Brother’s Custom Processing, Inc., a Craig business, is somewhat off the beaten path.
The unassuming processing shop and retail store is located midway down East First Street amid dusty breezes, tightly packed sagebrush and the random signs of industry.
It’s an unlikely location for winners of a national competition.
From a steel rack in the middle of the store hang dozens of packets of beef jerky, jerky that was recently ranked among the best in the country.
From June 15 to 18, Dave Satterwhite, co-owner of Brother’s, attended the American Cured Meat Championships in Reno, Nev. The American Association of Meat Processors organized the event.
Brother’s won reserve grand champion for whole muscle jerky.
“It’s the biggest one in the world,” Satterwhite said of the competition. “It was quite an honor for us. We were going against some very, very good products and companies.”
The annual championship has been hosted in different cities since 1949.
Despite the event’s longevity, Satterwhite has only attended the past three competitions. And, this year was the first he’d entered a Brother’s product.
Satterwhite opened Brother’s about 10 years ago with his brother, Bob Satterwhite. It wasn’t until a few years later they began entering regional competitions.
Since 2005, the brothers have won more than 20 awards.
“They cover the walls,” Satterwhite said of the accolades. “We’ve been pretty competitive within the state. This year we won the grand champion jerky for the states of Colorado and Wyoming.”
Satterwhite’s jerky starts as quarter-inch thick strips of top-round beef. From there, it’s seasoned and smoked, then dried over two days.
Finished competition jerky is judged on uniformity of thickness, color, aroma, texture, edibility, flavor and aftertaste. For their jerky, the brothers were awarded 939 points out of a possible 1,000.
The winner, a resident of South Dakota, beat the brothers by four points.
It might seem odd that there would still be a market for jerky in this day and age.
Satterwhite said jerky started as a means to transport or preserve meat in the days before refrigeration. Yet today, in this modern world, meat processors still reduce juicy, tender steak into dry, chewy strips.
“It’s very desirable,” Satterwhite said of jerky’s enduring appeal.
Satterwhite, 47, said he doesn’t recall the moment when the idea to start a business with his brother was hatched.
“I can’t even remember,” he said. “Just one thing led to another and pretty soon we were in business.”
Sibling rivalry or bickering hasn’t been a problem, Satterwhite said.
“We never had that issue. Both of us have respect for each other,” he said. “It just makes perfect sense to go into a partnership with someone you trust and love and what have you.”
Satterwhite attended the competition alone while Bob minded the store. He said the people who attended the competition were passionate about their products.
“The interesting part of that national thing (is) we had people from all over the United States,” he said. “The people that are there really care about their businesses.
“I mean, it’s not handy to go. Everybody is so busy in their life and, hey, if you’ve got time to take a week off, who wants to go hang around with a bunch of meat guys?
“That’s tough company to compete against.”
But, the tough competition makes for sweet rewards.
“Hey, it’s an award-winning product,” he said. “It’s as good as it gets. We’re really proud of that.”
Organizers preparing for summer’s barbecue championship in Craig
The second Colorado State BBQ Championship is slated for Aug. 25 to 27 at Loudy-Simpson Park.
Event organizers said there will be differences from last year’s inaugural offering.
Last year’s championship took place at Wyman Museum.
“The competition this year is a bit bigger in regard to the number of competitors entering, and the change to Loudy-Simpson will hopefully bring more people from town down to the event and get travelers from out of town into the city,” said George Rohrich, chief executive officer at The Memorial Hospital in Craig and event organizer.
The Kansas City BBQ Society and Rocky Mountain BBQ Association sanction the Craig championship. Last year, 35 teams competed.
“Now that people are more familiar with the event, we hope they will come down again and enjoy the sights and tastes we have to offer,” Rohrich said.
People who come to the event will be able to watch barbecue teams from across the country compete and display their cooking talent. Visitors can also sample different foods.
There are four meat classes teams will compete in: pork, ribs, chicken and brisket.
Cash prizes will be awarded to the top five cooks, with the first-place winner in each event earning a $300 prize.
Also, there will be a $3,000 and $2,000 prize given to the competition’s grand and reserve champions. In all, the total amount of money to be awarded at the competition is $10,000, Rohrich said.
Judges certified by the Kansas City BBQ Society will judge the competition.
For people interested in becoming a judge, the Kansas City BBQ Society will host a class at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at Loudy-Simpson. People who attend the class will learn the criteria of barbecue, along with tips to improve their own cooking skills.
For members of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the class costs $55, and for non-members the cost is $85.
Registration can be completed through www.bbqcompassist.com.
Along with the competition, multiple vendors will be at the park, and The Incendiary Circus, a group of professional fire dancers, will perform Aug. 26. There is a $2 entry fee for adults. Admission is free for children ages 12 and younger.
For more information about the competition, visit www.craigbbq.com.
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