It was a barbecue bash like no other when Iowa pork producers fired up their grills and served more than 10,000 pork samples this summer during the Safeway 2014 Barbecue Battle, which is the largest food festival in Washington, D.C.

“Putting producers right out in front of the crowd makes a big impression,” said Patrick Fleming, director of retail marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “Consumers are amazed to learn that great pork doesn’t require secret seasonings or fancy cooking equipment.”

More than 50,000 people attended the two-day Barbecue Battle, which includes family entertainment, cooking demonstrations and the National Barbecue Championship. At times, the crowd was so large that it was challenging to walk up and down historic Pennsylvania Avenue, where more than 20 Iowa pork producers prepared New York chops and boneless ribeye chops on basic, backyard grills.

Many people had questions on how to grill chops and were impressed with how great the product tasted when cooked properly with minimal seasoning, Fleming said. The Pork Checkoff distributed coupons for fresh pork, recipe brochures and cook-right sensors while producers highlighted the new pork cut names and reiterated the cooking temperature of 145 to 160 degrees.

“The popular event offers a great, informal way for producers to interact with consumers, speak about pork and share the ease of cooking it,” said Melissa Rosenbauer, national retail marketing manager for the Pork Checkoff. “Many people were amazed how tasty and juicy the chops were when cooked to the right temperature.”

Smokin’ the Competition
This is the 12th year that Iowa pork producers have participated in the 22nd-annual Safeway Barbecue Battle. This year’s event included the National Barbecue Cooking Championship, a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event.

This year’s competition included well-known BBQ pitmasters Myron Mixon, who won the 2014 pork national championship trophy, and Tuffy Stone, who is a spokesman for the Pork Checkoff’s “Ready, Set, Ribs” campaign. The Safeway 2014 Barbecue Battle received national and international coverage on CBS, FOX, NBC and ABC, along with extensive local media coverage, Rosenbauer said.

Safeway also promoted pork throughout June in its stores in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to tie in with the Barbecue Battle, she added. In-store point-of-sale materials, in-store radio spots, fresh pork features in Safeway’s weekly ads and a large social media and print campaign promoted pork extensively in the Washington, D.C., area.

“Safeway is a major retailer, and these pork promotions reached a very large customer base,” Rosenbauer said.

Giving Back to Those in Need
The Safeway 2014 Barbecue Battle also helped raise more than $80,000 this year for area food banks and children’s charities. In addition, the Pork Checkoff donated pork to local food banks.

“The event helped personalize the pork industry,” Fleming said. “The Barbecue Battle helps put a face on agriculture by connecting producers and consumers.”