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Meat Goat Carcass Fabrication
for Case-Ready Products
Dr. Rick Machen, Associate Professor & Extension Livestock Specialist
Warren Thigpen, Bandera CEA-AG
Eddie Holland, Kerr CEA-AG
4D Ranch, Utopia, Texas
Hill Country Meats, Ingram, Texas


Growth, feed efficiency and carcass characteristics of Boer-influenced meat goats has received considerable attention. However, product yield from these goats is not well defined. In this study, carcasses from half-blood Boer wethers were fabricated into case-ready products. Product yield data was then used to estimate wholesale value and evaluate the merit of a producer-driven, wholesale meat production enterprise.


A significant portion of the meat goats produced in Texas is exported for harvest and processing in other states. Therefore, carcass fabrication and case-ready product preparation are two potential value-added opportunities for meat goat producers. In addition, freight cost per unit of retail product is significantly less for boxed meat than live animals.

Retained ownership of goats through the carcass fabrication phase is not without risk. Compared to beef, lamb, pork and poultry, very little retail product yield information is available for meat goats. Such information is a critical component of the decision-making process employed by producers as they evaluate marketing alternatives.


The objective of this project was to determine the case-ready product yield of the following cuts from half-blood Boer wether carcasses: square cut shoulder, boneless shoulder, rack, loin, saddle, leg and ribs.


Carcasses harvested from twelve Boer X Spanish wethers were fabricated by professional meat cutters to determine retail product yield. Wethers (live weight range from 57-100 lb; average 69.5) were randomly selected from a group of 250 that had been fed (ad libitum) a complete balanced ration for 75 days. Goats were transported approximately 70 miles in the early morning, weighed and slaughtered immediately after arrival. Hot carcass weight was recorded on the kill floor. Chilled carcass weights were recorded after a 24 hour chill at 38F.

Carcasses were randomly divided into two groups and fabricated into case-ready products 24 hours after slaughter. Fabrication regimes are outlined in Table 1.

Table 1. Fabrication Protocol

Boneless Leg
Loin, Bone In
10 Rib French Rack
Boneless Shoulder
Ribs w/ breast


Boneless leg
Square cut shoulder
Ribs w/ breast

Cut Identification:

Boneless leg - hind leg, sirloin off with femur and tibia removed

Loin - separated from rack between 12 and 13 rib, includes sirloin

French rack - contains ribs 3-12, distal end of ribs bare for 1.5 in.

Saddle- loin and rack left intact

Shoulder - includes ribs 1 and 2, shank and neck

Shoulder ( cut) - neck, shank and portion of breast removed

Ribs w/ breast - ventral of ribs 3-12 with sternum (breast) intact.

Trim - soft tissue with at least 50% lean content

A limited survey indicates significant interest in boneless legs, loins and racks amongst retail meat purveyors. These same retailers are also interested in a goat sausage, therefore the bone was removed from the shoulder in regimen A to facilitate grinding. According to protocol B, the loin and rack were left intact to form a saddle; the longissimus dorsi muscle was left entire should a retailer need boneless loins. Also, the shoulder was square cut to form an attractive, bone-in product very suitable for roasting.


Carcass fabrication results are presented in Table 2. Carcass characteristics and product yield (%) were very similar across the carcass weights included in this study. The dressing percent observed (51%) in this study is:

- lower than that reported by Loosli (1984) and Oman (1996a);

- identical to that previously reported for similar live weight goats by Riley et al. (1989), Machen et al. (1996) and Oman et al. (1996b);

- higher than an industry estimate of 40% by Strube 1991 and the 44-49% reported by Misra (1983).

Dressing percent (chilled carcass weight/live weight at slaughter) is of paramount importance in the consideration of whether to sell live goats or carcass weight on the rail. Small changes in dressing percent (2-3%) may seem insignificant but, in fact, could represent the difference in profit and loss of a retained ownership/value-added venture.

Yield of the four major wholesale cuts, leg, loin rack and shoulder (Table 2) was similar to that reported by Snowder for Spanish goats.(unpublished data). The shoulder represents a larger percentage of the carcass than typically observed in lambs.

Table 2. Carcass Fabrication Results



Live Weight, lb

Chilled Carcass Weight, lb

Dressing Percent, %





% of Chilled Carcass

Leg, bone in

Leg, boneless

Loin, bone in

French Rack



Shoulder, bone in

Shoulder, boneless

Shoulder, square cut

Kidney & Pelvic Fat











Yield of case-ready products by fabrication protocol is shown in Table 3. Loin and shoulder fabrication differed between the two protocols. The most significant difference between the two methods was the amount of trim and waste, most of which apparently resulted from the shoulder. Producing boneless shoulders minimized the amount of trim but increased the waste. Likewise, production of square-cut, bone-in shoulder reduced the amount of waste but increased the trim. Decisions regarding exact fabrication technique are influenced by the respective wholesale value for each of the products.

Table 3. Retail Product Yield

% of chilled carcass

Protocol A

Protocol B
Leg, boneless 16 16
Loin, bone in 14 -
10 rib French rack 8 -
Saddle - 23
Ribs, w/breast 10 11
Shoulder, square cut - 20
Shoulder, boneless 23 -
Trim* 7 12
Waste** 22 16
*Suitable for sausage.

