Kathy and Herb Eckhouse
After three and a half years in Parma, Italy, Kathy and Herb Eckhouse returned to Iowa with a new passion for the dry-cured meats for which Parma, Italy is famous. Upon their return to the states, the couple began brainstorming how they could make the kind of quality meats they had in Parma. By 2000, they began making their own dry cured meats at home. Five years later, with their own prosciuttificio (prosciutto factory), the Eckhouses began salting and selling hams under the name La Quercia.
Since 2005, the La Quercia prosciuttoficio in Norwalk, Iowa has grown immensely. Diners can enjoy the Eckhouse’s prosciutto in restaurants across the country and even in Canada. In Des Moines, their prosciutto tops pizzas at Gusto, is tossed into pasta at Django and can be found in many dishes at Splash, Alba, La Mie and more.
Kathy Eckhouse says chefs were her earliest customers, though it hasn’t always been easy to convince chefs that La Quercia products are worth the price.
“People are very reluctant to pay more money for anything,” Kathy Eckhouse explains. “Price point is probably our biggest challenge.”
Kathy Eckhouse also wonders if the fact that La Quercia prosciutto is produced in Iowa may have something to do with an unwillingness to pay for it. She says it can be hard to convince people that La Quercia meats, made in Iowa, can be as good or even better than those made in Europe.
While the Eckhouse’s may have run in to nonbelievers along the way, La Quercia continues to expand into restaurants and markets across the country. Kathy Eckhouse adds that as business expands, she and Herb continuously strive to make their product better.
“We are always trying to do a better job with our meats to honor the animals, the land, and the people who make it all possible,” Kathy Eckhouse says.