Funded by a grant from the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), the Northcoast Lamb Co-op is a group of urban and rural farmers whose propose to not only distribute and market lamb at a profit but assists members in producing the required high quality, consistent lamb demanded by a more discriminating marketplace. In order to better meet the needs of the marketplace, the co-op will provide educational and technical programming specifically focusing on the required muscle quality attributes necessary to produce a higher quality product. To accomplish this goal, the co-op plans to acquire and develop the necessary technological means to conduct carcass ultrasound of lamb crops for improved market acceptance. The coop will establish a program to educate producers on the proper flock management, also addressing the environmental, nutritional, and genetic factors that contribute to muscle quality deficiencies.
The goal of the Co-op is to provide quality lamb to local restaurants and groceries for human consumption. Any producer can join and share in the profit from direct marketing. The Co-op will be recruiting producers to participate in selling lamb locally instead of selling it at an auction house. The plan would be to work with a local butcher, processing lamb for restaurants and grocery stores. The role of the Co-Op would be to make sure all lambs have the same consistent quality. While Ohio is the largest sheep producing state west of the Mississippi, the average size of a sheep flock is 40 ewes so even if a producer were lambing at 200%, no one farm could produce the 500 lambs that most grocers or restaurants want. So the Co-op will assist members in identifying new strategies and methods to improve the quality of their flocks to help meet the rising demand for high value, quality lamb. To accomplish the goal of improving the quality of flocks, the Co-op will conduct carcass ultrasound of lamb crops for acceptance as well as for National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) equivalent breeding values (EBVs).
The expected outcome, will be better meat quality and marketing, leading to increased profitability and competitiveness for Ohio based producers. By implementing scanning, we expect that this procedure will reduce the excess fat and inconsistent quality which can damage the quality of the brand. As future urban shepherds are recruited and trained to run their own for profit operation, we hope they will take advantage of ultrasound to improve the overall quality of their flocks. Muscle loin eye will be one of the criteria for selling lamb through the co-op
The future site of this co-op and the Northcoast Sheep Farm will be located in The Foundry Project, A Sustainable Farm in the City of Cleveland, creating jobs as well as providing a new opportunity for local inner city residents to become Urban Shepherds.