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In praise of pork

February 3, 2011
By Carissa Nath

AURI meat scientist

Minnesotans know their pigs. The state is the third largest producer of hogs in the country, marketing more than 14.6 million animals in 2009. It's also an industry that supports approximately 22,500 jobs, according to the Minnesota Pork Board.

Each year pork producers gather for the Minnesota Pork Congress to discuss a wide variety of topics including policy issues and market outlook as well as training workshops in animal care, transportation, quality assurance and manure application.

But the industry also doesn't forget pork's value on the dinner table.

Highlighting the annual gathering is the Taste of Elegance-a culinary competition that showcases the versatility of pork and the creativity of chefs. The event has taken place since 1989 and has featured many of Minnesota's top chefs. This year 16 competing chefs prepared pork dishes that were judged by a panel of three judges.

The winner of the judged competition (Chef Par Excellence) is awarded $1,500 and the opportunity to represent the Minnesota Pork Board at the 2011 National Taste of Elegance event.

In addition to the competition, the chefs prepare and serve their pork dishes to invited guests who sample the dishes and then vote for their favorite for the People's Choice Award. Chefs are also judged on their table display and a prize is awarded to the chef with the winning table display.

There was a wide variety in this year's dishes. Preparations ranged from ribs, burgers and pork shanks. This year's winner of the Chef Par Excellence was Chef Jack Riebel of Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis with two preparation of "Polynesian Pork," one of those dishes featured pork loin and the other pork shoulder.

The pork industry provides jobs, economic activity, fertilizer for the soil and fare for the table. Events like the Taste of Elegance are a reminder that pork not only impacts the economy, it can also be dynamic at the dinner table.

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