**Bone, fat trim, etc.


An economic analysis of a value-added meat goat enterprise is presented in Table 4. Column (letters) and row (numbers) identification is associated with the table for reference purposes. References will be abbreviated Column:Row (ex. A:1 indicates column A, row 1). Live animal and carcass characteristics are shown in F:3-10. An arbitrary live price of $0.90 per pound was selected for this discussion. Note that the total per head investment per 70 lb goat, including live value, slaughter and processing fees is $91.73 (G:11) or $2.59 per pound of carcass weight (G:12).

In this example, the carcass was fabricated according to protocol A as previously described. Percentage (carcass weight basis) of each product is listed in D:16-25 and the resulting weight of each product is shown in F:16-25. Inedible waste (bone, fat trim, etc.) is responsible for the 68 difference between average break-even price for the products ($3,27; D:28) and the cost per pound of processed carcass ($2.59; G:12). The prices listed in G:16-25 were selected to result in an average price of $3.27. As such, they provide some insight to the wholesale/retail prices expected if a value-added venture is to be attempted.

Taking the value-added concept one step further, if the boneless shoulder and trim were ground and made into a processed product (i.e. smoked sausage), the break-even cost of such a processed product would be $3.96 (J:28).

Sensitivity to several production parameters is shown in Table 5. Consideration is limited to those parameters upon which the producer can have a direct impact or those major factors included in marketing decisions.

Table 5. Sensitivity to Production Parameter Changes

Parameter Change

Break-even Price, $/lb*



A. decrease liveweight to 55 lb. 3.41 (3.13)
B. increase liveweight to 85 lb. 3.17 3.34
C. increase liveweight to 100 lb. 3.11 6.58
D. reduce dressing percent to 48% 3.44 (4.57)
E. reduce live price to 80 per lb. 3.02 6.95
F. increase live price to $1.00 per lb. 3.52 (6.95)
* Compared to the baseline of $3.27 (Table 4; cell D:28).

** Compared to the baseline of $0.00 (Table 4; cell H:32).

Parameter changes A, B and C demonstrate the long-known, well-accepted fact that increasing slaughter weight, and hence carcass weight, spreads the overhead expenses (slaughter and processing fee) over more pounds of meat and lowers the break-even price of wholesale products. Introduction of the Boer goat has facilitated development of goats that can efficiently and economically reach 80-100 pounds by 12-13 months of age. However, the absence of widespread consumer acceptance of product from these larger carcasses has precluded aggressive packer procurement of larger (>80 lb.) slaughter goats.

Accurate estimation of dressing percent is a critical component in the consideration of retained ownership. Although the goats in this study dressed 51%, communication with meat packers indicates 44-48% is the industry average. Table 5 line D demonstrates the effect of a 3% reduction in dressing percent. Although a 3% change seems relatively insignificant, in this example it represents a $4.57 change in the bottom line.

Retained ownership is most appealing when live price is depressed. As indicated in item E, Table 5, a $0.10 per pound reduction in live price improves the profit/loss in this example by $6.95 per head. However, a $0.10 upward move in the live market ($0.90 to $1.00) results in a loss of almost $7.00 per head (Table 5; F).


Meat goat production enterprises have long been extensive in nature; most of the kids produced are sold immediately after weaning at 4-6 months of age. Value-added opportunities may exist for producers willing to retain ownership of their production beyond weaning age/weight. Such opportunities warrant consideration, are not without risk and will require promotion and consumer education at the retail meat counter.


Animals and financial support for this project were provided by Ferrell Davis and Bob Duke, 4D Ranch, Utopia, Texas. Also, the cooperation of Robbie Bertheola and the staff of Hill Country Meats, Ingram, Texas is greatly appreciated.


Loosli, J.K. 1984. Role in Meeting World Food Supplies. In: Extension Goat Handbook. Extension Service USDA, Washington D.C.

Machen, R.V., E.R. Holland, L.W. Thigpen, Jr. and K.W. White. 1996. Growth and Carcass Characteristics of Spanish, Boer and Boer Wethers After 66 Days on Feed. Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Sheep and Goat Research Reports CPR-5257.

Misra, R.K. 1983. Genetic Analysis of Growth, Survivability, Efficiency of Feed Conversion and Carcass Yield and Composition in Sirohi (goat) and its crosses with Beetal. Kurukshetra University , Haryana, India. Ph.D. thesis.

Oman, J.S., D. Griffin, W.S. Ramsey and D. Waldron. 1996a. Effects of Breed Type on Goat Carcass Composition, Retail Shelf-Life , Sensory and Chemical Characteristics. Proceedings of the Southeast Regional Meat Goat Production Symposium. February 21- 24, 1996. Tallahassee, FL.

Oman, J.S., D.F. Waldron, D.B. Griffin and J.W. Savell. 1996b. Effect of Breed-type and Feeding Regimen on Goat Carcass Characteristics. Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Sheep and Goat Research Reports CPR-5257.

Riley, R.R., J.W. Savell, M. Shelton and G.C. Smith. 1989. Carcass and Offal Yields of Sheep and Goats as Influenced by Market Class and Breed.

Strube, A. 1991. Meat Goat Buying, Slaughtering, Packaging and Marketing. In: Proceedings of the National Symposium on Goat Meat Production and Marketing, August 16-18, Tulsa, OK.


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