Sunday, July 25, 2010

Product Testing

When we introduce a new product or new cut of meat, we like to try it ourselves before offering it to our customers.  We think it's important to be able to give customers an idea about a product's quality and flavor before we ask them to spend money on it.

Usually, we have a great deal of confidence - we know our lamb is outstanding, for example, so we're comfortable recommending a new cut of lamb (like leg steaks or loin roasts).  This week, however, we introduced something a little different - mutton sausage, mutton tenderloin and rack of mutton.

Most people, including many of our customers, have a negative perception of mutton - it's perceived as being greasy and strong flavored.  While we've been marketing mutton as pet food (which some of our customers have used to make stew), this is the first time we've specifically marketed mutton products for people to consume.  I'll admit I was a little nervous about it.

My trepidation was somewhat alleviated when I arrived at Wolfpack Meats in Reno to pick up our products. Mike Holcomb of Wolfpack was just finishing making our link sausage - we tried Basque chorizo and Italian sausage this time.  The fresh sausage smelled and looked wonderful - no gamy odor and enough fat to be juicy but not so much as to overwhelm the sausage.  Still, I wondered if I'd like mutton sausage well enough to recommend it to our customers.

After I returned home I lit our barbecue and grilled a package of each variety.  I served the sausages to our product testers (better known as my family) - they loved them!  The flavor of both varieties was outstanding, and they were juicy without being greasy.  I couldn't wait to offer them to our customers!  While we have yet to cook the racks or tenderloins for ourselves, our experience with the sausage gave me confidence about these products as well.

Finding a way to add value to our sheep that cannot be considered lamb (in this country, any sheep older than 12 months has to be sold as mutton) is a critical step for us.  It will allow us to market an additional line of products at a profitable level, making our entire business more sustainable in the process.  I'm excited about further experimentation!

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