A Central Otago-based goat meat supplier is about to start exporting farmed meat goats and has set a target of securing 20,000 animals from the South Island to meet export orders from top-end restaurants in South Korea and China.
Shingle Creek Chevon was established seven years ago and has specialised in supplying premium quality farmed goat meat to on-line customers and top-end restaurants and cafes around New Zealand.
One of the company’s directors, Dougal Laidlaw, of Alexandra, says they started supplying the New Zealand restaurant trade five or six years ago and are now ready to start exporting farmed goat meat offshore.
“We always knew we were going to export at some stage to try to get more for the farmer,” he says. “We know the markets are there so we’re offering $6 a kilogram plus freight to secure a premium product.
“We do want to start off slowly, make sure we’ve got the right farmers on board and the right processes in place.
“Our first goal is to secure 20,000 farmed meat goats at a minimum carcass weight of 14kg and aged anywhere between six months and three years, so they’ve really got to be in their prime,” he said.
“We have paid $4 a kilogram plus freight all the way through the year and we will increase that to $6 a kilogram because we believe we’ve got our markets right and we can give farmers an incentive to grow a quality product as quick as they can.”
Some of the company’s terms are non-negotiable. The offer only applies to wethers and females. It will not accept any males or any stock that has been run with bucks because of the risk of the meat being tainted.
The company is offering to pay South Island freight costs from the farm gate to the market because it wants to control handling to minimize stress to animals.
Shingle Creek Chevon has a solid core of suppliers on its South Island database but not all have the numbers to supply farmed goats every year.
“We’ve learnt a lot along the way,” Laidlaw says. “We started off with all types of crossbred goats – including saanen, cashmere and boer crosses – until we’ve got to the stage where the value to the business is meat to the bone.
“To give you an idea of where we started seven or eight years ago, our average carcass weight was something like 12 to 13kg and now the average carcass weight is over 16.5kg.”
Part of that improvement has come from genetic gains but most of that response has come from farmers growing better goats to get a better return and that has been the key, he says.
The company is now keen to meet suppliers, explain the terms of the offer and have them sign supply contracts for a fixed price for the season with the same price for all farmers and all stock supplied.
One of the terms of the offer is that farmers will be paid before their stock leaves the country, giving them the confidence and capital to step up flock numbers over the next three to five years.
“This is a big growth opportunity for everybody,” Laidlaw says. “We are looking long-term but we know it’s going to take a while to build up the genetics on farm and for confidence to supply (this number of) meat goats.”
“We’re also looking for more farmers to meet the demand,” he said.
Shingle Creek Chevon are planning four trial shipments of between 100 and 150 goats each this summer with the first kill planned for the first week of December.
These animals will be processed by the Southland based Blue Sky Meats under a toll processing arrangement.
Between 10 and 15 per cent of Shingle Creek Chevon’s branded farmed meat goat processed in these trials will supply existing restaurant markets in New Zealand and a small number of online buyers, but the bulk of the meat will be exported.
Most has been pre-sold and will be distributed by an offshore marketing partner, initially to top-end restaurants in South Korea and China.
The company has fielded plenty of requests for goat meat exports in the last three years.
“We are being cautious and this trial shipment is just the first step,” Laidlaw says. “We’ve turned down a lot of different companies to get where we are now, but once the right partner came along it has all fallen into place quite naturally.
“We’ve just been patiently waiting for the right partnership of people who know where we are at and how long it will take to build our goat herd to produce a consistent meat supply, so we know that’s going to take time.
“Our partner wants us to supply South Korea and China which gives you an idea of the scale. At this stage we’re only supplying hundreds of animals but the opportunity is huge.”
Shingle Creek Chevon’s other director, Alexandra lawyer John Cockroft, has handled all the paper work for the first trial shipments, including an export licence from New Zealand and an import licence for China.
Laidlaw’s father ran a successful angora goat stud in North Canterbury and has been showing and breeding goats and cattle for most of his life. He has a recorded boer goat stud flock near Cromwell and is a supplier of goat meat to Shingle Creek Chevon.