It’s here. The most important ingredient of a real Norwegian West Coast Christmas celebration arrived timely to our Washington DC apartment today: Pinnekjøtt. Cured lamb meat ready for cooking and the taste of Christmas Eve. Big thanks to Willy’s Products in Florida (!) for producing and shipping this delicacy in the US (with certain reservations… it remains to enjoy it the 24th:). Norwegian pinnekjøtt – made in the USA.
From an operations perspective it’s interesting to ask: Why and how would someone produce pinnekjøtt in The Sunshine State?
The chef Willy Hansen, originally from Harstad in Northern Norway, has since 1993 been “the leading Scandinavian food distributor and Norwegian Gourmet services of the United States of America” (www.willysproducts.com). I would probably guess that such a company would be situated in the colder midwest in Minnesota, Dakota, Iowa etc, but no: Willy’s Products is based in Florida… Knowing that Norway is one of the 11 countries on display at the Disney Epcot center i Orlando might give some explanation. I guess USA as a market for Norwegian food is so geographically scattered anyway that any location will go (Minnesota for example covers 2/3 of Norway’s total land area alone). You have to ship by mail in any case. For pinnekjøtt and stockfish this will not be a problem – but you (and USPS) will certainly run into problems trying to ship lutefisk (dried codfish prepared in a potash lye) or rakfisk (salted and fermented, i.e. decayed, trout) to the end-consumer market. On the other hand, the demand for these “gourmet products” is probably limited… Willy has put up a very good and reliable web shop with Scandinavian cheese, meat, canned goods, chocolate and candy. He even ships overnight if the products are perishable. With reasonable prices this is a great service for all with a taste for the Scandinavian.
If the downstream logistics – shipping by mail – is not a restrictive factor (we received the pinnekjøtt efficiently a week after ordering), than the upstream logistics should be a factor to consider when choosing location. Most of the products are naturally imported from Scandinavia, which give preference to a location close to a shipping port – though, the extra miles shipping within US does probably not cost many bucks. Access to fresh fish and lamb becomes the next concern. Again, the USA is an enormous country and several places will provide you with good quality fish and meat. According to the American Sheep Industry Association, there are in fact 5,53 million sheep in the USA in 2011 (to put that in perspective; it is 600 thousand more sheep in the US than there are people in Norway), and the production is fairly well distributed. However, Florida is among the bottom-ten sheep producing states, but I’m sure they have enough to satisfy the US demand for pinnekjøtt… The question is clearly not the accessibility, but the taste of meat… Does warm-weather Florida lamb resemble the unbeatable taste of Norwegian high-mountain grazing lamb? I’ll know in two weeks.
Willy has even made an introduction video to pinnekjøtt that you might enjoy (in my opinion he does everything right except for the tomato and salad on the side that definitely do not belong): http://www.willysproducts.com/video.html. God jul!