AAMP Convention draws large crowd to Des Moines

The annual AAMP Convention of Meat Processors and Suppliers' Exhibition features valuable educational sessions, a busy trade show and plenty of fun and socializing.
Meat industry professionals from across the United States and Canada made Des Moines their summer destination of choice this year. Hundreds of meat processors, industry suppliers, meat science students, professors and other professionals visited Iowa for the annual AAMP (American Association of Meat Processors) Convention. The 83rd AAMP Convention of Meat Processors and Suppliers' Exhibition, held July 14-16, was one of the largest and most attended events in association history. A total of 214 processing plants were represented at this year's show, tying an AAMP record. The 262 exhibitors made this year's trade show floor the largest in association history.

This year's event started with a jam-packed pre-convention bus tour on July 13. Three busloads of attendees left Des Moines and traveled across Iowa to visit local processors, learning about their operations and business strategies. This year's trip included stops to visit Dayton Meat Products (Malcom, Iowa), Ulrich Meat Market (Pella), In't Veld's Meat Market (Pella), Stanhope Locker (Stanhope) and Story City Locker (Story City). At every stop, the plant operators discussed their company's history, their operations, their products, and their markets.

The AAMP Convention kicked off on Thursday, July 14, with the Welcome Session. After remarks from AAMP Executive Director Chris Young and outgoing President Dwight Ely, attendees were welcomed to Iowa by the state's Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig. Paul Kiecker, Administrator for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, then addressed the audience. He discussed current and upcoming FSIS initiatives and regulatory updates, including the upcoming changes to Appendix A & B that will impact cooking and cooling processes for cooked meat products. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Gordon Davis, a renowned meat scientist and instructor at several schools, including Texas Tech University. His motivational speech traced his career in the meat industry and the path to success that he followed.

The educational sessions at AAMP Conventions are always popular features, as industry experts tackle some of the biggest issues and opportunities for the small meat processing community. This year's topics included “Building the Perfect Processed Meat Flavor,” “A Better Understanding of Return on Investment (ROI)” and “Salmonella & Carcass Intervention.” In addition, award-winning processors Mark Reynolds of Country Meat Shop (Moberly, Mo.), Mike Sloan of Hermann Wurst Haus (Hermann, Mo.) and John Tiefenthaler of Tiefenthaler Quality Meats (Holstein, Iowa) gave a live demonstration on ham processing.

This year's trade show floor was filled with equipment, supplies and services meant to improve attendees' operations and profitability. In recent years, many AAMP processors members have seen their business skyrocket, as consumers have turned increasingly toward smaller, local butcher shops for their meat purchases. As a result, processors have a need for innovation, such as increased automation, improved packaging and labeling, and software to help track everything from sales to operations.

The AAMP Convention is more than a business event. It is also a social gathering, as old friends reunite with one another and catch up on company and family news. This is the only national convention in the meat industry where children are routinely seen walking the trade show floor and sitting in the education sessions. AAMP encourages the casual atmosphere of the Convention by allowing for plenty of social opportunities, both scheduled and unscheduled. The Thursday Night Event at Jack Trice Stadium, held on July 14, is a perfect example. Attendees traveled to Ames, Iowa, to spend an evening with good food, drinks and socializing at the Sukup End Zone Club at Iowa State's famed football stadium. Attendees could also walk through the nearby Reiman Gardens, a 17-acre public garden adjacent to the stadium.

One of the highlights of the AAMP Convention is the annual American Cured Meat Championships. Many attendees bring some of their best products and enter them in nearly 30 different categories, from ham and bacon to sausages and jerky. This year in Des Moines, a total of 623 products were entered into the ACMC. Forty-five volunteers, as well as AAMP staff members and ACMC coordinators, gave nearly 300 hours to select the winners of this year's competition. This year's winner of the Clarence Knebel Best of Show Memorial Award came from the Heavyweight Bacon category, from Bardine's Country Smokehouse, in Crabtree, Pa. Additionally, Dewig Meats of Haubstadt, Ind., won the Cured Meats Excellence Award. That award goes to the processor with the best overall performance in the ACMC.

This year's AAMP Convention ended with a banquet on Saturday, July 16. During the closing festivities, AAMP's new president, Darla Kiesel, was formally introduced, as were the new members of the association's Board of Directors. The evening's entertainment was a live auction, featuring hunting expeditions and valuable educational opportunities donated by AAMP members. The top prize was a one-of-a-kind, handmade quilt made of t-shirts from AAMP members. All proceeds from the auction went to the AAMP scholarship fund. Between the auction and other activities held throughout the convention, AAMP raised nearly $50,000 for the scholarship program.

Several awards were handed out during the Convention. Some of these include:

AAMP Outstanding Service Award: Kenneth and Marcia Richmann, Iowa Meat Processors Association (retired)

F.W. Witt Supplier of the Year Award: Mark Wiltshire, Economarker (retired)

AAMP Accomplishment Award: Danny Mendes, Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co., Tulare, Calif.
(for recent AAMP processor members who have made a significant impact in the industry in a short time)

AAMP Achievement Award: Kevin & Heather Western, formerly of Western's Smokehouse Partners, Greentop, Mo.
(AAMP's highest honor, for continued service to the meat industry)

Best Booth Award (Single Booth): Patty Paper Inc.

Best Booth Award (Multi-Booth): UltraSource LLC

The 2023 AAMP Convention is scheduled for July 13-15, 2023, in Charleston, S.C. Visit for more details about this year's event as well as future conventions.