Goats have been in North America for hundreds of years, beginning when the settlers brought Swiss breeds along with Spanish and Austrian goats from Europe in the 1590’s. A 1630 census of Jamestown lists goats as one of the most valuable assets. The early 1900's was a period of explosive growth in the number of dairy goats being brought into the US.
The Dairy Goat industry experienced rapid growth in the early 1900's when several dairy breeds were brought to the US from Europe in large numbers, and the first dairy goat show in America was held at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Goat milk has long been a staple product for people who suffer from allergies, and in recent years the demand for additional goat products, including soaps, cheese and lotions has added to the market for dairy goat products.
According to the USDA, as of January 1, 2017, the United States had 373,000 milk goats. The largest number of milk goats are found in Wisconsin (44,000 head) and California (41,000 head), followed by Iowa (30,000 head), Pennsylvania (15,000 head) and New York (13,700 head) (NASS).
Prior to the early 1990's most of the goat meat produced in the United States came from unwanted male dairy goats and either Spanish or Spanish-cross goats. The increasing numbers of ethnic immigrants in addition to a growing demand for high quality, healthy, lean red meat created a demand for goat meat that could not be met by American producers. The arrival of the South African Boer goat in the early 1990's along with the collapse of the goat fiber market led to a period of growth as producers began to cross their fiber and other goats with the Boers, which resulted in a heavier muscled goat that yielded more meat. In spite of the growth in the American Meat Goat Industry, even today, the importation of goat meat into the United States is estimated to be over 30 million dollars annually, and over half of the goat meat eaten in the U S is from feral goats imported from Australia.
Goat meat is called either cabrito or chevon. Cabrito is from kids harvested within the first week of birth. Chevron is from older kids. Goat meat is leaner than poultry and other red meats, low in fat and cholesterol and is a source of conjugated linoleic acid. Meat goats totaled 1.3 million head in 2016 (NASS).