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Muscle to Bone Ratio Considerations

You will not be able to go to a goat show or a production sale where you will not hear the judge or announcer talk about how large the bone is in some of the animals legs and how great that is. You will hear the judges justify many of the winning animals because of their big bone in the legs.  If asked they will tell you that is so the animal can survive and will be able to move around in the pasture eating. The problem is those big boned animals are not able to move around any better than animals with moderate bone in the legs. The Boer standards call for strong legs not big bones. The best test of the hardiness of moderate bone size in the legs is Nature. Look at pictures of deer, wild hogs, mountain goats, buffalo and so on. none of them have large, heavy bone compared to their body. Larger size bone also slows an animal down. Animals that have to survive in the wild, do not have large leg bone and they have no problems staying healthy and alive with moderate size strong bone.

In the commercial meat goat industry, the ratio of muscle to bone is very important and directly affects the price and value of an animal. The bigger the bone, the larger the percentages of the carcass weight made up of bone and the lower the price/value. The moderate size bone allows more of the carcass weight to be usable  meat instead of useless bone making it bring a higher price. The goal is to increase the muscle to bone ratio, not produce more bone. The push for larger bone in the Boers totally comes from the show ring and that is certainly not what is needed in the real world.

Reference: "Boer Influence on the Meat Goat Industry -  Fad or Future?"
Florida Goat Production Conference
June 14, 1997
Gainsville, Texas
Dr. Rick Machen

Muscle/Body mass - “This may be the single most significant contribution in making the Boer the premier breed of meat goat. The Boer is moderate in frame size but heavier muscled, wider through the chest, deeper sided and more correct on its feet and legs compared to most domestic goats. An increase in muscling will be reflected in higher dressing percentages, higher lean to bone ratios and a more attractive product in the meat case. Improvements in muscling and carcass conformation could result in additional fabrication and retail marketing strategies for goat meat.”

Proposed Meat Goat Grade Standards


Slaughter kids having minimum requirements for the Prime grade will exhibit superior meat type conformation and possess a high degree of finish. Prime slaughter kids are smooth over the top and the backbone is well covered and smooth when the hand is pressed down on the back. Prime grade kids will have the appearance of being thickly muscled throughout the body and particularly well muscled in the rear legs and loin. Prime kids shall be at least moderately wide over the back, loin, and rump. Shoulders and hips should be smooth in appearance. The overall appearance of Prime slaughter kids shall be one of very good overall health and give indication of a very high level of nutrition.


Slaughter kids meeting the minimum requirements for the choice grade will exhibit at least average meat type conformation. Choice kids will possess a moderate amount of finish over the ribs, back and loin. Choice kids when handled will express at least average muscling in the leg and loin. They should also express at least some development of the brisket. When handled the backbone of choice kids will be only moderately prominent to the touch. The overall appearance of Choice slaughter kids shall be one of good overall health and give indication of an adequate level of nutrition. Choice slaughter kids will have a muscling score of at least slightly thick throughout their body. They will express average or better width through the loin, back and rump. The shoulder and hip will be moderately smooth.


Slaughter kids meeting the standards for the Good grade will have meat type conformation that will be less than average. The muscling present in Good grade kids will be typical of slightly thin muscling patterns. Good grade kids are relatively narrow in relation to body length and height and somewhat narrow over the back, loin, and rump. Good grade goats will have little or no detectable fat cover and very little or no development in the brisket. When handled Good grade kids have prominent ribs and backbone indicating little or no fat cover. The loin and back will be more angular and the leg will be less than average in conformation. Good grade kids will be healthy in appearance and have the potential to reach the choice grade before breaking yearling teeth.


Slaughter kids failing to meet them the minimum standards for the Good grade will be graded Utility. Utility kids will exhibit symptoms of poor management including lack of adequate nutrition, lack of parasite control or poor genetics. Utility kids are very thin fleshed with a hair coat that is rough and dull in appearance

Edible Product to Bone Ratios

The edible product to bone ratio is important because a higher ratio signifies more meat for the processor and consumer. As the meat goat industry progress, a superior product, e.g. high edible product to bone ratio, should fetch a premium. Therefore, if a grade is associated with a higher ratio then that should translate into greater returns for the producer. Although bone is part of the carcass and sold to the consumer, it is not edible. The consumer wants more edible product, i.e. meat, for its consumer dollar. Overall, Prime animals had a edible product to bone ratio of 3.63, this means that for every pound of bone there was 3.63 pounds of meat produced. At the other end of the grading scale, Utility animals produced 2.33 pounds of meat for every pound of bone. That is a 1.3 pounds of meat difference between the Prime and Utility animals.

Overall, Prime animals had a significantly higher ratio than did Choice animals, which was significantly higher than Good animals, which was significantly higher than Utility animals.


Meat goat grade standards are feasible and have merit for the industry. These standards could insure a standardized product for every link of the marketing chain from producers to consumers. Producers would be able compare their animals with the grade standards, enabling them to modify their management system to meet market demands. Consumers would be able to purchase a product with less waste for their consumer dollar. Traders and packers would be able to process a product that is oriented towards efficient marketing.


This project supported by grant #12-25-G-0113 from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.