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HMH Farms adding Jamgoat burgers to line-up

HMH Farms Limited is testing a new line of goat meat burgers, a first of its kind commercial product that aims to leverage Jamaicans’ love of mutton, which is traditionally consumed as a curried dish.

The company, which trades in goat meat and chicken eggs from its base in Bushy Park, St Catherine, travelled to the annual Denbigh agricultural show last weekend to showcase the product and gin up consumer interest in an early test of its receptivity.

The farm’s Jamgoat burger meat initiative aligns with new trends in mutton preparation within the food industry, which is now utilised to make patties, a savoury meat-based pastry that has traditionally incorporated mainly beef and chicken as the primary ingredients.

HMH Farms is jointly owned by mother and son Hazel Henry and Hjort Henry, who started the operation over four years ago, targeting a market which their research showed was worth “well over $2 billion in annual sales,” the son said, without disclosing the company’s own sales performance.

The partners have poured $24 million into the business, which Henry describes as a medium-sized meat and egg operation, and their share of the goat meat market is currently less than 1.5 per cent, he added.

Agro-Investment Corporation, which researches and promotes agri-business, estimates that only 15 per cent of mutton consumption in Jamaica is served by local producers of the meat.

Jamaica’s current chevon and mutton demand is largely satisfied by Australia and New Zealand. In total, Jamaica imported US$10.6 million worth of goat meat and chevron in 2021, down slightly from US$11 million in 2020, data from Statin shows.

To directly substitute these imports, herd sizes need to increase by 250,000 ewes and 30,000 does, Agri-Invest has said.

As such, the state-run agency has issued a call to investors for its Small Ruminant Agro-Park, which it said it will provide investors with a sharing economy including security to help mitigate against praedial larceny, quality management systems and facilitation of movement along the value chain, inclusive of slaughtering, processing and marketing.

However, there are other investors, such as HMH Farms which are already looking at product innovations on their own.

The farm which employs five produces tabletop eggs, supplied mainly to bakeries and hotels, and graded Boer goats, which are sold to farmers to improve the genetics of the goats on their farms. Goat meat is also sold to consumers, restaurants, and wholesale establishments.

The farm sits on four acres of land and includes housing and production capacity for 150 breeding females and 300 kids, 2000 layer birds, 600 broiler birds, a slaughterhouse, a 525-square foot agro-processing facility, and a main building housing the offices.

HMH Farms target market comprises “mom and pop wholesales, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, direct to consumers, party promoters, round robins, and organisers of nine nights”.

Hjort Henry, who left a career in insurance to run the farm, said that in the last three years, the company’s margins have been growing at 10 to 15 per cent annually. Now he hopes to build on that adding frozen goat meat burgers as a new business line.

“The concept of the Jamgoat burger was to bring value added to the consumer and to introduce a healthier burger option to the more health-conscious fast-food lover, as goat meat is the healthier red meat,” said Henry.

“Regarding the burger venture, we’re still in the development stages and haven’t finalised all the costs yet. We did a soft introduction at Denbigh to gather feedback from a wider range of people, and we’re carefully considering all aspects before moving forward,” he said.

As to the level of sales that such a product could garner, Henry said those types of estimates were dependent on marketing efforts and market response, and the level of investment the company opts to make once its tests are over.

The level of investment to be made is also a work in progress, but one of the considerations will be cold storage capacity.

“While we are unable to provide an exact figure at this moment, we are committed to ensuring a competitive investment that aligns with the value and potential of the product,” said the farmer. “At this time, we are not able to provide specific details about the distribution strategy. It being meat, it will have to be frozen,” the farm operator said.

Agro-Invest says ruminants tend to thrive best in Jamaica’s southern parishes, including the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth that “have natural pastures suitable for grazing”. Those parishes fall in the county of Middlesex where Agro-Invest intends to develop small ruminant agro-parks utilising lands previously mined for bauxite.

Commercial small ruminant investment requires an estimated initial capital outlay of $4.5 million, the agency said.

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