HUNTS POINT — New Yorkers could soon be chowing down on quail instead of chicken, according to one local expert in bringing exotic foods into the city.
"I cannot get enough of it. As soon as they come in, they’re out the next day, gone," said Phil Mosner, CEO of Mosner Family Brands, a meat wholesaler located in the Hunts Point Cooperative Market. "I get an order every six weeks if I’m lucky, and as soon as I get an order, put me down for my next order. It's tremendously popular."
Mosner Family Brands was founded in 1957, but the company did not start selling wild game until around 2012, when it felt it was time to expand, according to Mosner.
He said adding more exotic animals to their offerings made sense based on the company's history of focusing on specialty meats like veal and lamb, a tradition they are now continuing with kangaroos and quail.
"We could either expand vertically — go into the slaughterhouse business or open a retail outlet, which we did not want to do — or we expand horizontally, which is to add more items to our customer base," Mosner said.
"Wild game, it was a natural fit," he continued.
The company sells meat from animals including ostriches, wild boar and jumbo quail — which they sold roughly 4,500 pounds of in about six months, according to Mosner.
"I like to say everything from alligator to wild boar," he said. "And if we had zebra, then I could say A to Z."
However, not every exotic animal that Mosner Family Brands has tried selling has taken off, with Mosner specifically citing rattlesnake as a product that he could not convince very many people to buy.
He did not seem particularly surprised by this reluctance, especially given that the cost of imported rattlesnake was $44 per pound.
"Do you really want to eat rattlesnake? I don't," he said, adding. "You've got to really want rattlesnake to spend $44 for it."
The two biggest sellers in the company's exotic game category are wild boar and venison, which Mosner said is very popular in French restaurants and at parties for hunters.
Frank Ottomanelli, co-owner and meat buyer at O. Ottomanelli and Sons Meat Market in the West Village, said his family has been working with the Mosners for years and buys products such as ostrich burgers, elk and pheasant from them.
"Venison is very popular," he said. "This time of the year it quiets down, but the game, right after Labor Day, it starts picking up again."
Mosner Family Brands is one of the original shareholders at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market, which now has 50 companies and 3,000 employees distributing roughly 2.5 billion pounds of meat to the New York region each year.
Mosner said it can be difficult to tell which exotic meats will become popular and which ones will not, and although he is now the "wild game guru" at the company, he had to learn about the market on the fly.
"But I learned quickly," he said, "so it’s good."
Overall, Mosner said people seem to be most interested in trying exotic meats when they can be convinced that they are both similar and different to foods they have eaten before.
"For the most part, people want to be adventurous," he said. "But they’re also looking for some familiarity."