Bacon and Beyond
Today, Woods Smoked Meats produces its original dry rubbed hickory smoked bacon and an injected version, along with a peppered, apple, Cajun, honey barbecue, apple-cinnamon and a chipotle-lime flavor. They also make Canadian bacon and both beef and pork cottage bacon and are currently testing a honey jalapeno bacon. Smoked jowl is also a huge customer favorite.
Woods has won so many awards he’s trademarked his products under the brand name: Sweet Betsy From Pike. This reflects the old pioneer song and the plant’s Pike County location.
His curing prowess has launched him into the Missouri Association of Meat Processors (MAMP) Hall of Fame, the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) Cured Meats Hall of Fame, the Hermann Wurstfest Hall of Fame and earned him lifetime achievement awards from both MAMP and AAMP, where he served both associations as president.
The awards for his products are legion, including 27 medals from the German Butchers Association (13 gold, 8 silver, 6 bronze and the Cup of Honor). His “Best of Show” awards from MAMP total five. In fact, he’s won so many awards that he’s been a judge at the AAMP national competition four times and was also a judge at the German organization’s competition (IFFA) in Frankfurt, Germany.
“If I’ve learned anything about bacon, it is that the salt content must be watched closely,” he adds. “I’ve judged a show with 40 bacon entries and found only three with enough salt to give the product a true bacon taste. The product must have a good smoky aroma and a bit of sweetness, but that salt level in many entries is often insufficient.”
Woods recently began making some nitrite-free bacon using celery powder in his cure and says it is in demand from organic vendors.
This Babe Ruth of bacon has accounted for 27 bacon awards from AAMP, including nine grand champions, 25 from MAMP, two grand championship entries from the Illinois State Fair and four grand championships from the Missouri State Fair. Of his IFFA entries, four earned gold medals and another four silver.
Last year, when AAMP hosted the German Butchers Association competition in Wisconsin, Ed leaned on his vast travel experience to produce a heavily smoked bacon that was darker in color than normal. He knew the products favored in Germany first-hand and when he looked at the judge’s scorecard, one word popped out...“PERFECT!”
Woods has traveled to China as part of President Eisenhower’s People To People program and even did consulting work for independent companies in the US and as far away as Indonesia. He also volunteered to travel 12,000 miles to Kazakhstan where he helped local meat processors improve and develop better quality products in some very primitive conditions.
With 18 employees and his wife Regina serving as the company’s vice president and treasurer, Woods has even earned accolades from the White House. When President Jimmy Carter stopped in nearby Clarksville in 1979 on a Mississippi River cruise, Woods presented him with a slab of bacon. He is proud of the presidential thank-you letter hanging in his office acknowledging the delicious bacon gift.
In some food groups, they may say the proof is in the pudding. But in the case of Ed Woods, the proof is invariably in the bacon...and in the 175 other meat items he’s perfected over a 56-year career.