Dewig Meats won the Cured Meats Excellence Award, which recognizes the processor that competed the best through the entire competition. Independent Processor editor-in-chief Sam Gazdziak spoke with Aaron Kiesel of Dewig Meats about the achievement.

Sam Gazdziak: You’ve always had great success, not only this year but also years in the past. When you are getting products together for a cured meats competition, do you have any kind of strategy in mind?

Aaron Kiesel: Not really, and it doesn’t matter what class you are in. People always eat with their eyes first, so we like to make sure everything has a nice mahogany color on it. Your hot dog links are nice and uniform in length. Ham [has] a nice appearance. If it doesn’t look good, people aren’t going to want to eat it. That will be the next thing. When you cut into a product, you want a nice color in there [and] really try to get all the air, the pinholes, out of the products. Of course, it has to taste good, so we are always concentrating on flavors to get the salt content right so all the other spices pop. After they take one bite, they want to take more bites. That’s always the goal.

Gazdziak: Competing at the state-wide competition or the national competition, what benefits do you get from doing that?

Kiesel: It’s the R&D work you put in, not just to get your product ready for the show but that in turn is going to make your products better throughout the year. We strive to make good stuff 12 months out of the year, not just when we go to the state show or the national show. A guy told me one time, if you make all your products throughout the year and try to duplicate them like you are going to the show every time you make them, whenever you actually do go to the show you’ll have more success. That’s one thing that has always stuck in my mind.

Gazdziak: You had a couple of grand champion winners with this year’s competitions. What were those products and describe those a bit?

Kiesel: We won first place in the emulsified hot dog category. It’s a bigger diameter like you would see in ballparks. We call it a Jumbo Hot Dog, a nice combination of pork and beef, nice mahogany color on it. We’ve had good luck with that through the years at the shows. We won the summer sausage class this year, which was a good honor to have. There was 33 in that class. Really proud of that one too.

Gazdziak: Great! Congratulations again!

>> Watch more videos from the 2016 ACMC <<