August 15, 2003
By Melissa Reese
The Cumberland Plateau has a rich history of hard working folk etching out a living against a beautiful, yet hard environment; farming their land while nourishing and strengthening their bodies with the fruits of their labor. Good food or vittles was as important part of their daily lives. Mountain Vittles, Inc. is being established with these same principles in mind.
More than a decade ago, Ruble C. Conaster, Jr., began raising goats on 86 acres in Jamestown, Tenn., under the herd name, Mountain Goat Ranch. He says his focus to produce a herd of goats with production genetics has been very successful. The Mountain Goat Ranch herd consists primarily of Kiko goats that are able to kid and put meat on the hoof with very little input from the rancher. He has sold breeding stock across the United States and Canada.
?I became interested in goats initially for brush and land clearing while raising cattle. As time went along, I realized more clear profit from the goats than the cattle,? Conasster said. ?Having studied and raised different domesticated ruminants, it is my belief that no other animal has given more to mankind than the goat. Mankind?s relationship with the goat dates back to prehistoric times.?
Beginning his operation at a time when raising goats wasn?t popular, Conaster said he has aggressively promoted the goat meat industry, serving as the secretary and then as president of the American Kiko Goat Association and on the board of the Tennessee Goat Producers Association, Inc.
?With goat meat production the most rapidly growing segment of agriculture, one area that wasn?t being addressed was the promotion of goat meat products to the American consumer,? he said. ?Goat meat has been ?the Old World meat? and has sustained mankind for centuries, with the largest consumers of goat meat in the United States being the ethnic population. The ?Old World meat? is the new red meat for health conscious consumers of the new millennium.?
With foresight and a vision, Conaster began to formulate a plan that would provide the increasing number of goat producers with an outlet for their product and introduce goat meat to the average American consumer in a widely accepted form.
Mountain Vittles Inc. is the next evolutionary phase for Mountain Goat Ranch, according to Conaster. Mountain Vittle, Inc. began leading the industry in the introduction of goat meat, in July 2002, introducing three styles that are preferred by the American consumer: goat steaks, ground goat meat and ground goat patties.
While researching funding options to complete a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility for the production of goat meat value-added products, Conaster said he learned of the National Livestock Producers Association (NLPA) Sheep & Goat Fund. Melissa Reese, administrative support for Mountain Vittles, Inc., created a business plan that requested NLPA to consider Mountain Vittles, Inc. as a potential candidate for funding. NLPA approved a loan to Mountain Vittles, Inc. in December 2002 for the construction of a facility to produce value-added goat meat products. Construction of the facility is scheduled for completion this summer.
?Mountain Vittles, Inc. is proud to be chosen by NLPA as we continue to promote the growing goat meat industry and advance the public?s knowledge to the health benefits of goat meat,? Conaster said. ?Mountain Vittles, Inc. was established to meet the growing demand for goat meat through the wholesale and retail sale of goat meat and value-added goat meat products.
?Once operational, Mountain Vittles, Inc will initially focus on producing our HORNY GOAT JERKY?, the latest product in our quest to introduce the American consumer to the health benefits of goat meat,? Conaster said. ?HORNY GOAT JERKY is a unique blend of herbs and spices designed to appeal to the young and young at heart. HORNY GOAT JERKY will initially be marketed to convenience stores, health food stores and will be available online through our Web site http://.www.mountainmeatgoats.com