BEDFORD, Pa. — It isn’t every day one gets to watch butchers from the Northeast region charged with the task of breaking down a beef subprimal into salable cuts of beef to appeal to today’s beef consumers. On May 9, the 2019 Best BEEF Butcher Contest took place at the Penn State Meats Lab located right across the street from the iconic Beaver Stadium, home to the Penn State Nittany Lion football team located in State College, Pa. Scheduled during the front-end of the 80th Pennsylvania Association of Meat Processors Conference, this contest showcased eight butcher contest finalists from all over the region, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Minutes prior to the start of the butcher contest, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding presided over the event to present the official “May is Beef Month” proclamation. Every May in the state of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Beef Council organizes the official “May is Beef Month” proclamation, this year coming from Gov. Wolf and delivered by Secretary Redding.
“Meat protein is an essential component of our diets, providing nutrients in a way unmatched by plant proteins,” said Redding. “So much of the growth in Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry comes from the expansion of animal agriculture across our state to meet the growing demand here and around the world for meat.
“The overarching goal of the month-long celebration is to encourage consumers to gear up for the grilling season with beef and, furthermore, share both the people behind beef, as well as some of beef’s great attributes,” said Nichole Hockenberry, director of Marketing and Communications, Pennsylvania Beef Council. “This year, in conjunction with the Best BEEF Butcher Contest, we will be providing a protein packed donation by giving back to the local community and gifting all the beef that will be utilized in the contest to the State College Food Bank.”
The Best BEEF Butcher Contest was a first-time event designed to celebrate the skills, knowledge and value independent butchers and meat processors bring to the overall beef supply chain. Without the passion and dedication to the craft of butchery and meat cutting, beef consumers wouldn’t have as many choices and options available to them regarding the availability of beef.
The contest emcee was Christopher Jeffcoat, of Littlestown, Pa., and Chairman of the Pennsylvania Beef Council. Sallie Miller, of Briggsdale, Colo., and chairwoman of the Colorado Beef Council, served as the contest moderator.
The largest portion of the contestants’ scores were derived from the 30-minute cutting portion where they were asked to break down a beef shoulder clod subprimal, fabricating the beef value cuts such as the Flat Iron, Ranch Cut and Petite Tender. Contestants were judged on the following criteria:
- Accuracy — how accurately did they fabricate the desired beef value cuts?
- Technique — knife skills/efficiency of movement, safety technique, portioning, denuding and trimming.
- Visual appeal — how well did they visually merchandise, label and display their cuts for the consumer?
- Yield — how much yield did they achieve from fabricating out these beef value cuts as compared to the subprimal starting weight?
- Consumer Sales Pitch — how well did the contestant deliver a concise, factual, appealing and persuasive sales pitch for the particular beef value cut they will be asked by the judges to ‘sell’ to a hypothetical customer within a two-minute timeframe?
Lastly, each contestant was asked to correctly identify a selection of 15 fresh beef cuts, which were geared towards testing their general knowledge of beef cuts from the entire beef carcass.
The contest was judged by three beef industry professionals; Bridget Bingham, Pennsylvania Beef Council Executive Director; Bridget Wasser, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Director of Meat Science; and Dr. Jonathan Campbell, Penn State University Meat Extension Specialist.
All of the contestants were honored at the PAMP Awards Dinner on May 11, at the Penn State Hotel and Conference Center and the top three winners were awarded a banner to display in their market, as well as a cash prize. Taking home the Honorable Mention 3rd Place award was J. Myron Stoltzfus of Stoltzfus Meats, Inc. of Intercourse, Pa. Kara Schrader of Schrader Farms Meat Market in Romulus, N.Y., took home the honors of Runner-Up Best BEEF Butcher and the Grand Prize Overall Winner of the contest went to Joseph Malafy of Malafy’s Meat Processing in Red Hook, N.Y.
“I just enjoy cutting meat and I have fun doing it. The most fun part of the contest was when I picked up my knife,” Malafy said after the contest. “I enjoy making everything look presentable for the customer. I’ve been cutting meat for 35 years, ever since I was 18 years old.”
The event was the beneficiary of several generous donations from beef and meat industry organizations and companies. JBS of Souderton, Pa., donated the beef shoulder clod subprimals, Bunzl/Koch Supplies donated the contestant sharpening steels and cut-resistant cutting gloves; Phoenix Scales supplied a digital counter scale which was showcased during the contest; and Walton’s donated the contestant boning knives and white frock. Prior to the contest, spectators, guests, judges and contestants were given a complimentary beef brisket lunch that was made possible thanks to donations from Citura and the Pennsylvania Beef Producers Working Group.
The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Beef Council and the Beef Checkoff’s Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative through a grant from the Colorado Beef Council. For more information about upcoming NEBPI events, visit the NEBPI website and Facebook page. For more information about your beef checkoff investment, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com.
— Beef Checkoff
Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative
For more articles concerning the beef industry, click here.