium-sized goat between 115-135 pounds but in a compact short body. They can be any color.
The breed was created in 1986 in Washington State by crossing a Nubian doe and a Pygmy buck. They are a dual-purpose breed for milk and meat and are one of the best-known breeds for the smaller homestead.
They are known to have sweet creamy milk and can produce up to a gallon of milk per day which is comparable to some of the standard-sized breeds.
The does can have multiple kids and can raise them to a good slaughter weight while they are fairly small doe themselves.
The Kinder dresses out at about 60% which is approximately 10% higher than some of the other meat breeds. This breed has an excellent feed-to-meat conversion ratio..
The dwarf breed also known as the Cameroon Dwarf goat came from Africa and is a pet and a meat goat. In the US, we primarily see them as pets, but they were developed as a meat breed, small, heavy-boned, and “cobby.”
The Pygmy goat can breed out of season and commonly has twins. They are also show animals. This breed is resilient, friendly, and intelligent.
Only four colors of Pygmy goats can be registered: solid black, black, agouti, and caramel. Agouti simply means roan, which is any color that has white hair sprinkled throughout the coat, and caramel can be any shade from white to dark brown. Markings are also strictly defined.
They have erect ears and straight, medium-length, full coats. Pygmy goats always have brown eyes.
Dairy goat wethers or culls
Not to be overlooked are dairy breed wethers or cull does that aren’t good breeding animals. Not every buck born should make it as a breeding buck and can be used as a feed source for humans.
There is also a market for raw dog food although the reliability of this source is difficult to find but if you wanted to be a producer and could provide a regular source for customers, there is definitely interest and a niche market.
Where can you try goat meat?
Are you interested in trying some goat meat? In larger US cities, Jamaican restaurants are the most likely places to find a meal with goat meat on the menu. Indian restaurants and local farm-to-table restaurants are other possibilities.
I first tried goat meat at a 4-H auction buyer lunch and was surprised at how good it was compared to my experience with lamb. Many auctions for county fairs will have 4-H and FFA lunches for the prospective buyers. This can be an excellent opportunity to try goat meat.
Is goat meat good for you?
Goat meat is considered one of the healthiest red meats and is often used in Asian, African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It has less saturated fat, more iron, and about the same amount of protein as the other red meats.
The United States has a wide variety of cultures, and we import most of our goat meat although our production has gone up considerably in recent years. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (oec.world) approximately 2.1 million meat goats are raised in the US, and we import approximately $30 million worth on an annual basis and are the second largest importer of goat meat in the world, the first being China.
Is there a market for goat meat in the US?
The market for goat meat has grown, and the value of meat has gone up, especially in certain areas of the country.
Here in Oregon, at the Eugene Livestock Auction yard, the 2/25/23 report listed feeder goats selling for $2.50 to $3.80/lb for the 60 to 90-pound range and $2.00 to $3.10/lb for the 90 to 130-pound range with the Boer type goats selling at a higher price than the more dairy type. Livestock auctions closer to areas of higher demand such as the Fresno Auction yard receive higher prices for their meat goats.
For further information about marketing, you can check out the podcast episode titled “Marketing Goat Meat: Tips for Selling to Consumers.” In this episode, Leslie Svacina, the owner of Cylon Rolling Acres, shares effective marketing strategies for a goat meat business.
Goat meat recipes
Goat meat is called chevon or cabrito, chevon being older animals, while Cabrito is young kids usually processed for BBQ. Mutton is made from sheep. Goat curry is a common dish.
Here’s a link for you to try Thrifty Homesteader’s Goat Goulash!
Here’s a podcast episode you may listen to about Choosing a Goat Breed for Your Farm.
Here’s also a podcast episode about Raising Meat Goats on Pasture. Learn some useful tips from Jennifer Miller, a small animal veterinarian who raises meat goats with her husband on their small farm in central Illinois.
If you’ve been thinking about adding dairy goats to your farm or homestead, read Which Dairy Goat Breed is Best for You?
Click here to visit our Amazon store, which includes a list of things goats need.