Memories of a good home cooked meal…. Mom’s in the kitchen…Dad’s snatching tidbits when Mom’s back is turned….wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen. As the family joins together for dinner, the table is laden with scrumptious food, and Mom brings the crowning jewel to the table… a beautiful golden brown goose, roasted to perfection.
Are you wondering where you’d find a goose today to enjoy any time? Did you know that 85-90 percent of the geese on the American market come from Schiltz Foods in Sisseton, South Dakota – a family business that grew from 5 geese in 1944 to over 200,000 birds today. Brothers Richard and Jim Schiltz took over for their dad, Marlin, several years ago and oversee everything from production to marketing and beyond.
In the 60+ years that Schiltz Foods has been in business, the company has had its ups and downs, but the “down” in 2007 nearly spelled the end of the line for this company. In 2005, South Dakota Dept of Environment and Natural Resources (SD DENR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated that the goose production farm meet Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operation (CAFO) requirements by installing a holding pond for the wastes. However, the excavation loosed a deadly threat – fowl cholera. The company lost 20 percent of its geese in 2005, 22percent in 2006, and a whopping 40 percent in 2007, for a combined loss of nearly $2 million!
The owners realized they needed to make a change to their production method, but they needed to buy more land to do it. But, due to losses the last 3 years, their bank refused to advance any funds. Without making the changes, the company would continue its decline, so Richard & Jim met with George Sinner of American Federal Bank in Fargo, North Dakota.
Mr. Sinner was impressed with the expertise and knowledge of the Schiltz Brothers and after careful review, he was convinced that the company could be turned around. A $1.5 million loan was approved– with a USDA Rural Development Business and Industry guarantee- and a Goose Farm Small Business Administration loan was approved for $2 million; Schiltz Foods was able to make the improvements in production, which would prevent another disease problem like this. The change in production methods has resulted in the majority of the birds being drug-free for the last 3 years, and a company record 5 percent death loss last year.
The company now is in full processing production. One hundred and fifty employees process 6,000 to 7,000 birds each day at this USDA inspected plant. They’re expanding their product offerings by selling smoked goose breast, whole smoked geese (ready for the table in 90 minutes), and even goose eggs.
Jim believes Schiltz Foods is positioned for the 21st Century. “We have added a fully cooked whole smoked goose to our product line as well as smoked goose breast. The whole smoked goose provides ‘fast’ without sacrificing flavor and the exquisiteness of goose, it received the 2012 Tasty Award for Poultry category and was presented as a gift idea from South Dakota in a December episode of the Today Show.”
To find out how USDA Rural Development can assist your rural business, click here.