Meat is an integral part of the human diet. It is one of the major sources of dietary protein, fat, vitamins and minerals for the human populace. Between 1961 and 2011, the global per capita meat (kg/person/year) consumption increased from 23.1 kg to 42.2 kg [1
]. The demand for meat and animal products, globally, has been on the increase, although demand in the developing world has been occurring at a decreasing rate [2
], while demand in developed countries has and continues to occur at an increasing rate [5
]. In the developing world the expansion of urban settlements, an improvement in income and an increase in population are the major drivers. The observed demand in meat and animal products in the developing world over and above facilitating a food revolution has created tremendous opportunities for smallholder local producers as they tap into the ever increasing market [5
Over and above being a concentrated source of energy, the fats in meat mediate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, thus helping prevent potential deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins. Despite its positive nutritional attributes (source of quality protein, energy dense, and vitamin and mineral content), red meat is also rich in saturated fat and cholesterol [7
]. Due to its high saturated fat and cholesterol content, it has been confirmed that the excessive consumption of red meat and products derived from it is associated with increased risk of developing metabolic derangements such as obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic dysfunctions and their associated metabolic (type II diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, and cancer) diseases [8
Globally consumers have become more health conscious and are now aware and more equipped with pertinent information regarding the effect of the food, including meat they consume. This increased consumer awareness has resulted in the emergence of a consumer category that demands healthful foods. Compared to other red meats such as beef and lamb, chevon has lower fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content [10
] but a higher polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) [12
]. This chemical composition, in terms of the fat content and fatty acid profile, makes chevon a more healthful meat in comparison to other red meats. Thus, chevon has the potential to fill in a special market niche. As a direct consequence of its leanness and a health-beneficial fatty acid profile, the popularity of chevon on the global meat market is increasing as health-conscious consumers prefer leaner and healthier chevon [11
The human population is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050 [14
]. This huge increase in population is envisaged to further increase the already high demand for meat and other animal-derived products for human consumption [5
]. In order to be able to meet the increased demand, there is the need for sustainable and efficient meat and animal product production. This population-mediated increase in the demand of animal-derived protein for human consumption creates a huge potential for goats, which are known to thrive in marginal areas, to play a significant role in the supply of meat and other protein products [19
Compared to cattle, sheep and pigs, less scientific investment has been made towards improving the productivity of goats [20
]. This “lag” in the investment towards improving the productive traits of goats, could have resulted from the relegation of goats to low economic value by the developed world, and a preference by consumers for other meats compared to chevon [21
]. These two aspects have hugely contributed to the mismatch in developmental investment into goat productivity and the potential of goats to contribute to animal production for human consumption.
However, despite this slow investment into the development of goats targeting improved productivity, chevon, due to its healthful chemical nutrient profile is potentially going to be the next major contributor of animal-derived protein for human consumption in the not too distant future. It is against this background that this review seeks to create an awareness of the goat population, highlight the merits of goats over other small ruminants, and interrogate the capacity to produce chevon on a large scale and also to create an awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of chevon as a dietary protein source for human consumption.
3. Potential for the Future
3.1. Research Promoting Goat Productivity
In the discourse above, it is very clear that most of the goats are found in the developing countries of Africa and Asia and are thus largely reared by rural small-scale farmers. Despite these countries having large goat populations, Morand-Fehr and Boyazoglu [60
] contend research in small ruminant production has been low, particularly in Africa. Although Europe has only 2% of the global goat population, it contributes 30% of the annual global scientific publications on small ruminants compared to Africa’s 13.5% [60
]. While there has been some research regarding goat production, most of it has tended to focus on on-station and or commercial goat enterprises with little done with respect to improving and increasing goat productivity in rural communities. There is therefore a dire need to dedicate resources for research on goat nutrition, management, breeding and health in rural areas with the objective of improving productivity and off take. In addition to the fundamental need to execute research that targets to improve goat productivity, there is a need to make the research outputs farmer-friendly such research outcomes can be practically translated and transformed into practical knowledge to support primary production, hygienic-slaughter and chevon storage, grading and marketing.
3.2. Chevon Market Development
In developing countries where goats are reared, they are mostly farmed under natural veld with very little, if any, use of pharmacological agents to improve health and productivity. Thus, these goats and chevon derived from them can be deemed “green produce.” It is imperative that this “naturalness and greenness” of such goats and products derived from them be emphasized when marketing them at local, regional and international levels. A marketing cocktail that highlights the health beneficial fatty acid composition and “naturalness” of the chevon not only helps educate the consumers of the benefits of the product, but it also creates a special niche for the product which will translate to greater benefit by producers. A deliberate effort needs to be made to showcase chevon as a unique product and avoid the traditional approach of benchmarking it against lamb. It is fundamental that beside the traditional manner of packaging and consumption of chevon, that it be also processed into various types of snack foods, or other convenience products tailored for specific ethnic or cultural groups in developed countries [62
]. Apart from the value addition generated by the processing into snack and convenience foods, the processing also helps create demand in such developed societies.
