The smell, the taste, the touch, with subtle hints of honey.
No, it’s not wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, this is the search for the nation’s best bacon ahead of Australian Bacon Week in June.
Using only Australian produce, Fleischmeister (German for Meat Master) and official judge, Horst Schurger, will put 117 rashers to the test to find which one will take home the bacon in two months’ time.
“You’re looking for the all-over look, also the fat-to-lean ratio,” Schurger said.
“We’ll have a smell to see if it’s smoky or not or any other flavour.”
He said some get creative with their entries to stand out, adding spices or even coffee to their bacon.
Like wine tasting, bacon judging is a serious business with Schurger cleansing his palette between bacon bouts with sparkling water, grapes and sour worm lollies.
“We normally clean our palette with some water between every one, but I don’t go onto the sweet stuff,” he said at Sydney’s Northern Sydney Institute in Ryde.
The competition’s top scorer will receive the coveted Australia’s Best Bacon Award, with the National Australian Bacon Award for Excellence awarded for the best bacon available nationwide.
Awards aside, the judging lets pig farmers and butchers know which techniques and processes make the best bacon, Schurger said.
“Going to a competition, it shows you where your shortcomings are so you can say `ok, my bacon is far too dry, I’m going to make it a bit more moist’ or if you have holes inside, you cut your sugar flavour down.”
An initiative of Australian Pork Limited (APL), Australian Bacon Week encourages consumers to support local produce.
According to the APL, 75 per cent of ham and bacon sold within Australia is frozen and imported pork with buyers not knowing its country of origin.
APL marketing manager Mitch Edwards said this is because of confusing labelling laws alerting consumers to whether pork is local or imported.
“About 30 per cent of people who go to the supermarket, they just assume that all the bacon in the supermarket is made from Australian pork. If you want to be sure it’s Australian, the pink PorkMark is your guarantee.”
Edwards said while Australian pork may cost more, the standards in which it’s prepared makes it well worth the 30 to 40 cents more.
“We’ve got the highest standards in the world and our pig herd is the safest. We don’t have diseases that they have in the other parts of the world and we’re keen to keep it that way.”
* Australian Bacon Week runs from June 22-28.