Characterizing the myology (muscle profile) of meat goat carcasses to improve value-added processing and retail consumption in farm-to-fork marketing

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $372,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2026
Grant Recipients: Animal and Dairy Sciences Mississippi State Univer; Tuskegee University
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Derris Burnett, PHD
Animal and Dairy Sciences Mississippi State Univer
Dr. Clarissa Harris
Tuskegee University
Dr. Leyla Rios
Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences at Mississippi State University


  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: meat processing
  • Farm Business Management: farm-to-restaurant, value added

    Proposal abstract:

    While consumption has increased nearly 300% since 1999 (extension, University of Tennessee), the American consumer still eats less than half a pound of goat meat each year which threatens the long-term sustainability of the meat goat industry. Contributing factors to this dearth of consumption include lack of consistent quality and supply of goat meat outside of niche market spaces. The beef and pork industries have benefited from large scale bovine and porcine myology (muscle profiling) studies to garner an intricate understanding of these carcasses and inform precision valuation and marketing schemes. As a result, retailers and consumers are relatively confident they will get a consistent beef or pork product and can price and pay for it accordingly. This confidence and consistency are lacking in the modern meat goat industry and the goal of this proposal is to improve the consistency of goat meat to improve consumer confidence and contribute to the sustainability of the goat industry.

    Our long-term goals include increasing the viability of small-scale producers and processors in the Southeastern United States. The overall objective of the current proposal is to conduct a comprehensive myology investigation using meat goats reared under 3 practical production scenarios employed by farmers in the Southeast. These include a confined intensive management system, a brush/browsing system, and an organic transitioning system. In Year 1 we will conduct a controlled feeding trial at the Caprine Research Unit at Tuskegee University. A total of 60 weaned goats will be assigned to one of the 3 production scenarios (intensive feeding, browsing, or organic transitioning) and then fed for 90 days. These goats will then be transported to the Mississippi State University Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory for processing and a comprehensive evaluation (myology) of each individual muscle group and meat cut. In Year 2 this study will be replicated on the farms of 3 local Mississippi and Alabama producers These goats will also be transported to Mississippi State University for processing and profiling. In Year 3, we will use the combined datasets from Years 1 and 2 along with sensory evaluation and willingness to pay analysis to complete our evaluation of the farm to fork meat goat/goat meat pipeline. These data will be used to optimize fabrication and processing techniques to increase the consistency, sustainability, and profitability of farm to fork goat meat marketing. The current study will address a critical research need in the meat goat/goat meat industry and will be immediately impactful for producers, processors, retailers, and consumers. We will make these findings available in the form of enhanced fabrication videos, on-site and remote training sessions, cookery demonstrations, and reliable infographics to reach a broad audience of producers, processors, retailers, and consumers in the meat goat arena.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    In the current proposal, we will conduct a comprehensive myology investigation using carcasses from meat goats reared under three practical SE production scenarios. A total of 60 weaned meat goats will be assigned to one of three feeding systems (feeding, browsing, and organic transitioning; n = 20 per treatment) and fed for 90 days which is typical of the SE meat goat industry. This experiment will be conducted at the Tuskegee University Caprine Research Unit in year one and repeated on the farms of cooperating farmers in year 2. In each case, these goats will then be transported and processed at the MSU Meat Science Laboratory  where we will assess a series of physiochemical parameters associated with muscle composition and meat quality, and combine this with consumer sensory and willingness-to-pay analyses. We hypothesize that the intrinsic physiochemical properties of  individual muscles/meat cuts will impact the consumer eating experience and the value they place on these products. The specific objectives to test this hypothesis are to:



    1. Determine the impact of intensive feeding, browsing, and organic transitioning operations on performance and managerial economics of market meat goats in the SE. This will be conducted at Tuskegee University (year 1) and repeated at local collaborating farms (year 2).
    1. Determine the impact of the above feeding systems on the myology (muscle profiling), yield, and processability of the resulting market meat goat carcasses. This objective will allow us to inform producers and processors on the optimal processing practices to maximize the yield and quality of meat cuts coming from goats reared under the aforementioned production conditions.
    1. We will then evaluate the harvest, fabrication, and post-processing efficiency in small processing systems to determine economic parameters for stakeholders in the direct-marketing pipeline. This objective allows us to inform processors on the inputs, turnaround times, and optimal processing logistics necessary to ensure consistency and profitability for the various stakeholders in the farm-direct marketing pipeline.
    1. Determine consumer willingness to pay and sensory parameters for goat meat cuts from the previous objectives. Once the intrinsic parameters of the various muscles and meat cuts have been delineated, this objective will bring in the final stakeholder and the ultimate determinant of marketability with the input of consumers and their perceived valuation of the products they are offered in the sensory and economic studies.
    1. Using the data garnered and analyzed in the previous objectives, we will refine and present contemporary guidance for the SE meat goat industry regarding the best harvest, fabrication, processing, marketing practices using these data. This final objective provides the deliverables that will be disseminated to producers, processors, retailers, and consumers to instill more confidence and competence into the farm to for meat goat/goat meat production system. In addition, these findings will be made directly available to these stakeholders via a comprehensive digital repository and through our mobile meat processing and fabrication demonstration system.

    The strategic impact of these combined objectives including the feeding trials (Objective 1), physiochemical measurements (Objective 2), sensory evaluations (Objective 3), and economic analyses (Objective 4) will allow for a comprehensive understanding of the intrinsic myologic parameters and provide biological context to variations in goat meat cuts. Using this data, we will help processors and producers implement novel fabrication and marketing strategies to maximize the efficiency and profitability of the complete farm-to-fork goat meat pipeline (Objective 5). This will inform how meat goats are processed and assigned value by retailers and consumers. Moreover, this will help extend the prevailing perspective of underserved producers beyond simply selling live meat goats and towards marketing goat meat as a reliable alternative to traditional red meat products. These data will be used synergistically with our mobile meat processing trailer and demonstration system to directly disseminate this knowledge and train/retrain these stakeholders to increase the application of these science-based techniques in the industry. This project will also result in an accessible database for producers and processors to rely on as the industry makes inroads into a more mainstream marketing model. This repository will resemble that of the bovine and porcine myology databases that have been established by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (; in conjunction with the Beef Checkoff and Pork Checkoff programs, respectively. Ultimately, the merits of the current project will usher in a paradigm shift towards more consistent, precision-marketing of goat meat products based on empirical data generated to meet the demands of a growing consumer base.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.