November 15, 2003
By Wendy Jenkins
Nov. 2003 -- Lamb sales are up for Dakota Lamb Growers Cooperative (DLGC) members, who plan on expanding in order to provide even more high-quality lamb.
Incorporated in April 1999, the co-op currently has 184 members from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota. The goal of the co-op is to produce natural premium lamb products ? and provide consumers with a consistent product.
?Consumers want safety, a good eating experience and they want to know where their food comes from,? says Dave Merwin, who has served as DLGC CEO since the co-op?s inception. ?They want convenience of preparation, a steady supply of meat and they want consistency.?
? is the co-op?s trademarked name for lamb that meets quality and consistency criteria. To produce this high-quality meat, all animals are grain fed and bred with specific genetic characteristics. Dakota Lamb members raise a source-verified product, tagging each lamb at birth to ensure that each lamb can be traced through processing. The lambs are raised hormone- and antibiotic-free, and are processed at a kosher plant in Bridgewater, S.D.
Lamb sold under the DLGC label is distributed through upscale retail stores in the eastern United States and is also available to consumers at many upscale restaurants. To meet the demand of online consumers, frozen Dakota Lamb products may also be purchased online at www.chicagoprimecuts.com
Filling a niche market was the co-op?s plan ? and it seems to be succeeding. Initial market analysis indicated that the lamb industry was not focused on consumers? needs. The co-op members jumped on the opportunity by offering the value-added lamb products desired by consumers. Along with choice-cut lamb, the co-op also markets ground lamb, lamb sausage and bratwurst and is shifting from a seasonal to a year-round marketing strategy.
The DLGC members are changing the way they do business to better compete in a corporate world.
?We are an industry steeped in tradition,? says Merwin. ?We must break out of tradition to survive, and to do that, we must change the way we do business.?
The DLGC co-op members are doing just that through their ownership of a company that produces the products consumers want, from start to finish. The co-op processes 20,000 lambs annually and has experienced some of the highest prices ever.
?We?ve had about an 80-percent increase in sales over the last eight months,? says Merwin.
This is encouraging news for the co-op?s 184 members, who are hoping to increase their profits by increasing the number of lambs they commit to the GLGC cooperative.