Highlights from the 2012 Carolina Meat Conference

by firsthandfoods on December 12, 2012

It’s only a week behind us but we’re still reveling in the good energy cooked up at this year’s Carolina Meat Conference in Bermuda Run. With over 380 participants, this year’s NC Choices’ conference played like a “who’s who in the niche meat industry” bringing together livestock producers, commercial processors, neighborhood butchers, chefs and meat buyers throughout North Carolina and beyond. The venue, a newly renovated dairy barn in Bermuda Run, included a Hogwart’s style Great Hall perfect for celebrating the growth of this fledgling industry.

Monday night featured a pre-dinner beef cutting demonstration by master butchers, Adam Tiburio and Kari Underly. The crowd pressed in close to watch Adam deftly break down a side of gorgeous grassfed beef (kudos to Summerfield Farm). As he built up a sweat, Kari narrated, talking through unique cuts to add value to beef merchandising. Not to be outdone, an amazing and unique family-style “Snout to Tail” dinner followed, featuring charcuterie prepared by the Blind Pig Supper Club of Asheville made from odd bits: tails, ears, heads and liver — donated by Farmhand Foods.

Later in the evening, Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, wowed the crowd with her honest and straightforward talk about humane animal slaughter, noting “These animals are raised for us and deserve our respect.” Over 50 percent of the livestock slaughtered in the U.S. moves through facilities she’s designed. Temple hit her stride Tuesday morning when she had a chance to “talk shop” with practitioners and cover specific techniques used to improve animal handling and slaughter. For anyone who missed it, her website includes a rich assortment of information and the HBO movie about her early years dealing with autism is a must-see (www.templegrandin.com).

Several other workshops deserve a shout out. Debbie Hamrick of the NC Farm Bureau gave a data-rich, entertaining talk about consumer decision-making and the role that national events, such as the 911 attacks, have played in shaping consumers’ interest in stronger connections to food as tangible symbols of what “really matters” in life. Arion Thiboumery of Lorentz Meats in Minnesota and co-Director of the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network hit home with a compelling look at why meat processors are (or are not) making money and what they can do about it.

Farmhand Foods staff was excited to participate on two panels, sharing the stage with Emily Lancaster of Animal Welfare Approved and one of our key hog producers, Jeremiah Jones of the NC Natural Hog Grower’s Association. This discussion, both practical and philosophical, focused on how to grow local meat supply chains with integrity. We were also part of a “Women in the Meat Business” panel, where participants (mostly women livestock producers and small-scale processors) discussed challenges unique to women, strengths women bring to the industry, and needs they have for leadership development. Keep an eye out next year for an NC Choices’ two-day seminar focused exclusively on these issues.

All of us here at Farmhand appreciated the opportunity to network with our partners, peers, regulators, and customers. Seth Gross and Cece Lopez from Bull City Burger & Brewery, Isiah Allen of Il Palio, Regan Stachler of Little Hen, staff at Weaver St. Market, and Jay Pierce of Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen were all there. And some were able to participate in the Chef Track, a hands-on approach to learning butchery and charcuterie techniques from some all-star instructors — Craig Deihl of Cypress in Charleston, Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery in Richmond, Virginia and Tyler Cook of The Chop Shop in Asheville.

Last but not least, it was a blast to watch some of our most trusted colleagues receive much deserved recognition from NC Choices. Eliza Maclean of Cane Creek Farm, Richard and Ronnie Huettman of Acre Station Meat Farm, and Andrea Reusing of Lantern Restaurant each received awards for early innovations and leadership in North Carolina’s local and niche meat industry.

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