The American Association of Meat Processor’s annual convention was so popular, even Abraham Lincoln turned up. The former president, or someone who looked very much like him, was on hand to cut the ribbon for this year’s convention in Springfield, Ill.

The annual event brought together hundreds of small meat processors from around the country to attend seminars, peruse the latest products on the exhibit hall floor and enter their best products in the American Cured Meats Championship.

A bit of history was made as the new 2015-2016 Board of Directors were formally introduced. Erica Hering of Ralph’s Packing, Perkins, Okla. became the first female AAMP President. Joining her on the board were 1st Vice President Louis Muench of Louie’s Finer Meats, Cumberland, Wis.; 2nd Vice President Chad Lottman of C & C Processing, Diller, Neb.; 3rd Vice President Dwight Ely of Ely Farm Products, Newtown, Pa.; Treasurer Doug Hankes of Thrushwood Farms Quality Meats, Galesburg, Ill. Kevin Western of Western’s Smokehouse, Greentop, Mo., became Immediate Past President.

Hering is an AAMP veteran, having attended her first show in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1989 when she was a teenager. Furthermore, her father Gary is a former AAMP president, and they are just the third father-child combination to wear the distinctive red jacket of the AAMP president. She even met her future husband, Jason, at an AAMP show.

“I’m really, truly honored that the board and the membership thought that I was ready for this,” she says of her new position. While acknowledging her position as the first woman to lead the association, she notes that the smaller meat businesses have not been as male-dominated as the larger corporations.

“In the smaller and very small meat processors, almost all of them are family-owned,” she explains. “There have always been the wives right there with their husbands in the wrapping room. For me, it was natural to be in that position. I’m really excited for this next year, and I think we’ll do great things.”

Hering says that one of the biggest issues facing the AAMP members is over-regulation, noting that a one-size-fits all mentality for regulatory issues doesn’t work for smaller companies. Another key issue is working with processors who are looking to retire and pass their company on to the next operators.

“We need to be able to help our members be able to transition, whether they’re transitioning from one generation to the next or selling it to their employees or an outside company,” she says.

The AAMP Show included many top-quality meat products at the ACMC. This year’s Grand Champions in the 27 categories were:

The Grand Champions in this year’s Awards were:

Andouille Sausage: St. Joseph Meat Market, St. Joseph, MN

Bacon (Heavyweight): AJ’s Lena Maid Meats, Lena, IL

Bacon (Lightweight): Thrushwood Farms Quality Meats Inc., Galesburg, IL

Braunschweiger: Bob’s Processing Inc., South Haven, MI

Country Bacon: Bardine’s Country Smokehouse, Crabtree, PA

Cured Specialty Meat Products: Maplewood Meats, Green Bay, WI

Dried Beef: Haen Meat Packing Inc., Kaukauna, WI

Frankfurters/Wieners - Coarse Ground: Fisher Packing, Portland, IN

Frankfurters/Wieners – Emulsified: Louie’s Finer Meats Inc., Cumberland, WI

Ham - Bone-In (Heavyweight): Bardine’s Country Smokehouse

Ham - Bone-In (Lightweight): Bardine’s Country Smokehouse

Ham - Boneless (Commercial): Woods Smoked Meats Inc., Bowling Green, MO

Ham - Boneless (Traditional): Woods Smoked Meats Inc.

Ham - Semi-Boneless: AJ’s Lena Maid Meats

Jerky - Restructured: Wahoo Locker, Wahoo, NE

Jerky - Whole Muscle: Maplewood Meats

Luncheon Meat - Large Diameter: LeRoy Meats of Horicon, Horicon, WI

Meat Snack Sticks: McDonald’s Meats Inc., Clear Lake, MN

Meat Snack Sticks: - Flavored: Lower Valley Processing Co. Inc., Kalispell, MT

Ring Bologna: Karl’s Country Market, Menomonee Falls, WI

Semi-Dried Sausage - Non-Fermented: Leiding’s Meats & Catering, Danville, IL

Small Diameter Smoked and Cooked Sausage: St. Joseph Meat Market

Smoked Turkey: Dewig Meats, Haubstadt, IN

Specialty Flavored Small Diameter Smoked & Cooked Sausage: Elburn Market, Elburn, IL

Specialty Game Meats: Leiding’s Meats & Catering

Summer Sausage – Cooked: RJ’s Fresh Meats, Hudson, WI

Smoked Poultry Products (2015 Annual Featured Class): Woods Smoked Meats Inc.

The Cured Meat Excellence Award, which goes to the company that had the best overall performance at the ACMC, was a tie between Bardine’s Country Smokehouse and Woods Smoked Meats. Both companies won three Grand Champion awards, one Reserve Grand Champion award, one Champion award, and two Reserve Champion awards.

The Clarence Knebel Best of Show Memorial Award was presented to Bardine’s Country Smokehouse for its Country Bacon.

Next year’s AAMP Convention is scheduled for July 21-23, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. For updates on the show and other association news, visit  IP


For more coverage of the AAMP Convention, including photos and videos, visit