You may be thinking a what kind of championship…? And yes, you read that right, cured meat! It’s how meat processors like us compete. The American Association of Meat Processors (or AAMP, a national meat processors association) holds the Cured Meat Championships every year in conjunction with the annual convention. Meat processors from all across the country, big and small, enter products into different categories to be judged by some of the most credible people you will find in the industry… Fellow meat processors and meat scientists make up the majority of the judging panel. Products are entered into 26 different categories including ham, bacon, smoked turkey, smoked sausage, summer sausage and many more. Products are then judged on a wide variety of factors… external appearance, internal appearance, workmanship, flavor, aroma, fat to lean content. Once the scores are added up, an overall winner is chosen (Grand Champion) as well a second, third, and sometimes fourth winner is awarded.

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These shows literally feature the best of the best across the nation. In order to win a Grand Champion award in this show, your products need to be essentially flawless. And let me tell you, this is one tough show! The caliber of products entered is phenomenal! Sometimes the top winners are mere points away from one another. It makes us happy to see quality products from successful small meat shops like ours thriving across the nation. This year marks one of the largest attended conventions to date as well as the MOST products entered into the cured meat shop. Over 1,000 products were entered into this years show, not only breaking but shattering the previous record that stood somewhere around 800. David Dewey first entered Chico Locker & Sausage into these competitions in the mid 80’s. In fact, he actually won a membership to the American Association of Meat Processors through our state meat association and decided to attend the national convention for the first time. For a new business owner in the early 80s, it was quite a bit of money to drop just to attend a convention. But it didn’t take long before he realized the benefits of joining a national association and now he’s only missed a handful of conventions (I think around 3) since then! After attending his first cured meat show and seeing the quality of products and the shops that continually won, he was hooked. He was bit by the competition bug and since then has competed nearly every year while attending the convention.

David Dewey and his daughter alongside one of his first national award winning hams

David Dewey and his daughter alongside one of his first national award winning hams

So what does it take to produce a national award winning product…? Don’t just think that you can just take a product out of your case and win… Granted, it does happen. But it’s rare. Producing a national award winning product takes time and patience. It requires you picking out only the best legs or bellies (for ham and bacon).. Making sure there are no external flaws, trimming the fat on it flawlessly, making sure you inject the brine into it without missing any spots or pushing air into the product which makes little holes in the muscle, it requires the right amount of smoke so the product ends up with that desirable mahogany color. In the end, you end up with a product that is not only flawless on the outside as well as the inside, but it also maintains that caliber in the aroma and taste.

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It is no easy feat to take home national awards from the cured meat show. And we are extremely proud of the fact that we have taken home several national honors  We have won many awards at the state level and often switch out those plaques, but our national awards are our tried and true and always remain on the walls. One of our taglines from the start of our business is “award winning quality” and we aren’t lying when we tell you that. Next time you are in the shop, I invite you to check out our awards and see which of your favorite products can be deemed as “national award winning”.

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For more information on the American Association of Meat Processor’s Cured Meat Competition, check out this article written by the National Provisioner: http://www.provisioneronline.com/articles/98475-cured-meat-championships-feature-the-best-of-the-best

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