AAMP presents top awards at 2022 Convention

AAMP Accomplishment Award is presented to Danny Mendes of Tulare Meat Locker & Sausage Co.; Kevin & Heather Western named as AAMP Achievement Award winners.
The American Association of Meat Processors gave out its annual Accomplishment and Achievement Awards during the closing banquet of its annual convention, held July 14-16 in Des Moines. This year, the Accomplishment Award was presented to Danny Mendes of Tulare Locker & Sausage Co., in Tulare, Calif. The AAMP Achievement Award, the association's highest honor, went to Kevin & Heather Western.
AAMP Accomplishment Award
The American Association of Meat Processors' Accomplishment Award is a recognition reserved for an AAMP member who has been in the meat industry for a relatively short period of time and has distinguished him or herself through new products, marketing, services, or growth.

Danny Mendes began working as a cleanup boy at Tulare Locker Service when he was 13 years old. The business opened in 1976 and was located 5 blocks from where he was raised. Mendes then left Tulare for the San Francisco Bay area and became an iron worker. In June of 2003, the owner of Tulare Locker Service called Mendes and told him he was interested in selling the business. He moved back to Tulare where all his family was located and, in September, bought the business.

In 2014, Mendes wanted to get more into curing and smoking sausages. He wanted to make his grandmother's linguica recipe but didn't have the right equipment. He built an extra room on the facility and bought a mixer, a stuffer and his first smokehouse and started making linguica. Mendes started making many different flavors of sausage and changed the name of the company to Tulare Meat Locker and Sausage Company. The business now offers more than 70 types of sausages.

In 2016, Mendes joined the California Association of Meat Processors, entered his first state cured meats competition and came home with 11 awards. In 2017 he joined AAMP, entered the American Cured Meats Championship and won grand champion for his smoked sausage and reserve grand champion for his Andouille sausage. To date Mendes has won 55 state awards, including 2 best of show, and 12 national awards at the ACMC.
“Danny has made a commitment to excellence and his customers are the beneficiaries of that commitment,” AAMP Executive Chris Young said of Mendes.
AAMP Achievement Award
If there is one award that symbolizes the highest appreciation members of the American Association of Meat Processors can bestow on an individual or individuals who have accomplished so much and have done truly special things throughout the years, it is the AAMP Annual Achievement Award. The 2022 AAMP Achievement Award goes to Kevin & Heather Western.

In 1978, the Westerns opened a custom butcher shop and retail store in Greentop, Mo., a small town of 400 hundred people. Always eager to work, it would not be surprising to find Kevin (age 8 at the time) riding his bike up a dark Highway 63, on a Saturday morning at 5:30 am, because his dad didn't wake him up to go to the plant with him.

Like most second-generation kids growing up in the meat business, Western learned what hard work was early in life. He worked in all departments of this ever-expanding family business:  cutting meat, running the cash register, making sausage and the daunting task of keeping everything in sight clean. In high school, he took on the job of butcher during the summer months. During deer season, you could find him on the kill floor skinning countless deer.

Western became interested in the meat snack stick business in 2003, after serving on a panel of speakers at an AAMP convention in Kansas City. After the speech, he was approached by one of the other panel members from Texas who asked him about developing a meat snack stick to sell as a fundraiser in schools for a private label customer. From there he has spearheaded the development of a shelf stable meat snack stick in many sizes and many flavors. He has worked to perfect the packaging, look, and shelf stability and has become a leader in the industry of private label meat snack sticks. He has been a key member of taking a small family business and building it into a respected, nationally recognized organization.

In 2014, Western designed and broke ground on a new modern processing plant to increase the business's production of meat snack sticks. The new facility tripled their production capacity and was designed with future expansion capabilities. The new facility opened in 2015. In 2018 Westerns brought in a strategic partner to help grow the business and now has facilities in Greentop, Mo., Galesburg, Ill., and Springfield, Ill., all under the new name of Western Smokehouse Partners.

Over his many years in the meat business, Western has been invited to speak on various topics at numerous state and national conventions. He served as Missouri Association of Meat Processors President in 2005. After leaving the MAMP board he went on to serve on the Board of the American Association of Meat Processors and served as President of AAMP in 2014-2015. In 2005, he was honored with the American Association of Meat Processors Accomplishment Award.

Above all the prestigious awards he has received throughout the years, Kevin would tell you his greatest accomplishment in life was marrying his high school sweetheart, Heather, in 1990. Behind every good man is usually a better woman, and that was Heather, supporting their dream in both the business and family. From that point on they have been an inseparable team both in the business and at home. If Heather wasn't in the office working, it was because she was at home with children. Their family has been blessed with two beautiful children, Elizabeth and Leighton, and five grandchildren. Family vacations always centered around the annual MAMP and AAMP conventions, and the kids were always included.

“Kevin and Heather have achieved remarkable business and family success while continuing to make important contributions to their community and the progress of the entire industry,” Young said.
Additionally, AAMP handed out several other awards during the Convention. The F.W. Witt Supplier of the Year Award was established to honor a person and/or supplier member who has been devoted to the meat and poultry industry, particularly small and medium-sized plant operators. This award is named after Frank Witt, the former owner of a spice company in Yorkville, Illinois.

The AAMP Board of Directors this year has chosen to present this esteemed recognition to Mark Wiltshire of Economarker. For over 40 years Wiltshire and Economarker have been Supplier Members of the American Association of Meat of Processors and have served the small and very small processor community faithfully during that time. After over 40 years of service to the industry, he has sold his business and decided to retire and spend time with family and friends.

“Mark and Economarker have truly been a company that has stood behind the small processor and worked to help our industry be successful,” Young said.

The Outstanding Service Award is an honor to be bestowed on affiliated associations, officers, secretaries or leaders by AAMP and recognizes noteworthy state, regional, or provincial associations or remarkable leaders whose dedication and enthusiasm have elevated an association to an outstanding degree. The 2022 AAMP Outstanding Service Award recognizes a couple who have worked tirelessly within their state association to ensure the success of not only the association but also, its members. For two decades they have worked to strengthen an association that had seen better days and was in need of leadership, and they have provided it without asking for anything in return. This year's recipients are Ken and Marcia Richmann.

For the past two decades as Executive Directors, Marcia and Ken have been involved in numerous activities for the advancement of small and mid-sized meat processors in Iowa. They have interacted in a very positive manner with many companies that furnish supplies, equipment, and services to Iowa meat processors. They have also interacted with the American Association of Meat Processors and other meat industry trade associations on behalf of the Iowa Meat Processors Association. Marcia and Ken are known for the professional and friendly manner in which they interact with others. Each year Marcia and Ken have been responsible for planning and leading the Annual Convention of the Iowa Meat Processors Association. This is no easy task considering the many different activities that take place during the Iowa Meat Processors Association Annual Convention.

Prior to becoming the executive directors of IMPA Ken and Marcia had successful careers in Clarence, Iowa. Ken owned and operated Penny's Market, and Marcia taught home economics and has been associated with the Iowa Meat Processors Association for over 50 years. They were recognized with the AAMP Achievement Award in 2015 for their long service to the meat industry.

“It is because of Marcia and Ken's commitment to not only the Iowa Meat Processors Association, but to the entire small and mid-sized meat processing industry that makes them deserving recipients of the AAMP 2022 Outstanding Service Award,” said Young.