Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
HEALTH consciousness, leather and milk value chain including religious festivities are among the major factors pushing demand for chevon in Zimbabwe with goat meat producers struggling to keep up with demand.
According to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement 2021/22 Crop and Livestock Assessment Report, Zimbabwe recorded a seven percent increase in goat population from 3 974 707 in 2020 to 4 259 176 in 2021.
Government is already running a Goat Pass-On Scheme, which is expected to uplift rural communities across the country where three million households are expected to benefit from this year until 2025.
The scheme will initially distribute 600 000 animals.
Under the Presidential Rural Goat Pass-On Scheme, it is envisaged that this year, the Government will give out the first 600 000 goats, with at least five million goats expected in the market by 2025.
In interviews, food scientists and farmers said the demand for goat meat has seen a growth in the number of people venturing into commercial goat farming across the country.
University lecturer and food scientist, Mr Makhosi Mahlangu said much of the growth in goat meat’s popularity seems driven largely by health and economic issues.
He said there are many health benefits of eating goat meat.
“In terms of nutrition, goat meat is healthier and leaner because it is not as fat as what cattle produce.
Goats are browsers and therefore when they browse you will realise that most of the plants that they eat have a lot of antioxidants,” he said.
“You will find that the plants that goats eat get into their meat, making it much more superior compared to other meat forms.
There is also the issue of goat cheese which is much more nutritious than the one we get from cattle milk, and again that is a value chain.”
Mr Mahlangu said goats consume a diverse range of trees which increase micronutrients like calcium, copper and potassium, which are transmitted straight into the human body.
“Goat meat, like many other types of red meat, is a rich source of protein that helps maintain muscular health.
It boasts a similar essential amino acid profile to that of chicken, beef and pork too,” he said.
“All of this means that goat is a lean meat that provides all the essential amino acids without adding any unnecessary calories. Goat meat is rich in calcium and potassium too.”
Potassium helps in terms of maintaining healthy blood pressure.
It helps regulate fluid balance and is one of the most important minerals for the body’s nervous system.
Mr Mahlangu said goat meat has lower overall fat, saturated fat and cholesterol levels than other, more common meats like beef, pork and lamb.
“Generally, goats walk a lot hence their meat turns out to be leaner.
Currently we have a crisis with obesity in African cities so goats offer affordable leaner and healthier meat which is an antioxidant coming from the numerous plants especially acacia trees that are consumed,” he said.
Mr Mahlangu said goat meat has several micronutrients that are great for the body.
“Nutrients such as selenium and choline, are powerful antioxidants that reduce the risk of developing cancers and heart disease.
In terms of fat, it is reduced as it is more deposited within the meat,” he said.
On the economic front, Mr Mahlangu said goats reproduce at a faster rate.
“Again, goat meat is unique in its flavour and has a long history in many cultures and religions.
In fact, goat meat can be consumed by a number of different religions, whereas pork or beef might be an issue with some religions,” he said.
Bulawayo Global Consortium director and goat farmer, Mrs Sifiso Agbetorwoka said goat meat also provides an attractive alternative for consumers looking for a different flavour and a sustainable and lean product.
“People now prefer goat meat to beef, particularly looking at the health aspect because they are now health conscious.
If you also look at the price, it is cheaper than beef hence people are going for a healthier option of goat meat,” she said.
“Although we are saying there is a sudden surge in demand, we should also look at the supply side, as goat farmers we are failing to satisfy the local market hence the demand outstrips supply.”
Mrs Agbetorwoka said in addition to its low-fat content, goat meat is also low in cholesterol counts.
“Out of pork, chicken, lamb and beef, goat has the lowest number of cholesterol counts,” she said.
According to studies, for every 85g of goat meat, there is around 63mg of cholesterol.
Beef on the other hand has round 73mg of cholesterol whilst chicken has 76mg per 85g.
For every 85g serving of goat meat, there are around 122 calories and just 2,6 grams of fat.
If one compares these figures to the same-sized serving of beef, you are looking at 245 calories.
Eighty-five grams of beef also has roughly 16 grams of fat, which is almost eight times the amount of fat on goat meat.
Mrs Agbetorwoka said goats also play a role in terms of economic impetus.
“We want many people to be goat breeders and there is also a lot of demand from outside the country such that we are nowhere near meeting that demand.
From within our organisation Bulawayo Global Consortium, the main driver is to create economic growth through goats,” she said.
“We also need to embrace the commercialisation of the Matabele goat breed by maintaining the standards and improving the gene, which is what South Africa has done with the Boer goat.”
Goat Breeders Association of Zimbabwe vice-chairperson Mr Chris Grant said training programmes and conferences that they conduct have also generated a lot of interest in goat farming.
“The demand for goat meat has surged because of work that certain organisations like the Goat Breeders Association of Zimbabwe is doing.
Training programmes and conferences that we conduct have also generated a lot of interest in goat farming because they have realised that they are profitable when breeding them,” he said.
“People are also becoming aware of health options of goat meat which is healthier and leaner and that has contributed towards people wanting goat meat at traditional restaurants in the cities.”
Mr Grant said more people are venturing into commercial goat breeding due to profitability and quick returns.
Mr Grant said there are also opportunities for commercial farmers in Matabeleland region within the goat value chain.
“Goat leather is actually sought after because it is soft and subtle.
It is important to look after the goat so that when the skin is processed, there are no scratch marks.
The economy is opening up around the goat industry because of skins and other by-products such as milk which makes goat cheese,” he said.
Mr Grant said it is important for small scale farmers to learn management and supplementary feeding practices to improve kidding ratios.
Renowned Beitbridge Boer goat breeder, Mr Herbert Zhou said: “Lately there has been a demand in goat meat but the supply is a challenge because they are few.
The goat population is not that big yet the export market is good but we can’t talk of that market when we are actually failing to satisfy the local one.”
According to the Trademap, a trade statistics tool by the International Trade Centre(ITC), the country’s foreign currency earnings from goat meat products rose from US$203 000 in 2019 to US$257 000 in 2020.
According to Food and Agriculture Organisation Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT), Africa is the second largest producer of goat meat in the world after Asia.
However, Zimbabwe is nowhere near the top ten producers of goat meat.
A ZimStat report (2012) revealed that Zimbabwe holds only 1,62 percent of the goat population in Africa. – @mashnets