Plant may improve industry

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 10, 2001

Natchez veterinarian Dr. Alton Hall views his goat farm as a secondary income.

But goat farming has the potential to be highly profitable, he said, especially when one considers &uot;the fact that the goat is the most eaten meat in the world outside the U.S.&uot;

It could become even more profitable for Hall and other local goat farmers if a proposed $881,000 processing plant comes to fruition in Adams County or Jefferson County.

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&uot;The demand is there but there’s nowhere to have them processed,&uot; said Clifton McCarstle, an Adams County goat farmer.

McCarstle and Hall are among 550 goat farmers in Mississippi. Their goats are all shipped to Tennessee or Texas for processing.

To remedy that problem and to meet a growing demand for goat meat, officials of Alcorn State University in Lorman and other institutions, such as the livestock group PPMC Cooperative, want to construct the plant in either Adams County or Jefferson County.

Dr. Samuel Scott, an animal scientist at Alcorn, said officials have been looking into alternative agriculture enterprises for southwest Mississippi for about five years. In that study, goat production has risen to the top of the list.

He cites the demand for the product both in the United States and outside the country. About 5 million pounds of goat meat are imported into the United States each year with a demand for more. It is most often consumed in major cities, where large clusters of residents are of West Indian, Hispanic, Mediterranean or Arabic decent.

With the number of in-state goat farmers, the need for a processing plant has existed since &uot;yesterday,&uot;&160;he joked.

With the plant in place, McCarstle said production would not only increase at his farm, but other people might also want to raise goats.

&uot;It will give an assured market,&uot; he said.

Hall said goats are also a good enterprise for local farmers because goats can live on low-quality land not suitable for crops.

And since goat meat is just like any other product, the processing plant would be a nice operation to add to the region.

&uot;If you haven’t got some place to sell it – it doesn’t do you any good,&uot; Hall said of farming goats.

Officials are still looking into ways to fund the plant, which is expected to cost $881,000. If the funding is in place by the summer, Scott thinks the plant could be operating by winter 2002.

The proposed plant would employ about 27 people and would serve as a training site for Alcorn students in food inspection and safety. It will include a 6,000 square-foot building and training space on 10 to 12 acres and would be able to process 20,000 goats a year.

It would also serve as a processing site for other animals such as swine and rabbits.

&uot;It’s really a modular, multipurpose meat processing facility,&uot; Scott said.