More than 380 attend meat conference

Temple Grandin is keynote speaker
It’s not every day that you get to see a butcher cut down a side of beef as the entertainment for a conference reception. But then, what would you expect at the Carolina Meat Conference?

More than 380 meat producers, butchers, Extension agents and chefs turned out Dec. 3-4 for NC Choices’ second Carolina Meat Conference held at the WinMock Dairy Barn and Event Center in Bermuda Run. The Monday night reception featured a beef cutting demonstration by Adam Tiberio of Tiberio Custom Meats, with commentary by Kari Underly, author and founder of Range, Inc.

Keynote speaker Dr. Temple Grandin, renown advocate for the welfare of food animals, drew a crowd for Monday night’s dinner. Evening activities also included presentations of three Innovator Awards for meat production.

Grandin’s impact on modern meat processing and livestock handling cannot be overstated. Today, more than half of all U.S. livestock is handled in facilities that Grandin designed to reduce animal stress and improve meat quality.

Her interest, she said, goes back to her youth, visiting her aunt’s farm. Later, in her work evaluating animal handling practices, she got down into livestock chutes to see what the cattle were seeing, what stimuli made them anxious, and she helped to make changes.

Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin urged meat producers to tell their story.

“Today, people are interested in where their food comes from,” Grandin said. “Especially in urban centers, people feel an urge to get back to the land.”

Grandin was the subject of an HBO movie, “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes. At the movie press conference, Grandin said she answered more questions about livestock production than about the movie. “People are just curious about it,” she said.

She urged livestock producers to tell the story they know about humane livestock treatment. Grandin worked with the McDonalds restaurant chain to help them improve their animal welfare practices. “It became real to them when they made their first trip to the slaughter house,” she said.

Many consumers don’t know about the animal welfare changes that companies like McDonalds have made. Developing standards for livestock handling, slaughter and stress is critical to animal welfare, Grandin said. “Guidelines have to be clear and measurable,” she said. “If it’s too complicated, nobody can understand it.”

When a 4-H’er asked Grandin how to should respond to friends who objected to clubs showing livestock, Grandin encouraged her to “explain what you do. There are a lot of good things associated with showing livestock.”

sausage production
Workshop participants learn how to fill sausage casings.

Grandin said it is important for young people to understand agriculture. She said she was pleased see a number of young people, especially women, attending the meat conference this year. “It was hard to be a woman in the cattle industry,” Grandin said of her early involvement. “I’m glad to see more women getting into agriculture.”

Two of the three Innovator Awards presented at the conference went to women. The Producer Award went to Eliza Maclean of Cane Creek Farm in Snow Camp; and the Food Business of the Year Award went to Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant. The Commercial Meat Processor Award was given to Richard and Ronnie Huettman of Acre Station Meat Farm in Pinetown.

Throughout the two-day conferences, participants attended a variety of workshops related to niche and sustainable meat production, including hands-on butchery sessions for chefs. N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told participants that North Carolina’s meat industry has grown rapidly, from 2002 when only one producer was certified by the state as a meat handler, to more than 600 meat handlers and more than 100 poultry handlers in the state today.

Food for the dinner was prepared by chefs from the Blind Pig of Asheville, who were tasked with utilizing the “whole hog” in preparing the meal. A charcuterie platter on each table featured pate, crispy pig ears and barbecued pig tails. The family style dinner included whole hog barbecue, hash with white rice, collard greens with hamhock, shell bean ragu and cornbread and rolls with whipped pork butter.

-N. Hampton

pork demonstration
Chef Tanya Cauthen demonstrates how to cut up pork.

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