The goat's tail wagged vigorously, shaking a white pompom of fur at its tip, while the 80-pound Boer circled the judging ring.
It wagged as the goat followed its forlorn-looking 12-year-old owner, Ashlyn Holder, out back. And it wagged all the way onto a trailer headed for the slaughterhouse.
Ashlyn's mid-weight goat didn't take a ribbon in the junior market goat show, but win or lose, all 949 goats shown at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo last week met the same end.
They represent a tiny fraction of the more than a million meat goats produced yearly in Texas, the largest U.S. supplier.
Most of the meat travels to the coasts, both east and west, where concentrated immigrant populations form the bulk of the demand.
Consumers include members of Muslim and Jewish communities, along with immigrants from Europe, Africa and Asia. Goat, a low-fat meat with a stronger flavor than beef, is also popular in Mexico, Cuba and Hawaii.
And while the nation's per-capita sheep and goat consumption amounts to a paltry half-pound of meat per year, demand is significant in these small but growing pockets.
An influx of immigrants in urban areas has propelled goat prices to a record high this year, livestock analysts say.
Averaging $1.70 a pound
Goat's average price per pound has climbed from about $1.19 in 2008 to $1.33 in 2009 to more than $1.70 this year, according to data from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, an agricultural research agency affiliated with Texas A&M University.
“There were a lot of goats last week that brought over $2 a pound” at auction, said Benny Cox, sheep and goat sales manager at Producers Livestock Auction in San Angelo, Texas' largest sheep and goat sale. “The goat market's higher than I've ever seen it, and I've been here 40 years.”