Georgia HBCU Researches How to Tenderize Goat Meat
Changing “chewy” texture of the meat could position it as the nation’s
next health fad, researchers say.
By Herb Frazier
If goat meat seems a little tough for you, researchers at Fort Valley State University in Georgia have found a way to make it easier to chew.
FVSU’s ability to tenderize low-fat goat meat for an American palate is part of ongoing research to raise chemically free goats, which could position the meat as the nation’s next health fad.
The consumption of goat meat in America has been primarily confined to a niche market composed of people from Middle Eastern, African and Caribbean nations.
Americans who did not grow up with goat meat in their diet are not accustomed to the meat’s unique texture and flavor, and they perceive it as being chewy, says Dr. Govind Kannan, an associate professor of animal science at FVSU.
Borrowing from techniques used to tenderize beef, pork and lamb, Kannan’s research team announced at recent animal science and food conferences in San Antonio and Chicago that the two tenderization methods also work with goat meat. FVSU is the first animal research lab in the United States to successfully use the techniques in goats.
One technique involves injecting calcium chloride combined with a spice mix into goat meat. In the other tenderization method, hydrodynamic pressure processing exposes packaged meat to a supersonic shock wave under water.
The calcium chloride process stimulates the enzyme in the meat to break down the protein structure, Kannan says. Hydrodynamic pressure processing physically breaks down the protein structure. Both processes improve the palatability of goat meat without altering its nutritional value, he added. If the methods work on other red meats, “why not goat meat,” Kannan says.
“We are the only ones in the U.S. who are doing a lot of research with goat meat,” Kannan says, adding that the majority of this research is being done at historically Black colleges and universities like FVSU.
More than 1.5 million pounds of goat meat is imported into the United States each week from New Zealand and Australia. Consumers look to foreign growers because U.S. farmers and meat processors aren’t keeping pace with the demand for the meat, Kannan says.
Most large-scale meat processors are primarily set up for beef, pork and sheep, not goat meat. The challenge is to successfully transfer the FVSU techniques to large meat processing plants to boost the popularity of goat meat among American consumers, he says. “The demand is high,” he says, “but we don’t have the production to meet that demand just yet.”
Kannan is director of the FVSU’s Georgia Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center. Created in 1986, the center is recognized as a national leader in goat research and is the largest facility of its kind east of the Mississippi River. Scientists at FVSU have generated more than $3 million in grant funding in five years for goat research, and produced about 60 publications from this work.
After extensive research this year, FVSU discovered a little-known health benefit: They found that goat meat has lower amounts of saturated fatty acids and higher amounts of unsaturated acids than lamb. Kannan adds that it is very low in fat and high in protein and iron.
“This day and age everybody is concerned about their fat intake,” says Kannan “With goat meat, people can eat red meat because they are eating a healthy product low in fat. And the type of fat in goat meat is healthier than that in beef, lamb or pork.”
To successfully spread the word about the health benefits of low-fat goat meat, nontraditional consumers must first become convinced to buy it, says Dr. Susan Schoenian, a sheep and goat specialist at the University of Maryland’s cooperative extension program in Keedysville, Md.
Schoenian says the texture of goat meat is not the primary reason most Americans don’t eat it, she says. When cooked properly, goat meat is tender. The image of the goat in American culture as an animal that will eat anything is the reason that it is not a popular source of food, she explains.
FVSU is also taking the lead in improving the health of goats raised for meat. Dr. Tom Terrill, a researcher at the university, has been feeding goats and sheep sericea lespedeza, a plant that contains a compound that kills harmful parasites in the animals. The effort is part of the university’s charge to put more organic foods on America’s dinner tables.
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