Therefore, the chevon industry can take advantage of the growing demand for organic food [63
]. This demand for organic food is mainly motivated by the consumers’ health concerns [64
]. Organic food can be defined as natural food items that are free from synthetic chemicals such as antibiotics, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified organisms [65
]. Furthermore, goat production can provide food security to the increasing world population, while minimizing negative impacts to the environment and health since the development of organic food production is largely driven by the idea of sustainability and environmental concerns [63
In order to increase the demand for chevon and simultaneously increase chevon sales, market participants are encouraged to avert misconceptions of goat meat being regarded as inferior meat through synchronization of market preferences with the supply of the product. This will ensure that producers are able to access markets. Facilitating the formation of smallholder goat producer enterprises that are linked to processing units may also be a useful tool. Furthermore, integrating producers with marketing organizations will assure a quality goat meat supply in the local formal markets and also the export market.
Therefore, quality assurance schemes could be put in place to ensure the quality of chevon by exposing producers to production practices such as herd health, nutrition, management, and proper care, record keeping, and biosecurity. This marketing tool guarantees consumers the wholesomeness of their chevon and products. Efforts to increase goat productivity through increased carcass size and production efficiency should be the aim of development projects. This will avert low productivity, especially in terms of edible carcass per animal, thereby fulfilling local chevon demand and ensuring that export standards are met.
Putting in place comprehensive and comparable national chevon classification systems will promote the selection of chevon based on quality. This will also motivate individual farmers to produce a product of good quality when incentives are provided. Chevon classification systems will also ensure a shift from benchmarking chevon against lamb or mutton. As a result, the chevon industry development will be propped allowing chevon to be developed and marketed as a lean and healthy product. This will improve the recognition of chevon as an alternative source of good quality protein.
Therefore, windows of opportunity are open to establish marketing organizations that can capitalize on the growing demand for chevon. These organizations could add value to the products by undertaking to brand and ensuring the quality of the meat. Also, as production increases integrating smallholder producers into larger markets will allow access to buyers, processors, and suppliers of feeds and veterinary services. The aforementioned marketing tools are not only limited to countries in which there is a tradition of chevon consumption, but also European countries can apply them accordingly since the demand for healthy products of high nutritional value already exists.
3.3. The Way Forward
This overview of the situation of the world goat industry raises questions on the general opinion about goats as animals for poor people, on their potential for rural and local development, as well as for niche markets in urban communities. Furthermore, there is a projected twofold increase in the demand for safe, healthy, good quality meat and meat products by 2050 resulting from the dramatic growth in human population, improving lifestyles and urbanization [5
]. Therefore, if goats contribute significantly to feeding rural populations, they certainly can also sufficiently supply meat in urban societies, provided an organized industry and marketing sector exist.
On the other hand, the world will be confronted with great water shortages, and a large demand by intensive water-using animal production systems can be questioned [5
]. Goats can contribute to sustainable and productive use of water resources if their efficiency is improved by better adapted research and more efficient extension service. Therefore, the goat industry has great potential to grow in the global market.
Goats while known to play a significant role in human food security at household level, their contribution can be magnified by highlighting and creating awareness in the consuming public about the uniqueness of chevon, its being largely a natural product with a health beneficial fatty acid profile. Furthermore, an improvement in goat husbandry techniques, accurate record keeping and budgeting as well as the development of a formalized and well supported marketing structure is required in order for farmers to reap full benefits from goat farming and the sale of chevon. The creation of such awareness is bound to generate increased demand for the product which then avails more economic opportunities for goat farmers and the goat industry value chain. Therefore, opportunities exist for establishing marketing organizations at all levels from the village to national organizations that can take advantage of the growing demand for chevon.
This paper presents an interesting issue of chevon potential in the red meat industry, which might be particularly of importance to the meat producers, farmers in the developing African and Asian countries. This, therefore, calls for policy makers to create rapid and favourable policies, especially in the delivery of veterinary services and infrastructural development. Although demand for chevon is growing, it is not officially graded in most countries and this policy bottleneck limits the commercialization and marketing of chevon. Therefore, a chevon pricing and grading policy, if put in place, would promote the production of high-quality chevon thereby ensuring premiums for the producers and farmers. Ideally, this policy would also promote export earnings.
In conclusion, the adaptability and resilience of goats make them an indispensable resource to safeguard sustainable production and contribute to the increasing protein requirements of the growing human populace. This will call scientists in the near future to commence research on new technologies to improve the productivity and efficiency of goats.