Joey and Michael Jurgielewicz recently sat down with The National Provisioner to discuss their family farm.
The Jurgielewicz brothers say they were raised on the JJS farm with their two other brothers, so they always knew they were going to be involved in the family business.
JJS’ largest customer is with the Asian trade, specifically in Chinese barbecue style, Michael says. “If you are walking through, say, New York City or Philadelphia Chinatown, the ones hanging in the windows of those barbecue shops, that's the most common product that we're selling the most of.”
JJS also sells different parts of the duck, like boneless duck breast and duck legs, Michael said.
The various industry complications like supply chain issues, COVID and inflation have affected many operations. Michael says that the COVID pandemic forced JJS to turn toward retail markets.
“But also it gave us the opportunity to really focus on the direct-to-consumer with our online store where we created some different consumer-friendly packaging, like just smaller packages instead of the bulk pack, where a customer in their house could go on our website, order … directly to the door,” Michael said. “So, it was a true farm-to-table experience we capitalized during that time.”
The isolation of the pandemic prompted consumers to get creative with their cooking, leading to a boost in the online store, Michael said. Looking at supply chain complications, Joey said that the cost of the supply chain is what really impacted their operation.
“One of our largest costs for raising the ducks is the feed and, as we know, commodity pricing has gone through,” Michael said. “So, that has affected our costs, and then some price increases we were forced to take throughout the past two years.”
HPAI has also affected JJS’ operation, particularly in May and June, but they are recovering from the effects of avian influenza, Michael said.
JJS is a sustainable practice, as Michael said that the company uses every part of the duck. “We sell every single part from the feathers for down blankets and pillows to different parts of the ducks like the inside, the intestines, and the gizzards, and everything for the pet food industry, the awful, we call it. And then the duck waste, the manure,” Michael said. “We are treating it, and spraying it on our local fields as fertilizers.”
Michael said their family farm has always been sustainable – sustainability is at the core of their operation.
“I think most farmers are naturally sustainable. They've been doing it forever,” Joey said. “So now it's just fun to see the value added of what we've always done.”
Aside from being sustainable and family-owned and –operated, Michael said JJS is also veterinarian-owned and -operated.
“So we have 24/7 veterinarian supervision and ownership, and so animal health and welfare is truly at the forefront of our operation,” Michael said. “We always say -- a happy duck is a tasty duck.”
Regarding the product itself, Joey said complete flavor is the differentiator for JJS.
“We kept it as the original breed that our great grandfather, grandfather had in New York,” Joey said. “And so, we still like to say, we have the perfect meat-to-fat ratio. So when you go to cook the duck, you get that really crispy skin. It's almost more of an armor on it so that the meat doesn't dry out. So it's really just that perfect flavor,” he adds.
Joey said that while JJS has different kinds of consumers, they are hoping to educate consumers who may be more apprehensive to trying duck.
“So, we are looking at new ways of having some, say, further processed items from precooked duck products, some pre-prepped duck products, we're looking at some dry-aged duck,” he said. “The main thing is just education to consumers of just how flavorful it is, how healthy it is for you, and just adding something different to your daily or weekly diet or menus.”
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