The Wolfpack could be bound for international acclaim in the world of charcuterie.
But what’s charcuterie? It’s the somewhat trendy, but ages-old, art and science of preparing fine-quality meat products, mainly from pork, explains Dr. Dana Hanson, extension specialist and associate professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NC State University.
Two of Hanson’s graduate students, Travis Tennant and Currey Nobles, won a gold medal – scoring a perfect 50 out of 50 points — in a national meat quality competition for sausage and ham at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in January.
That means that Hanson and his students are headed in May for an elite international meat contest, the IIFA Quality Competition, which is held every three years in Frankfurt, Germany.
The January contest, the first of its kind held in the United States, was the result of a partnership between the German Butchers’ Association and the American Association of Meat Processors, the nation’s largest trade organization representing small businesses in the meat industry.
To make the U.S. contest identical to the show in Frankfurt, organizers sent judges from Germany to conduct the competition, grading on appearance, consistency, smell and taste. The contest’s 300 entries came from 15 states.
Tennant and Nobles won their medal for a dry cured pork capicola, something like prisciutto or ham, made from the muscle that runs from the neck to the fourth or fifth rib of the pork shoulder.
They’d started curing the meat last spring not for the competition but as a test for Hanson’s meat science Extension program. Hanson wanted to make the capicola as before a charcuterie workshop he held earlier this year for North Carolina chefs. He heard about the U.S. meat contest in November, and that’s when he and his students decided to enter.
Hanson says that as interest in charcuterie grows in the United States – “it’s become a hot thing in the United States in places along the East Coast with a food scene” – it’s important for students to become familiar with it.
“It’s giving them another skill set they can use in meat technology and processing careers,” he says.