By Amy Conner
November 2004 -- A new, experimental lamb product hit supermarket shelves this spring in Utah. Selling more than 18,000 packages in three months, King?s Peak Lamb Medallions, named after the highest peak in Utah, are considered a success.
Searching for ways to add more value to lamb meat, the Utah Wool Growers Association (UWGA) received a rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do just that. The USDA grant, along with donations from UWGA and KSL, the NBC television affiliate in Salt Lake City, came to a total of $800,000 to go toward the development of a new lamb product and the advertising used to promote it.
The UWGA partnered with the meat research lab at Utah State University (USU) to develop the four-ounce, boneless lamb medallion.
?The medallion is very similar to a whole muscle lamb chop,? says Dick Whittier, meat research lab manager in the Utah State Food Science Department. ?The technology is to take the small pieces of lamb that cannot make a chop or a roast and utilize them to create the medallion.?
The small meat pieces are sectioned, shaped and formed through the use of naturally occurring enzymes and proteins, much like in the production of ham. The medallion is then injected with moisture by a USU-patented air injector to enhance its flavor.
?Every piece of meat is exactly the same ? they are always juicy and tender,? says Whittier. ?There is a lot of variation in meat, but you don?t get the variations in these lamb medallions because they are engineered to be the same.?
And unlike the lamb chop, the entire product is edible -- there is no waste.
To help promote this new product, UWGA teamed with KSL and Agri Solutions to create both radio and television advertisements airing in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. The advertising focuses on the aspect that the lamb has been born and raised in Utah, as well as being manufactured there also.
?It (the advertising) made a tremendous difference in the awareness of lamb in the state of Utah,? says Clark Willis, UWGA state executive.
Willis mentioned that not only is this promotion benefiting the sale of King?s Peak Lamb Medallions, it?s also increasing the sale of lamb at meat counters in Associate Food stores, the retail outlet for King?s Peak Lamb Medallions, across the state.
It is anticipated that by 2005, the lamb medallion will be produced in the private sector for better manufacturing cost efficiencies. Bridger Ranch, a division of Uni Foods, LC., in Logan, Utah, is the manufacturer, which has been selected to adopt the technology developed by USU to make the medallions an even more competitive product in the market because of lessened overhead costs.
?It?s a fantastic product and as people eat it they will become a believer in the product itself,? says Ed Watts, chief executive operator of Bridger Ranch. ?It?s easy to cook, it?s always consistent and it?s moist and tender.?
The next few months will be the true test of this product as UWGA hopes to see repeat sales.
?We are just in the very beginning stages right now, but I think this grant has been a wonderful success,? says Willis. ?We have made a good product and made people aware of lamb in the state of Utah.?