SARE Grantee Explores the Goat Meat Market in South Dakota
Source: Rapid City Journal
SARE grantee, Tom Barnes, was highlighted in the Rapid City Journal for his project to explore the development of a chevon (goat meat) market in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, and share information about meat goats.
Tom Barnes believes he has a winning product that was recently vindicated to a small degree.
The Custer man was serving his goat stew to cook-off judges and the public recently at the Dakota Country Lifestyles Expo at the Central States Fairgrounds and wound up winning the people's choice award and a $100 prize.
It was a small victory and at the same time a big step for a man who wants to bring goat to dinner tables across the Black Hills.
"Of all the things I would have liked to have won, that's the one," Barnes said after the Expo.
Barnes and his wife, Susan, recently received a $15,000 federal grant from the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research Education program to determine whether there is a market for his South African Boer goats in western South Dakota.
He said he learned about the grant from the South Dakota State University Extension office in Rapid City.
"SDSU extension service told us about it, and they were helpful with the whole process," Barnes said. "They’ve been really big supporters of goat generally and of meat specifically."
The meat is described as sweeter than beef and not at all gamey, Barnes said. And it has significantly less fat and calories than beef, pork and even chicken, Barnes tells people.
"It's very, very healthy and that's the real benefit," Barnes said.
And the Barneses are having some success as they tout the product in cattle country.
"I do surveys and it always come out that about 75 percent have not tasted goat and 90 percent liked it," Barnes said. "So, there are possibilities."
He has handed out about 200 surveys in the past year that he distributes at events where he serves goat meat or to people who have prepared the meat themselves.
In the nine years since he has been raising South African Boer goats, he said the market for breeding stock and meat has grown significantly.
"It’s definitely on the rise," the 66-year-old former engineer said. "Goats, in particular, and goat meat it's getting, I'm not going to say popular, but it's growing. I’ve sold lots of breed stock in the six-state area. And the meat has gone from a few pounds sold the first year to, oh, I'll sell about 1,200 pounds this year."
The Boer goats are a special breed used mostly for meat, unlike other breeds that are smaller and can be milked as well.
Barnes sells a majority of his meat to restaurants in the Black Hills and one in Rapid City, Curry Masala. He said his biggest customers are Asian Indian restaurants, where goat is a part of their regular diet.
"Ethnic populations eat most of the goat meat," Barnes said. "But slowly, but surely I'm trying to get into the mainstream."
The Barnes farm in Custer has been in Susan's family for generations. They have 120 acres with three fields where they rotate about 80 goats and one fierce, incredibly tall, black, hairy llama named Batman.
The goats mostly graze and are fed a small amount of grain once a day. The Barneses said they do not use hormones. Susan cares for the goats almost like pets. She said she actually sold a pair to a lady in Rapid City a few weeks ago who said she planned to keep them as pets.
"They are very smart and very gentle creatures," Susan said.
Barnes said the Boer goats' temperament makes them ideal for children in 4-H or other programs to raise and show at fairs. His breed stock sells anywhere from $300 and $1,000 a goat. Male goats are more expensive. And for meat, people can spend around $75 to $100 for a 60-pound goat. By the pound, it costs around $6.50, Barnes said.
One of his converts, Peggy Schlechter of Rapid City, was among those at the expo.
"Last year, I had it for the first time and was very surprised," she said between bites of goat stew. "I think this is delicious."
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) FNC12-846, The Producer-Initiated Development of a Goat Meat Market in the Black Hills Region of South Dakota.