Louisville Company Hosts Exotic Meat Entrepreneur From Ecuador

Listen to the WFPL radio spot.

About a dozen chefs wearing white coats and white hair nets are gathered in the frigid red-floored production facility of Superior Meats on West Main Street in Louisville. The chefs are here on this weekday afternoon to learn methods on how to “take down” or cut up a lamb.

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org
Lamb “Take Down” At Superior Meats

Superior Meats supplies meat to restaurants, hotels and medical facilities. It is the last family-owned local meat supplier in Louisville. Company President Ben Robinson says they get their beef, bison, pork, poultry, wild game and other meats from many places.

“Everywhere — we source everywhere,” he says. “Everywhere from the commoditized beef out West to our local farmer in Bardstown.”

And Superior Meats is also sourcing its talent from afar. The company is currently involved in an exchange through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative sponsored by the State Department.

Entrepreneurs from all across Latin America are in Louisville as part of the program. The founders are hosted by small businesses and nonprofits in the city for the next few weeks.

The entrepreneur chosen to do his fellowship at Superior Meats is Jose Lema from Ecuador. At his home in Quito, Lema sells exotic meat to hotels and restaurants.

“I’m in the meat industry back in my country but I deal with different animal,” he tells the chefs. “I deal with guinea pigs.”

Guinea pig might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an ‘exotic meat’ in the U.S. But in Ecuador, this is nothing new.

“Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia share a culture because that’s where the Incan Empire was set up thousands of years ago,” Lema says. “Since we share all of these, guinea pig is eaten in these three countries.”

And to Lema, it does NOT taste like chicken.

“If you mix like a pork and a rabbit — it has a particular pork-ish flavor,” he says. “But you still can have these rabbit undertastes.”

Lema’s company is called Cuyempak and was founded in 2010. “Cuy” is the word in Ecuador for “guinea pig.” Lema works with 200 small farmers in rural areas in Ecuador on best practices on how to raise and sell the animal. That includes processes around mating, feeding them with plants that will let the animals gain weight, and composting.

Lema buys the animals from farmers at a fair price, takes them to the plant, then processes and sells them.

The vacuum-packed cuy can be bought with or without marinade. The animal is prepared with Ecuadorean spices, as well as garlic, a lot of onions, cumin, a little bit of pepper and the company’s secret ingredient. Cuts include guinea pig filet and guinea pig ribs.

For Lema, this isn’t just about cuy or guinea pigs. According to the World Food Program, chronic malnutrition affects nearly 24 percent of children under the age of five in Ecuador.

“It needs solutions for that,” Lema says. “So guinea pig is part of our culture and that’s the response for that.”

Lema wants to use Cuyempak to help small farmers. He says the goal is to use local resources to solve a problem.

“So we’re trying to help a little bit for this problem and give these families a chance to have a better life, a better economy,” says Lema.

The same goes for Ben Robinson of Superior Meats.

“We’re sitting here in a state that’s the number one producer of beef cattle East of the Mississippi,” says Robinson. “We care about our community we care about our farmers and we want to help be a piece of this industry going forward.”

Although they may work with different types of meat, Lema and Robinson say they have a lot to learn from each other.

This post, written by Roxanne Scott, was reposted from WFPL News

Area Nonprofit Wants To Help Young People Become Global Citizens

About 11 percent of Kentucky students in grades K-12 were enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15. That’s according to the American Council of International Education. That statistic is one of the reasons a local organization wants to get more high school students in the commonwealth to become more globally competent.

The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana is now taking applications for its new Global Citizenship Certificate Program. Beth Malcom, president and CEO of the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association, served on the education committee that designed the program.

“Global competency is being aware of the world around you and that there are other lenses, perspectives, experiences, traditions that may differ from your own,” Malcom said.

She said the program would complement almost any field of study, including science and high-tech fields that are heralded by some as more lucrative and essential for the future.

Malcom said along with cognitive benefits, having a global mind and being multilingual can be beneficial for college admissions.

“There is a sense that Kentucky is not an international place but if you look at the manufacturing that’s here we have a huge, large number of international companies with plants and factories here,” said Xiao Yin Zhao, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. That includes companies like Toyota, she said.

Zhao said the council — a nonprofit based in the Portland neighborhood — is investing approximately $50,000 into the pilot program.

The Global Citizenship Certificate Program is a free, two-year program for high schoolers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Students complete requirements such as language learning and attend events such as the Model U.N., culminating in a capstone project. The program will accept about 100 students.

Progress is tracked by an online application. Zhao said it is not lost on officials that some students may not be able to complete the program because of inadequate internet access or because some may not have globally-minded events nearby that meet requirements.

“When we did this we wanted to do something that is easily done by students and that’s why we went through a mobile application,” said Zhao. “We are completely aware of that digital divide.”

She said at least in this first year, more remote areas may not be ready for a program but coordinators can gauge interest from the number of applications from those areas and try to help those students in the future.

The application to the Global Citizenship Certificate Program asks for basic information about prospective students, questions about their interest and what they think they’ll get out of the program.

Applications are being accepted until October 15.

This article, written by Roxanne Scott, has been reposted from WFPL News.