For the second time, judges from Germany came to America in order to taste, smell and examine American-made meat products. The International Quality Competition for Sausage and Ham brought an international meat competition to Madison, Wis. To give American processors a chance at gold and silver medals or trophies. The event, held January 21-24, was a satellite contest of the IFFA Quality Competition, an international meat judging event held every three years in Frankfurt, Germany, in conjunction with the IFFA trade show. The judging was put on by the American Association of Meat Processors, the German Butchers Association and UW­–Madison’s extension meat science program.

The judges are members of the German Butchers Association, the same group that presides over the IFFA Quality Competition in Frankfurt. In past years, American processors found themselves unable to participate in the IFFA Competition due to customs restrictions on meat products. Three years ago, the American Association of Meat Processors and the German Butchers Association agreed to have German judges come to the United States to judge American entries, and their awards would be presented at IFFA.

A total of 329 products were submitted by 35 participants in 2016. Unlike most of the American cured meat competitions, entries are not judged against other products entered into the same category. Rather, judges consider many aspects of each individual product and judge it against a golden standard. In the case of American-specific products like red hots or beef jerky, American judges from meat science departments were consulted. Of those 329 products from 2016, there were a total of 220 total Gold winners.

For this year’s event, there were 458 products submitted by 42 processors, and organizers were pleased with the increased interest. A total of 351 Gold Medals were awarded at this year’s event. In addition, 25 Cups of Honor were awarded to those companies with five or more gold medals in the competition.

The total winner this year was Louie’s Finer Meats of Cumberland, Wis., with 31 gold medals. The 1st Place winner in the Sausage category also went to Louie’s Finer Meats, with 25 gold medals. RJ’s Meats, of Hudson, Wis., came in second place in the sausage category with 18 gold medals and first place in the ham category with 10 gold medals. Tiefenthaler Quality Meats, of Holstein, Iowa, took second place in the ham category with 9 gold medals.

Unlike other meat judging competitions, this was done in public in the Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus. The public event drew a crowd of interested bystanders. Many meat processors who had entered products came to observe the process and talk with their German counterparts. Plenty of college students also stopped by to watch, ask questions and — most importantly — eat free samples after the judges had finished with the products.

“It’s a great chance for people to learn how an international meat product judging competition works and learn about the quality meat products made across this country, especially here in Wisconsin,” said Jeff Sindelar, a UW­–Madison associate professor and extension meat specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences.

The judges spent a full week in Madison, from January 21-25. They took the 23rd off not only to rest their taste buds but also to visit a couple of local meat processors. Visitors to UW-Madison also were able to take a tour through the new state-of-the-art meat laboratory, currently scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

American award winners will be invited to pick up their medals and trophies in Frankfurt during IFFA, which takes place from May 4-9, 2019.