Hams, bacon and bratwurst may not have been what made Milwaukee famous, but those meat products and plenty of others will be the focus of this year’s American Convention of Meat Processors & Suppliers Exhibition, scheduled for June 18-21 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and Wisconsin Center.

The convention, sponsored by the American Association of Meat Processors, has been a staple of the small, independent meat processing community for 75 years this year. The association will be celebrating the milestone with an evening reception at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, but the primary focus for AAMP has always been on the present and the future.

“We’re just trying to push the strength of the organization after 75 years, and we’re really put a lot of effort into the educational seminars. We feel they’re a really good value for people,” says Marty Manion, executive director for the association.

This year is Manion’s second event, having joined AAMP shortly before last year’s convention in Charleston, S.C. A veteran of trade shows and trade associations, he says that the AAMP show has a family, social nature that is hard to find in other conventions.

“Children and grandchildren come, people see others who they haven’t seen since the last year. It truly is a more down-home, social atmosphere than most conventions I’ve been to,” he says. “It has all the education and other things that you’d want, but that aspect from this group is a really nice, refreshing thing to see.”

The educational sessions at this year event feature many industry-specific topics, but there are some that also focus on the day-to-day struggles of a small businessman in today’s world. For instance, one session will demonstrate how a company can set up a marketing program without spending an excessive amount of money.

One of the biggest issues in the meat industry concerns allergens, so the seminar on how to set up an allergen program should strike a chord with many attendees.

“The USDA has stated that most of their recalls over the past several years have been allergen related, so we see that as a real good value for our members,” Manion says. “We’re also going to do seminars on both product costing and energy-saving tips, so you can look at what you do now, be more efficient and possibly save some money.”

The convention will also feature several on-floor processing demonstrations, as well as a day-long bus trip that will take attendees to three local companies: LeRoy Meats of Horicon, Glenn’s Market & Catering and PS Seasoning & Spices and Pro Smoker ‘N Roaster.

Between the education and social events, as well as the perennially popular American Cured Meats Championships, it will be a busy few days at the convention. While some may question the necessity of trade shows in a time where so much information is widely available on the Internet, Manion says that the AAMP Convention provides value that can’t be found simply by going online.

“The convention serves a different purpose. It lets you network with other people and engage in a conversation that may last an hour or two and get some good information. It also lets you see products from the exhibitors face to face, where you can look at something, see how it works and make an informed decision,” he says.

Manion adds that AAMP will be hosting more webinars in the future, allowing processors the opportunity for a 20-minute learning experience without leaving their office. Those webinars, combined with AAMP’s convention and other efforts, make the association an important and valuable resource for its members.

Manion says that he is excited by AAMP’s place in the meat industry, which has seen consolidation in both trade shows and trade associations in recent years. His viewpoint is that no other association can serve the need of the small, independent processor like AAMP can.

“AAMP has a very vital role in addressing the needs of the independent processor, and I don’t think that role is diminished at all by a merger of two large organizations,” he says, pointing to the buzz around this year’s convention. AAMP sold out its original 164 exhibitor booths in February and expanded the show floor to a total of 180 booths. Hotel rooms in the Milwaukee area quickly became a premium among attendees who didn’t register early enough.

“Everything I’m seeing shows a vital and popular convention, and one that echoes the statement that it is viable and meets our members’ needs,” he says.

For more information about the event, visit www.aamp.com.