Independent Processor editor-in-chief Sam Gazdziak attended the 2016 American Cured Meat Championships in Omaha, Neb. to talk to the judges and contestants.

Sam Gazdziak: I’m here with Dr. Jeff Sindelar, who is running the show this year. So Dr. Jeff, tell us a little bit about the Cured Meat Championships. It’s a multi-step process to pick the winner, so how does this all work?

Dr. Jeff Sindelar: This year’s American Cured Meat Championships has 27 classes. There are 744 products entered in this competition, and we have 15 qualified judges that represent universities and meat establishments from across the country that are currently evaluating all the products. They started evaluating the external attributes of the product yesterday. Today, they are continuing the evaluation of the internal attributes, so they are looking for appearance and color and flavor and texture and aroma. We will culminate later on today when we go through a Best in Show evaluation.

Gazdziak: With all the categories you have, what would you say are some of the most popular ones this year?

Sindelar: Of the 27 categories, certainly [one of] the most popular categories [is] meat snack sticks. Meat snacks are a popular item across the country and a growing category of meat products, and we have certainly seen that in the American Cured Meat Championships. [Other popular categories are] small diameter dinner sausages and smoked sausage—some of the products and product categories which allow entrants to be creative and come up with new and exciting flavors and aromas and textures and so forth. Of course, we can’t forget about some of the mainstays in the American Cured Meat Championships: the bone-in hams, the bacons and some of those more traditional products, which have always been an important part of the American Cured Meat Championships and continue today with great representation in the product show competition.

>> Watch more videos from the 2016 ACMC <<