A marketing channel describes the movement of a product or commodity from the site of production to the place of final consumption. It may include transportation, handling and storage, ownership transfers, processing, wholesale distribution, retailing, etc. A farm-raised goat may be marketed many ways, the simplest is on-farm slaughter and consumption. Note that this procedure eliminates all middlemen--the bane of efficient, economical marketing. Alternatively, the goat may be sold to a second owner who then slaughters it and consumes the carcass and perhaps selected offal. If this owner elects to have the goat custom slaughtered, a second, intermediate step is introduced. Moving beyond these simple transactions, one encounters the complexities of the modern food marketing chain which appreciably increase the cost-spread between primary producers and ultimate consumers.
To illustrate, a weanling goat may be sold to a grower who after a period of time sells it through an auction or to an order buyer. The new owner may elect to hold the goat further or to sell immediately, perhaps to a slaughter facility. In some cases, goats may pass through four to six owners from producer to processor. If so, great variations in time span, geographic movement, and interim feeding and management may occur. The end results are a wide range in body weight, body condition, and number of goats available for slaughter at a given place and time. Such variations are not conducive to orderly marketing and contribute to erratic farm-gate sales and prices which adversely influence producer profits and production of goats. Current marketing channels for live goats are generally poorly organized, inefficient, and inconsistent. This industry problem is only partially explained by the fact that the areas of lower cost goat production (Texas, Oklahoma and the Southeast U.S.) and the areas of relatively high goat meat consumption (east and west coasts) are widely separated.
A somewhat similar situation exists with regard to the marketing channels for goat meat, regardless of its final sale form. A slaughter and processing firm may do custom work only or it may purchase goats for carcass sales. In either case, the meat usually moves through one or more intermediate firms, wholesale or retail, before reaching the consumer. This movement obviously creates added costs; it may, however, also promote wider product availability and greater sales.
Organizing and simplifying marketing channels for goats and goat meat should enable higher farm-gate prices and lower retail prices, but, given the current marketing situation, the required changes would be difficult, though not impossible, to achieve. Major goat meat marketing constraints appear to be: 1) lack of widespread consumer demand, 2) low per capita consumption levels among current buyers of goat meat, 3) seasonality of demand, 4) relatively high marketing costs, 5) competition from traditional red meats, 6) seasonality of supply, 7) erratic carcass quality, 8) commercial trade resistance and 9) uninformed, negative consumer attitudes.
Recognizing that the sustained and expensive efforts by the U.S. sheep industry have not yet achieved appreciable increases in per capita consumption of lamb and mutton, it is suggested that limited resource goat owners and goat meat processors and purveyors should concentrate their efforts primarily on identifying and supplying those population groups who already have a preference for goat meat. The recent expansion in commercial goat meat sales may be viewed as a manifestation of this marketing strategy, which is based on ethnic groups that like goat meat and who have only recently acquired sufficient levels of income to purchase it more frequently.
These ethnic groups tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas, and their disposable incomes tend to be only average to well below average. Nevertheless, their discretionary dollars available for meat purchases could be the motivation for further goat market development. Moreover, goat producers and meat sellers should not neglect to investigate and, where economically feasible, exploit the potential for sales to the international markets, e.g., the Caribbean, Mexico and other Latin American countries, the Mid-East, China, Korea, Maylasia and Japan.
Industry observers believe that the ethnic demand, actual and potential, for goat meat is probably sufficient to clear the existing supply of slaughter goats if only the mechanics and economics of assembly, processing, and distribution could be achieved. If this is true, the current national meat goat herd would have to be increased and both production practices and marketing channel efficiency improved in order to meet any additional increase in demand for goat meat in the future. Oklahoma has the land, water, and forage and shrub base to contribute to this expansion.
Goat producers and prospective owners should be keenly aware of the difference between product development and market development. Development of a meat product requires only sufficient resources for initial research concerning its nutritional, processing and shipping/storage characteristics and, subsequently, further research regarding consumers' acceptance of the product's organoleptic qualities, price levels, packaging, etc. Full development of existing ethnic markets and an opening of "new" markets for goat meat would be a complex and costly undertaking requiring substantial and sustained industry-wide support, cooperation, and advertising budgets. Most any University can do product development work; no University can be expected to do national or even regional market development, though it may make serious contributions to industry promotional efforts by providing pertinent data.