Farmers’ markets Kitzans utilize most of their lamb through direct marketing business
Published on Jan. 18, 2020
With the evolution of bigger and better grills, more people than ever are cooking outside. For the Kitzan family of Nisland, S.D., it means more sales for their direct marketing lamb business.
“The Traeger grill is the best thing that ever came out,” according to Gwendolyn Kitzan. “When a gentleman comes up and wants some chops, we look through our freezer and pull out the biggest package of chops we can find. They don’t care about the price, they just want a big package of lamb chops to put on the grill.”
Kitzan Family Farms started their direct marketing business at a weekend farmers’ market a few years ago, after realizing many Americans want to buy lamb, but don’t know where to find it. They chose an urban location in Rapid City, S.D. where there are doctors, lawyers and more urban consumers looking for fresh lamb. The key has been consistency.
“Customers expect us to come every week no matter what the weather is doing, and in the same spot. We also have to be able to take credit cards,” she explains.
Direct marketing has opened up other opportunities for the family as the public takes more interest in what they do.
“We just gave our first farm tour,” she says. “We fed 110 Texans a lamb luncheon at the Fire Hall.”
Kitzan has also found providing a consistent product has been key to building the business. All of their meat is processed at a USDA-inspected plant. The first year, they sold traditional products like leg of lamb, chops, shoulder roast, round and shanks.
“Then, all of a sudden, we had people coming up asking if we had any lamb chislic,” she says.
Lamb chislic is red cubed meat that is deep fried, salted and served with beer. It is a dish that originated in eastern South Dakota as a bar food. People come from all over the country to eastern South Dakota to try it, she says.
When they started selling ground lamb and chislic, they had to get more conscious about package size because most housewives were looking for one-pound packages.
From there, customers requested even more cuts. Thanks to the art of barbecue, they had customer requests for ribs and briskets or lamb roll.
“The brisket or lamb roll is one of our favorite cuts. It is very rich and very satisfying. We bake it on cast iron on a bed of onions. It is incredible with just salt and pepper for flavoring,” Kitzan explains.
Other products like the lamb neck, which can be cooked in a slow cooker or InstaPot, flies off the shelves.
“Some people like it for a broth, but others will use the meat for fajitas, stroganoff and in stews. We used to cut the meat off the neck and just put it into grind, but now it has value,” she explains.
Internal organs, like the kidneys, are in demand for dishes like kidney pie, which is popular amongst the British, Kitzan says.
“We even have a standing order for lamb fries,” she adds.
One item that has been a surprise is the request for lamb bones.
“I was doing some research, and it is a big trend in places like New York City, where they are drinking bone broth for health reasons. So, we decided to start selling bones in five-pound packages,” she says.
She continues, “I can’t keep enough of them on hand. But, for every bag of lamb bones that are sold for bone broth, four bags are purchased for rescue dogs.”
One of her newest products is a cured smoked lamb, which is ready to eat. The lamb shoulder is deboned, rolled and cured like ham. It can be sliced and eaten either cold or hot, she says.
“It just flies off the shelf because it is a ready to eat product. We sell it in one-pound packages for about $16.25. We have taken that shoulder and added a huge value to it,” she explains.
They also make use of the pelts, which are salted, dried, tanned and sold through their direct marketing business. Other products, like wool balls, soaps, lip balms and lotions are also marketed there.
“What the public doesn’t realize is these are things grandma has done forever, we are just taking these products to the farmers’ market instead of the country store,” she says.
Visit kitzanfamilyfarms.com for more information.
Gayle Smith is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.