Andouille champs

Louisiana Craft (Champion!) Butchers

Dan has had a long-term relationship with AAMP or the American Association of Meat Producers. AAMP is the trade association for the small meat production companies like Louisiana Craft Butchers. AAMP is a tremendous resource for advice, buying power, regulatory help and camaraderie. Many of AAMP’s members are family owned businesses and craft centric. Without hesitation, Louisiana Craft Butchers joined AAMP and we have recently attended our first annual meeting in Oklahoma City in July.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you, there is also a meat products competition which takes place at the annual AAMP meeting. Dan vacillated for months about if we would compete and then agonized over what of the twenty-eight categories of competition we would enter. So, we entered four categories to get our feet wet. Ring Bologna, Braunschweiger, Country Bacon and Andouille.

For the two weeks leading up to the trip we organized our meat orders and preparations for the trip. Dan worked on the submissions the week of the event and early the morning of departure, we packed the ice chest and secured the entries for the trip. Did I mention Dan doesn’t like to fly?

So, we loaded up the truck and drove to Oklahoma City. You ever been to a Buckee’s? I learned all about the oversized convenience stores in the pan handle of Texas. Clean bathrooms… check.

The competition turn in went well. We really didn’t have any expectations but were hopeful. The turn in was Thursday morning early. The judging is done by a host of Meat Scientist and processing professionals and is a blind submission. Undergraduate Meat Science students do most of the grunt work of organizing the tables and tastings for the judges.

Did you know there is a degree in Meat Science? How about Missouri, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Penn State have some of the leading Meat Science undergrad programs in the good old US of A. Yes, LSU does have a Meat Science degree. A true irony here, Ashlee Marie Krantz Stanley has an Animal Science degree from LSU and took classes in the Meat Science program.

As the annual meeting sessions progressed over Thursday and Friday we met a lot of people who are in the meat processing world. Not just processors, equipment manufacturers, spice blenders, pretty much every vendor servicing the industry. It was a very productive conference for me. Of course, Dan held court with his old friends.

Saturday morning was the gathering for the announcement of awards. The second category was Andouille and as the podium winners of the twenty entrants began to be announced we were resigned to the thoughts of what we would do for next year to improve. After the Reserve Champion was announced, we figured it wasn’t our day. When we got the call for Grand Champion, Dan and I looked at each other and didn’t say a word. I pushed him out of his chair to go get the plaque and get his picture taken.

This is a pretty noteworthy boost for a tiny, nascent start up without a permanent home. It’s a great tribute to Dan and his level of craft. We finished respectably in the other categories with a serious commitment to do better next time. The feeling to me was much like the first success we achieved at Hogs For The Cause. The feeling you are on the right path and keep pushing to make the next good step.