By Tamieka Preston
A passion to reconnect people with the origins of their food is the driving force behind Suzannah Moss-Wright’s ambitious venture, Mottainai Lamb.
After 6 years based in London and a successful career as an international trade lawyer, Suzannah and her husband Deon, a science teacher, felt they had ‘pretty much done the urban thing’.
“We wanted a more purposeful life I suppose,” she says. Having both grown up in rural environments they wanted the same for their children. Their journey to develop a sustainable, yet profitable agricultural business has led to the evolution of a unique product which seems likely to lift the bar for Australian Lamb.
Mottainai is a popular Japanese word with no English counterpart, and literally means: it’s a shame to waste something without truly knowing its value. It’s commonly used to encourage people to “reduce, reuse and recycle”. As it turned out, it was a perfect fit for what Mottainai Lamb does – turning agricultural waste into something valuable.
The brand was born when Suzannah formed a partnership with Nick Tana, owner of vegetable industry leader Sumich, and Wally Zorzi. It is estimated that one third of the world’s food is lost or wasted each year, with Sumich being no exception. Broken or misshapen carrots are rejected and become organic waste. The waste generated played on Suzannah’s mind. Nick agreed it made sense to use the waste – but how? The concept was simple. Use the waste – carrot tops, carrots and carrot pomace after juicing, olive oil pressings and olive pomace to feed lambs to a larger than average carcass.
“A lot of people think we just tip truckloads of carrots in the paddock – and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” explains Suzannah. It’s the science behind the product that is setting Mottainai Lamb in a class of its own.
“We’ve spent 3 years and $3 million worth of research and development to get this right,” she says.
The investment has paid off. When Mottainai Lamb was launched in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last month, chefs from international 5-star restaurants were more than impressed.
The melt-in-your-mouth lamb boasts depth of flavour and fat marbling normally associated with high quality beef. And Mottainai Lamb also has a unique health benefit – it is a good source of Omega -3 fatty acids essential for good health and brain function, which are normally found in fish, nuts and plant oils.
“We are the only red meat in the world who can claim to be a good source of omega 3. We have tested and proven our product consistently measures above 60mg per serve.”
“Hitting the market means consistency,” says Suzannah, who together with Deon has developed the feeding regime that will see the company reliably process 600 uniform lambs, all in the heavy weight range of 62-64kg, every week – all year round. An outcome unobtainable on a normal hay or seasonal grass diet.
The company has chosen to market their product direct to chefs and high-end restaurants through an exclusive distributor network, as well as selling per head rather than per kilo – something that has been a challenge for customers to understand.
“You can’t sacrifice a whole animal for 2 kilos of rack. You have to learn to use the whole animal and realize the value of secondary cuts,” says Suzannah. It goes back to the Mottainai philosophy – the shame of being wasteful.
“Our biggest challenge is educating the chefs to use different cuts.” In our protein hungry world it seems obvious, but it takes time to change old habits for the better.
“A rising tide lifts all ships,” quotes Suzannah. And it certainly does seem that this innovative product has the potential to lift the lamb industry to a higher level. A wonderful prospect.
The good news is that Mottainai Lamb will soon be available at Kalamunda and Claremont farmer’s markets. Suzannah explains, “We are keen to ensure local West Australians have the same opportunity to enjoy Mottainai Lamb as customers at the most exclusive restaurants in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. If you want to experience Mottainai Lamb at its best Chef Stephen Clarke at Clarke’s of North Beach is exceptional at demonstrating why Mottainai Lamb truly is the best tasting lamb meat in the world”.