Moreno Meats caters to customers from African countries who are looking for specific lamb, sheep and goats
February 1, 2019
Moreno Meats in Strasburg, Colo., isn't a typical farm to fork operation but it's one that serves its ethnic clients completely through word of mouth.
Alex Moreno spoke at the Colorado Farm Show about his family's operation that has been in business since 2012.
Serving 80 percent Ethiopian customers, Moreno sources lambs, sheep, and goats from Centennial Livestock Auction in Fort Collins, Colo., and houses them at their home and business. Customers visit the operation, select the animal they would like, and Moreno and his staff slaughter the animal, process it to the customer's specifications, and send nearly the entire animal home with the customer. Moreno's customers primarily reside in Denver and Aurora and also include people from Kenya, Sudan, Nepal, Jamaica and other African countries.
The facility meets U.S. Department of Agriculture standards and is attached to the outside "shop" by an alley to bring stock onto the kill floor. Moreno's corrals are stocked with various breeds of sheep and goats. Moreno said he has considered sourcing from local producers but continues buying at CLA as it is a large and consistent sheep and goat market, offering multiple breeds, genders and ages.
Unlike many traditional American customers, most of Moreno's customers want the meat cut into stew cuts and left on the bone, he said, and they take the head, organs and bones. Moreno said his Orthodox Christian customers, much of the Ethiopian community, are comfortable with him as he is Catholic. His Muslim customers often bring someone to say the prayer over the animal prior to harvest and tend to slaughter their own animal according to Halal standards.
Moreno and his staff are able to process about 20 head per day though he said the price negotiation tends to be the most time consuming portion of the process. Carcasses are not hung or chilled on site.
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Moreno sells his stock by the head and said customers from different ethnic groups have different preferences for breeds, weights and ages of animals. The majority of customers, given the high percentage of Ethiopians, prefer sheep over a year of age. His customers from Nepal only eat wether goats, whereas Jamaican customers prefer intact male goats. Larger framed Boer goats are popular. The customers from Nepal, he said, prefer goats weighing at least 150 pounds.
Holidays, he said, are important to the ethnic market and anticipating those holidays, many of which appear on a different calendar, is key to satisfied customers. For Orthodox Christian customers, Easter (celebrated later than in the U.S.), Christmas (celebrated in January), and New Year, (celebrated in September) are holidays that call for lambs, sheep, and goats. The Muslim customers celebrate Eid, a three-day celebration in September, and Ramadan, in July. Eid customers, he said, prefer yearling rams with an undocked tail and no ear tags.
Moreno suggests producers hoping to capitalize on the ethnic market know their holiday dates, produce to those preferences, and market their stock two to three weeks prior to the holiday. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.