Halal Industry 

Australia’s goat industry seeks to appeal at home beyond Sth Asian, Middle Eastern communities

| 04 October, 2018 | General
 Richard Whitehead
Australia’s goat industry seeks to appeal at home beyond Sth Asian, Middle Eastern communities
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Goats seen at the 'Oekodorf Brodowin GmbH' in Brodowin, Germany on July 31, 2017. GETTY/Axel Schmidt

The sales of goat meat are growing in Australia, fuelled by the country’s burgeoning Muslim and Asian populations. But this growth is stifled by limited domestic supply and a lack of data has been making it difficult for the industry to understand its consumers.

“Consumption in Australia has definitely grown,” Simon Westaway, chief executive of the Australian Live Export Council, told Salaam Gateway. “We have a larger Muslim and Arabic and Asian population so demand is growing.”

However, according to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), an industry group that promotes beef, lamb and goat meat in domestic and international markets, consumption at home is still so low that its consumer tracker, which follows a representative sample of 1,000 Australian shoppers, “cannot pick up any meaningful measurement of goat meat usage”.

As a result, data on the exact composition of the domestic market is rudimentary, though there is a strong feeling, as echoed by Westaway above, that increasing immigration from countries and cultures in which goat meat is a staple is the main reason for its rise there.

Australia’s changing ethnicity
In Australia, the classification of cultural and ethnic groups is developed based on the geographic area in which a group originated, developed or settled. There has been a change in the country’s ethnicity landscape. In 1992, 76.92 percent of the resident population were born in Australia but this dropped to 71.5 percent in 2016, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
% of Australia's resident population born in:19922016
Southeast Asia2.4%4.03%
South Asia (incl Afghanistan)0.64%3.3%
East Asia0.79%3.54%
Middle East and North Africa1.16%1.7%
Sub-Saharan Africa0.43%1.47%

“The domestic market is growing, but off a small base as Australia’s rising population of ethnic consumers bring their food culture with them,” said MLA in an assessment of the market.

By “ethnic” the MLA is referring to non-Caucasian ethnic minorities.

Goat meat, when compared to other proteins, has the advantage of no religious taboos and, among Muslims has a central role in religious and traditional events such as the Eid al Adha festival of slaughter, according to MLA.

“[There are] large spikes in demand around ethnic festivals, [when] volume goes through ethnic butchers, i.e. Western Sydney.”

One Sydney supplier, Reza Chailu, of TJ Halal Meat, said goat meat is taken up mainly by immigrants from South Asia and the Middle East.

“Normally we can sell six or seven legs a week, compared to fewer than that in previous years. Sales are growing because of more customers from India, Pakistan and the Middle East: they like goat in those countries,” he told Salaam Gateway. “They normally use the meat to make curry and barbecue with it.”

The change is also perceptible in Melbourne. “It’s a good meat, there’s no doubt about it,” Martin Dixon, owner of John Cester’s Poultry and Game Meat, a well-known Melbourne butcher, told Salaam Gateway.

“It’s pretty popular among the Asians, and now it’s been increasing in popularity. People are getting fussy about the kind of goat they want. They don’t want the old ones any more, they want baby goats. [Goat meat] is hard to get hold of at times.”

This could be a result of the industry’s export-first strategy.

Photo: Muslims buying groceries in preparation for the breaking of the fast during Ramadan in the southwestern Sydney, Australia, suburb of Lakemba on May 27, 2017. GETTY/Cole Bennetts

BALANCING EXPORTS, DOMESTIC NEEDS

China is the world’s largest producer of goats. It had 187.87 million in 2014, according to latest available data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. For the same year, Australia was home to 3.57 million goats.

However, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of the meat. Last year, it produced 31,414 tonnes carcass weight but shipped abroad 90 percent, equivalent to 28,426 tonnes.

MLA’s Julie Petty, whose job it is to market goat meat production to farmers and consumption to the public, said the domestic market’s potential could be worth an additional 13 million Australian dollars to the industry.

“We have a mix of both anecdotal evidence and a little bit of data that is indicating that the domestic market is increasing in its interest of the product,” Petty told Salaam Gateway. “The producers are getting a lot more enquiries from butchers, restaurants and foodservice operators for goat meat products.”

But she added that constraints, whereby over 90 percent of goat meat is shipped overseas, is holding back the industry’s ambitions.

“There is certainly a market but purely because of the supply constraints at the present time, it’s not a really obvious market,” she said. “Because of these contraints, we have to be very careful about how we go out and promote the products and talk about their availability so there’s not the expectation that you can go out to market and get it every day.”

As the export market is so prominent throughout the industry, it effectively takes priority over all other segments.

Yet a decrease in export numbers from 2015-17, during which time the number of live goats shipped overseas fell by 87 percent due to strong global prices for goat meat, has led to some respite for domestic suppliers. Though this drop sounds substantial, live exports accounted for just 1 percent of Australia’s total goat meat export value of 257 million Australian dollars ($182 million) in 2017. At the same time, overall shipments increased by 6 percent.

Petty said that a growing domestic market is crucial to mitigate international fluctuations, and MLA's marketing efforts will target niche consumers to achieve this.

“While the goat meat export market is lucrative for producers, a healthy level of domestic demand would provide a degree of insurance against any export down-turn,” she said.

“More importantly, domestic demand would also enhance the industry’s reputation, encouraging more producers and supply chain players to participate in goat meat production.”

Photo: Kangaroo meat products are seen on a supermarket in central Sydney, Australia, February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

NEW CONSUMER SEGMENTS

Earlier this year, MLA identified that value-adding could create more demand across Australia, having commissioned a survey that identified new markets beyond consumers who traditionally include goat meat in their diets.

Petty said there was the potential to lift the profile of goat meat among Australian consumers to the same level as other secondary animal proteins such as salmon, tuna, mussels, duck, kangaroo, turkey and venison.

“In the last 20 years, several secondary proteins have risen to prominence beyond the restaurant scene, to become mainstays of supermarket offerings, where most Australians buy their meat,” said Petty.

“There are lessons from the success of secondary proteins that goat meat can learn from and adapt to grow demand while remaining true to the product’s qualities and character.”

There are efforts to tap into a variety of trends, such as “adventurous cookery”, spurred by the popularity of culinary television shows like Master Chef, “new-age foodies”, such as millennials seeking to realise their flexitarian ambitions, and “empty nesters” who are willing to embrace new foods.

INCREASING LIVESTOCK NUMBERS

Meanwhile, Petty and her colleagues at MLA will continue to persuade livestock producers to diversify their incomes by breeding goats alongside their other animals in a bid to ramp up the size of the national herd, in anticipation of growing demand.

“Goats are smaller, faster growing animals and you get turnaround much more quickly than cattle just because they are smaller with different lifespans and different reproduction cycles,” she said.

“I’ve been involved in the goat industry for as long as I can remember—my parents had goats on our property from year dot. It’s a very interesting and versatile product.”

(Reporting by Richard Whitehead; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim emmy.alim@refinitiv.com)

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