I’m onboard the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s new luxury cruise ship, sailing from Sicily to Sardinia in the western Mediterranean.
One of the afternoon offerings onboard is a meat seminar featuring Wolfgang Otto, one of three German brothers who recognized a need in Germany and decided to fill it: supplying Germany’s finest Michelin-rated restaurants with top-quality beef and pork.
Otto admitted to me and the other baby boomers onboard that just eight years ago he knew very little about meat, yet today his family’s company, Otto Gourmet, is regarded as the top beef and pork purveyor in Germany. Kobe cattle and Iberico pig are two of the products they distribute to both top restaurants and private customers.
For enlightenment on the subject, he and his brothers first turned to a Nebraska rancher, Dan Morgan, who taught them the finer points of how to raise prime beef.
How did they find him? The answer is instructive. They called three ranchers and only one of the three, Morgan, answered the phone. He got the Otto brothers’ business, and now has become a “rock star” in the German meat market. It’s safe to say he’s made millions of dollars just because he answered the phone.
Next, they cold-called chefs in Germany and asked if they wanted to try some great new imported beef from the U.S. Most chefs jumped at the chance, liked it, and began ordering it for their restaurants.
Since then, Otto Gourmet has won numerous culinary awards for the beef and pork they’ve brought to Germany.
I can see why. In our meat tastings this afternoon, I had perhaps the most flavorful beef of my life, which was buttery tender enough to cut with a fork.
All the meat they sell is free range, fed with natural feeds and raised in close coordination with producers who practice sustainable, humane breeding.
The keys to producing premium beef, Otto explained, are good breeding, being raised in stress-free natural environments, and being slaughtered at the optimal age.
He now gives seminars and wins awards around the world – and remember, eight years ago was a total beginner. A timely idea, a good teacher (Dan Morgan), conscientious practices and smart marketing have made his business a huge success.