Canadian demand for goat meat on the rise
Ontario goat farmers want to establish provincial goat marketing board
Ontario goat farmers claim there is such a demand for their meat that it currently outstrips supply.
Bob Covyeow and his son Cory have about 50 breeding female goats on their Stoney Point farm, east of Windsor.
They own the biggest goat farm in Essex County, but Cory Covyeow said he's not satisfied yet.
"I would like to have around 200 mothers," Cory Covyeow said. "My dad thinks it needs to slow down a bit, but I think we should give 'er."
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, there were approximately 225,000 goats on 9,000 farms in Canada in 2011. The number of goats is Canada has almost doubled since 1996.
Immigrants drive demand
The majority of the Covyeows' customers are immigrants from countries such as Croatia, Jamaica, Italy and India. Easter is a particularly busy time for the Covyeows.
"The more people that immigrate to Canada, the more demand there is," said Bob Covyeow.
Toronto and Windsor are two of the most culturally diverse cities in the country. The Covyeows have customers in both cities.
Windsor is the fourth-most culturally diverse city in Canada. More than 20 per cent of its population was born outside of Canada. Markets and restaurants across the city sell the meat.
The owner of East African & Asian Restaurant in Windsor said he can't always find goat meat readily available in Ontario. So he sometimes substitutes with lamb.
The Saskatchewan government noted an increase in demand for goat meat back in 2008.
"As people continue to immigrate to North America from traditional goat consuming nations, the domestic demand for goat meat in these ethnic markets continues to increase," the province's ministry of agriculture posted on its website.
"This ethnic demand for goat meat is derived from a number of social and religious traditions.
Two of the main demand peaks occur in early spring and late fall which coincide with the religious holidays of Ramadan and Eid. Demand for specific carcass sizes also varies within each market segment."
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, goat meat is the leanest of all red meat livestock.
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The father and son agree, the demand for goat meat in Ontario is strong. So much so that the organization representing them, Ontario Goat, is chasing provincial marketing board status.
Jennifer Haley, the executive director of Ontario Goat, said marketing board status would give farmers more leverage with lawmakers and help market goat meat.
"The value is providing that one voice to the many different levels of government on what the goat industry's needs are," she said.
Can't keep up
Haley said there are between 1,000 and 1,500 goat farmers in Ontario. Approximately 240 of them are licensed dairy goat farmers. Between 200 and 300 are meat goat farmers.
"The producers in the province can’t produce the quantity needed so goat meat is imported," Bob Covyeow said.
Cory Covyeow said 660,000 kg of goat is imported each year.The Covyeows are left to market themselves. Everything is word of mouth, said Bob Covyeow, who has turned to the free online classified site, Kijiji, to drum up business.
"What we’re trying to do is bring an organization together to represent goat farmers on many issues that impact our industry," Haley said.
A marketing board would be for goat farmers, financed by goat farmers
"The value is providing one voice on what the industry needs are," Haley said.
She said Ontario Goat has previously been funded by government grants obtained by the Ontario Livestock Alliance. That funding runs out six months from now and threatens Ontario Goat.
"The fear of many goat farmers is that if in the next six to nine months we don’t come together as one, the alternative is we go back to being what?" Haley said.
The Covyeows support the idea of a marketing board.
"When there's not as many producers, it's hard for me to grow my herd, because I don't have the resources. Or even, just talking to other goat farmers, and learning from their experiences and such like that," Covyeow said.