by Cori Hilsgen
Once again, the St. Joseph Meat Market brought home some gold plaques to add to their wall filled with other state and national awards.
The Meat Market won eight awards at this year’s Minnesota Association of Meat Processors’ annual convention held March 13-15 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud.
The awards included a grand champion award for prepared food item for the market’s smoked beef brisket, reserve grand champion for cooked summer sausage and dried beef, champion for bacon, reserve champion for specialty snack sticks, fresh sausage and poultry class (chicken brat), and a first-place award in the innovative processed beef category for its swiss cheese snack sticks.
Meat Market owner Harvey Pfannenstein said about 72 meat markets and plants and 53 suppliers of products were at the convention this year. There were 546 products entered in the competition.
The Meat Market entered 24 categories of the competition.
Pfannenstein, 58, said the contest is getting tougher every year. He believes one reason for this is because of information shared through the convention workshops held prior to the convention.
The Meat Market participates in and hosts workshops. Meat scientists from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute in Marshall come to the Meat Market, set up bleachers, teach and give demonstrations.
“We actually learn the science behind making the product instead of just doing it the way we used to do it,” Pfannenstein said. “Now we know why we are doing it.”
At the workshops, the scientists break it down and show what to do first, what to do last, how to add the salt, how to extract protein, how well to mix things, smoke schedules and more.
Pfannenstein said this year there were 61 people in the Meat Market sausage kitchen all learning the same thing, which included dry-curing bacon, hams, pork loins and how to make shelf-stable summer sausage and jerky.
“When you take all that good information and put it into that product showroom, that’s the rewarding part – seeing all these markets, all this product bettering itself,” Pfannenstein said. “By that, competition gets stiffer. You probably take (home) not necessarily less awards, but there are other people winning too, which is good to see. It’s definitely bettering the product for the consumer.”
Sausage department manager Cy Pfannenstein said the competition has gotten very competitive. He compares the competition to 4-H where you see how you compare to others with the same products. He said some contestants will study and analyze their products for hours before the competition.
The addition of the sausage kitchen, which started production in 2001, has allowed the Meat Market to process product at a faster rate, and offers more freezer and cooler space that allows them to accept more wholesale accounts and still keep up with demands of the retail end. Currently, the market processes about 6,000-7,000 pounds of sausage each week.
The Meat Market has won several national awards. Pfannenstein plans to attend the American Association of Meat Processors’ convention in June in Milwaukee, Wis.
He said every day of the convention is filled with seminars on topics such as protein extraction, tumbling, curing and smoking and more.
“These workshops and these conventions are so important,” Pfannenstein said. “You can’t keep up and do it all on a personal level, and that is why these organizations are so important and are such a benefit for us.”
Pfannenstein has worked at the Meat Market for 46 years. He has been the owner since 1997. His father owned it before him and he began working there when he was 12 years old. His siblings also worked there, and many family members still do.
Pfannenstein employs 26 full- and part-time employees. During deer-hunting season and Christmas, he employs up to 40 people.
Pfannenstein has been married to Carol for 37 years. They have five children — four daughters and one son. They have nine grandchildren.
All of their children work at the market at some time of the year. Their son, who works full-time, is studying law enforcement. Two daughters are registered nurses and two are teachers.