AAMP Sets New Records with 2023 Convention
The annual event, held in Charleston, SC, on July 13-15, was the largest in the association's history.The American Association of Meat Processors has seen tremendous growth in its annual conventions in recent years, and this year's event in Charleston, SC, was no exception. In fact, the 84th American Convention of Meat Processors & Suppliers' Exhibition, held from July 13-15 at the Charleston Convention Center, set records as the largest and most well-attended show in the association's history. AAMP reached record numbers in both the number of processing plants registered (219) and total attendees (1,450), and the 262 exhibiting companies at the trade show equaled the number reached in 2022 with the convention in Des Moines, IA.
The convention began with a full day of “pre-convention” activities on Wednesday, July 12. AAMP processor members from Alaska, Missouri and South Carolina led attendees on a “virtual” bus tour of their facilities. Following that, staff members from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Service hosted a roundtable for small plants. AAMP concluded the pre-convention with a series of informative, processor-driven talks, including information on costing and financial statement analysis, and a discussion of Louisiana flavors and tasso-making demonstration. That evening, attendees gathered for a welcome reception, hosted by outgoing AAMP President Darla Kiesel of Dewig Meats. The reception also featured a generous sampling of many of Dewig Meats' award-winning products and other specialties.
The convention kicked off on Thursday, July 13, in the most patriotic way possible. Tommy Gross, proprietor of Tommy G's Meat and Sausage of Fairbanks, AK, and a trained opera singer, performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. The keynote speaker of the convention was Oliver Mincey of S+O Coaching LLC. Oliver delivered a popular series of webinars for AAMP earlier this year on human resources, team management and other topics. His chance to speak with the attendees live and in person was a much-anticipated event, and Oliver gave an energetic and interesting talk on his career arc and the lessons he learned. He also spoke at a second session that day focusing on HR and other “wild” topics.
Education is an important part of AAMP's conventions. Each year, topics are chosen to provide attendees with the most relevant and important information possible. Oftentimes, the sessions are led by AAMP processor members, who can speak about practical solutions. Topics at the Charleston convention included deer processing, grants, social media strategies, sanitation practices, pet treats, and experimenting with flavors.
As noted, the trade show floor at the AAMP convention was one of the largest in AAMP's history. The aisles were consistently busy as attendees looked for equipment, supplies and services that could increase their processing efficiency, expand their operations or help them become more profitable.
AAMP conventions are known for their social activities, and this year's show in Charleston gave attendees plenty of chances to catch up with old friends and make new connections. In addition to the opening welcome reception, AAMP held a Thursday Night Event at the Citadel Beach House in Isle of Palms, SC. More than 500 convention attendees showed up to enjoy a gorgeous South Carolina summer night at the beach. A good number of attendees took the opportunity to take a dip in the ocean, too.
For many attendees, the convention was not only a great business opportunity, but it was also a chance for a family vacation. It's not uncommon at an AAMP show to see plenty of children in attendance, along with their parents. This year, a concerted effort was made to create a slate of activities specifically for the younger guests. The “Kid's Cove” program included games, an ice cream social, a pizza party and a hot dog judging contest.
While the kids were trying to pick their favorite hot dog, a group of judges were hard at work to find their own top dog… as well as the best bacon, ham, jerky, snack sticks and more. The American Cured Meat Championships represents the largest nationwide cured meat competition and is a highlight of every AAMP convention. This year, 56 plants from 29 states entered a total of 583 products in the competition. Winners were picked in 29 different categories, and all entries are judged based on aroma, flavor, eye appeal, color, and texture. There were four winners announced in each category, and the Clarence Knebel Best of Show Memorial Award went to Bardine's Country Smokehouse, of Crabtree, PA, for its Boneless Commercial Ham entry. Additionally, Dewig Meats, of Haubstadt, IN, won the Cured Meat Excellence Award for the best overall performance in the ACMC.
The AAMP convention closed with a banquet dinner on Saturday, July 15. During the closing ceremony, the new 2023-24 Board of Directors was introduced. Tom Eickman of Eickman's Processing, of Seward, IL, was officially handed the ceremonial red jacket that signifies the role of AAMP president. Tom became the first third-generation president in AAMP's history; both his father Mike and grandfather Merlyn held the position previously.
AAMP also introduced Hunter Shaw its first-ever Youth Ambassador on Saturday night. The Youth Ambassador Program is designed to provide opportunities to youth to get involved in the meat and poultry industry and allots the space for them to learn, ask questions, and dive into the industry. Four participants in the program took part in various aspects of the AAMP convention and interviewed with program judges. Hunter, 17, developed his passion for the industry as a kid visiting his dad and uncle at their plant, Cypress Valley Meat Company, in Pottsville, AR. He works for two different companies that partner with Cypress Valley, and interacting with customers is Hunter's favorite aspect of the job. For the coming year, he will travel to other industry events, representing AAMP.
Next year's convention is scheduled for August 1-3 in Omaha, NE. Follow along with AAMP at its website, www.aamp.com, and its social media channels to keep informed about show updates.