State-of-the-Art Operation is Focused on a Growing New Market
Some folks might think Daniel Hussey and his son, Wade, have gone out on a limb with the lamb. However, the Husseys think they are on to something.
The father-son duo are in the process of opening a goat and sheep processing plant in Wicksburg in South Alabama. Already the D&W Processing —- Goats, Sheep, Deer sign has motorists slowing down and doing a double-take.
"Yeah, it’s kind of new in this area but we think there’s a growing market for both goat and sheep meat," Dan said. "There’s already a pretty good market for goat around here. Lamb is popular in some of the bigger cities and some of the more upscale restaurants. We believe that we’re making a good investment in the goat and sheep processing plant. Of course, we’ll process deer, too, and deer meat is popular all around this area. It’s a good red meat and healthy, too."
But it was not an interest in deer processing that brought close to 100 producers to Wicksburg on March 23, 2009. Those who came were goat and sheep producers, and they came to find out more about a ready market for their animals.
D&W Processing hosted an open house at their processing plant to give producers an opportunity to tour the plant and see first-hand the state-of-the-art facility available to them once the Husseys get the USDA stamp of approval.
"This was not a grand opening," Dan said. "We’ll have that when we get the stamp. What we wanted to do at the meeting was get information out to producers of goats and sheep, and those who are interested in getting into the business. We wanted to let them know what our plans are and how having a processing plant in our area can benefit them."
After a supper of goat and deer meat, and all the trimmings, the producers settled down to hear a parade of speakers who lauded the merits of goat and sheep meat.
Among the speakers was Wade Hussey who explained to the producers D&W will purchase market lambs and goats live-weight by the pound.
"We’ll work closely with the producers to make sure this is a win-win situation for all of us," Wade said. "We are interested in buying top-quality animals because we want the meat shipped out of D&W Processing to be the best you can get."
Wade told the producers a quality animal means it has good muscle. A sheep has more muscle than a goat, therefore it has a better turnout.
"A 100-pound sheep will turn out about 50 percent hanging on the rail," he said. "A 100-pound goat will hang at about 35 to 37 percent."
Wade was not suggesting producers favor sheep over goats. He was just explaining the difference in the percentage of turnout.
"Right now, there’s a better market around here for goats," Dan said. "But some local markets are showing interest in lamb and so are some of the restaurants. We’ve got to first get state approval for our processing plant and then, we’ll work to get federally approved. Then we can cross state lines with our meat and that will open up markets in places like Atlanta and all around Florida. And, of course, other places, too."
The main benefit of locally-grown lamb and goat is that it will go to the market fresh, not frozen.
"Meats brought in from places like New Zealand have been frozen for no telling how long," Dan Hussey said. "The meat we process will be fresh and fresh meat is a better quality meat and has a much better taste. There’s a lot to be said about fresh goat and lamb."
A strong organization of goat and sheep producers is essential to the success of any processing plant and the Husseys want to make sure local producers have that opportunity.
"At first, we thought the best way to organize would be as a co-operative but, after looking at it from all angles, it seems an association will be better for us," Dan said. "There’s a lot of difference in the amount of paperwork necessary and an association allows us to buy from members of the association and for the members to have the first chance to sell to us. When our processing plant receives an order, we can send out an e-mail to the members of the association saying how many animals we need. If members of the association can’t supply the number we need, only then would we go outside of the association to buy."
D&W Processing is awaiting the green light from the state and, when it gets the go-ahead, they will begin the custom slaughtering of lambs "right off the bat."
"We’re ready to go and we are looking forward to getting into a business that will be beneficial to goat and sheep producers in our area, and also an encouragement to others to consider becoming producers," Dan said.
"The market will grow because goat meat is already in demand and lamb will be a meat of the future. Right now, it’s more popular in the northern section of the country and in up-scale restaurants but as more of it is produced, it will be more readily available and at more affordable prices.
"We’re just proud to be in on the ground floor of lamb and goat processing in South Alabama."
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.