Bill Fosher wrote: It's no good building demand for a product you can't supply profitably and sustainably.
Love the discussion, more observations.
I took over an old established business and structured it to be profitable at the lowest points of market cycles, and economy, and so profitable at the high points that I could expand or improve. This is done with low-input medium out-put. The genetics that were used before me were developed when wool was worth $1.50 per lb.(at 1940's-50's dollars) and lambs were worth $5.00 per head! As wool went steadily down and lamb went steadily up I moved to genetics that addressed this, but with a careful eye on traits that balanced lamb survival to slaughter, and consumer approval. If we are going to profitably produce lamb crops from such varied climates as are found in the North America then genetics will be varied. This effects product consistency if it is all just dumped in together so it must be channeled appropriately. But as simplistic as it may sound, we have to have profit to stay in business long term.
I know what Bill is talking about. I still have a 1973 brochure the universities put out called "The Production and Marketing of Sheep in New England." In a nutshell it says: get your sheep out of the pastures and into confinement. Being an island unit it had no application here so we stayed with the same management system but added a mainland component for better finishing. Everyone I know that followed the advice of the best and brightest is now out of business or back on grass. [Not knocking college education or universities, we have some really enlightened people on here that come from that perspective, it was just the advice at the time I think from some who had never raised a sheep themselves.]
The direct market customers we have never cease to amaze me on how they don't care what the price is. They are by and large Lamb lovers
. My wife is in charge of marketing. She raised her price .50c per lb this year, and not one person complained, or refused to buy. She said that most of the people that buy lambs from her don't even know what the price per lb. is. They just ask how much the total is and make out the check. The only time they start to squawk some is if we start to get up much over 50 lb carcass weights. I want to make more lamb lovers. We have been helped most by word of mouth from friend to friend, cooking shows that feature lamb, restaurants that feature a lamb dish, local buying clubs, and somewhat from advertising. We bend to accommodate this even when it is a pain in the neck sometimes because it pays. You might get one shot at hooking a customer for life so the product better be good.
I watch the grocery store meat case and talk to the meat department manager. There is a different type of consumer than ours here sometimes that does shop by price. When it was all US lamb with pork chop sized lamb chops they would often end up throwing out product. Now that OZ or NZ lamb is offered with smaller cuts they seem to sell better. Some of it appears to be tied to the pricing of the package more than price per lb. Many people don't consume that much meat anymore and when they do it is in smaller quantities. People would prefer an American product over the import but the fact that it was shipped around the world doesn't stop them from buying it.
Don't know if any of this anecdotal info makes any sense, but I am getting a lot out of hearing people's thoughts from around the country and down under so here it is from this region. I so want to see the national industry expand and stay viable. I'm glad we have people (such as those on this forum) who are truly experienced in the various sectors and hopefully selfless enough to want to see this also.