Mountain Meat & Gourmet Sausage of Craig won a second straight grand champion award at The American Cured Meat Championships in Kansas City, Mo., July 19.
The company's "Epicurean Chicken Sausage" won the award in the Specialty Game Meats class. Mountain Meat also brought home a reserve grand champion award for its "Pheasant Supremo Sausage" in the Cooked Poultry Sausage class, according to owner Gary Basinger.
It isn't the first time the company has succeeded at the national level.
Last year, Mountain Meat won the same awards in the same classes, but with different meat selections. Pheasant Epicurean took the grand champion distinction and Chicken Supremo won reserve grand champion.
Food-science scholars from all over the country judged the company's nitrite-free sausages.
Basinger called them "some of the best and brightest university people in the U.S."
The judges scored 649 products in 29 categories based on aroma, flavor, eye appeal, color and texture.
The championships were held at the 64th Convention of the American Association of Meat Processors. Mountain Meats is one of the association's 1,900 members, and Basinger is a former president of the trade organization that represents small businessmen in the meat and food industries. Mountain Meats is a 10-year member of AAMP.
Basinger said his company prides itself on using fresh ingredients in its sausages, using fresh herbs instead of dried, and whole garlic cloves instead of garlic powder.
Mountain Meats uses button mushrooms, fresh spinach and Parmesan cheese to blend its award-wining chicken sausage.
The sausage business took off for Mountain Meats when the company hired Josef Brunner, a master sausage maker from Austria.
Basinger said the company had not made hand-blended or fully cooked sausage before working with Brunner but decided to push that side of the business because "we thought that's where the future was going to take us."
Combining Brunner's "spectacular recipes" with the already respected business proved to be a winning combination. Basinger said the company now sells its sausage through Epic Catering to box-suites at Invesco Field.
Carolyn Basinger said while the company has made a national name for itself, it is just beginning to be recognized locally.
"In the last six months, it's really started to catch on," Carolyn
Some Craig businesses have featured Mountain Meats' products at customer appreciation outings and barbecues. There, people learned firsthand about the Mountain Meats' selections, Carolyn Basinger said.
One of the latest offerings by the company is custom beer brats. Microbreweries, such as Coopersmith's in Fort Collins, send kegs of their beer to Craig where Mountain Meats blends a bratwurst with the lagers. Gary Basinger said it is another way for the breweries to offer products made with the beers they put so much effort into.
The third-generation meat packing company also operates a plant out of Fruita, ran by Gary Basinger's son. The company employs 22 people between the two facilities.
The next challenge for the enterprising sausage lover is the World Championships in Frankfurt, Germany, next year.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.