The Association of American Meat Processors’ annual convention and suppliers’ trade show features many of the things that one would expect to find at an industry event. There are seminars and educational opportunities throughout the event, with knowledgeable speakers and timely information. There is a packed exhibit hall with the latest equipment, technology and supplies to help solve problems and create opportunities for attendees.

What’s noteworthy are the things that one doesn’t typically find at an industry event. Whole families walking around the convention, from owners to toddlers. Handshakes and advice exchanged freely as processors talk shop or catch up on each other’s lives. The tempting smell of a room filled with cured meats, produced by some of the top small processors in the country.

The AAMP Convention provides plenty of business and leisure opportunities for attendees, and this year’s event promises to be no different. It will take place July 25-27 at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel and the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Ala. The show will be the 80th convention hosted by the association.

“AAMP is such a family-oriented organization, and so many of our businesses are family-oriented businesses. I think over the last few years, AAMP has the feel of a great big family reunion at the convention every year, which I think is what makes us unique,” explains Erica Hering of Ralph’s Packing. Hering, a past president of AAMP, has been attending the convention since she entered the business as a third-generation operator and in fact met her husband, Jason, at a past convention.

The family feeling also applies to newcomers to the event. While there are many processors who return year after year, the attendees are always accommodating to first-timers and make them feel welcome as well.

While there is undeniably a relaxed and family-oriented feel to the convention, education and improving the business of attendees is paramount. The business-oriented portions of the event are designed to help processors in attendance gain ideas they can apply to their own business or become better educated about the state of the meat industry. The social events are perfect opportunities for networking with other processors, as well.

AAMP has two pre-convention activities planned for July 24. Representatives from the German Butchers’ Association in Frankfurt will be traveling to Mobile to host a series of demonstrations for convention attendees. There will be three sessions to attend in the morning, as well as three sessions in the afternoon on Wednesday. For anyone not interested in attending the pre-convention demonstrations, AAMP has a beach day excursion to Pensacola Beach, Fla. Pensacola is known for its pristine white beaches and family activities. Round-trip transportation on an air-conditioned coach bus will be provided for attendees and their families.

The opening reception will take place on July 25 at the USS Alabama Memorial Park. Along with dinner and drinks, there will be a live flight avionics simulator and tours of the “Mighty A” itself.

The keynote speaker on the morning of July 25 will be Paul Kiecker, Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Kiecker joined FSIS as a food inspector and served as Deputy District Manager in Madison, Wis.; and District Manager in Madison and in Springdale, Ark. He also served as Executive Associate for Regulatory Operations and Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Field Operations in Washington, D.C.

Throughout his 30-year career with FSIS, Kiecker has fostered his commitment to ensuring the Agency meets its food safety public health goals, including the current FSIS Strategic Goals: Prevent Foodborne Illness and Protect Public Health; Modernize Inspection Systems, Policies, and the Use of Scientific Approaches; and Achieve Operational Excellence.

In his various positions with FSIS, Kiecker has played a critical role in leading external coordination with other federal, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, international entities and law enforcement agencies. He has also had oversight responsibility for strategic planning, policy formulation and implementation, budget development and execution, human resource management, and day-to-day inspection operations.

The seminars, which will take place throughout the convention, will feature expert speakers on key topics. Humane handling, rendering alternatives, Appendix A&B update and insurance issues will all be covered. Hands-on demonstrations will include a primer on Cajun cooking, featuring Gary Crane of Ralph’s Packing and Floyd Poche’ of Floyd Poche’ Enterprises. Doug Hankes of Thrushwood Farms and Kevin Western of Western’s Smokehouse will offer virtual plant tours of their operations and discuss private labeling.

Along with the educational opportunities, the trade show floor will be open each day. Many of the industry’s leading suppliers will be displaying their latest products and services at their booths.

One of the highlights of any AAMP convention is the American Cured Meats Championships. Each year, hundreds of the country’s tastiest cured meat products are submitted, from wieners to hams to bacon. There are a total of 29 classes to enter, including this year’s specialty category, Specialty Liver & Loaf. The Grand Champions in each category go on to vie for the Clarence Knebel Best of Show Award, and the company that has the best overall performance at the ACMC can win the Cured Meat Excellence Award.

For more information about the AAMP Convention, visit