The Bezoar, Savannah and Nubian types of goat that were domesticated from their respective wild Bezoar, Markhor and Ibex ancestors are the predecessors of the 1183 breeds, populations and landraces in the world. More than 10,000 years of exposure to the forces of evolution and creative human activity have contributed towards a colossal amount of variability in morphological characteristics and production performance. Despite the available diversity, goats have not benefited from scientific achievements in quantitative genetics, nutrition and disease prevention to the same extent as other livestock and poultry species. This is because goats were often a neglected species, kept in developing countries by the poor and the landless at the end of the social scale. At the same time, goats were considered responsible for soil erosion due to controversy and ignorance ascribed to their destructive nature. Only in the last three decades has their role in alleviating poverty and sustaining food production by increasing household income gained recognition. In goats, the primary source of knowledge prior to the 1970s has been from their use as an experimental animal in biomedical research. A great deal of attention continues to be directed towards dairy and pashmina goats, often impeding efforts to allocate the resources necessary to develop meat goats. Researchers have provided irrefutable evidence to confirm that climate, terrain, breed (or population, or landrace), availability of feed and grazing land, diseases, culture, economic status of the producer and government policy, which vary from country to country and from region to region within a country, significantly influence the productivity of goats. Studies of breeds and their crosses under varying management schemes, although mostly from institutional herds, have identified breeds with the necessary potential to improve efficiency of meat-goat production. Estimates of heterosis demonstrate prospects for improving vigour, reproduction and the maternal ability of the dam, as well as survival, growth, uniformity of the carcass and meat quality of the kid. Crossbreeding of complementary breeds such as Alpine, Beetal, Boer, Damascus, Jamunapari, Nubian and Saanen with indigenous goats, as well as composite populations derived from the combination of two or more breeds, has improved the productivity of goats worldwide. Consumer acceptability of meat and meat products from crossbred animals has been well established. Genetic parameter estimates for reproduction, growth, meat quality and milk yield in goats assembled from numerous studies offer theoretical promise in direct selection for efficiency of meat production. Likewise, purebred selection has benefited from a greater proportion of additive genetic variance associated with economically important production traits. As additive genetic variance is exhausted, the role of direct selection for non-additive genetic covariance among crossbred offspring needs to be exploited. The breeding of populations with as broad a genetic base as possible is therefore critical in sustaining the genetic response to selection. Improvement in meat quality and production in goats can be accomplished with a comprehensive and technically sound assessment of important production traits that have sufficient flexibility to meet diverse environmental and managerial conditions in harmony with social, religious and cultural attributes. An integral and indispensable part of breeding strategies to maximize production efficiency in other domestic livestock and poultry has been the establishment of optimal breeding objectives along with the use of multi-trait mixed animal model methodology to obtain precise estimates of genetic parameters and the prediction of breeding values of the offspring and their parents. In practice, genetic improvement of meat goats can be accomplished by a simple procedure that involves the identification, measurement, recording, selection criteria based on realistic economic values, estimation of genetic parameters and prediction of breeding values intended for pertinent morphological characteristics and production performance. In the future, novel technology based on molecular markers associated with economically important morphological characteristics and production performance could be integrated into genetic improvement of productivity in meat goats.