$2M ham: ‘Tight and trimmed butt face’

A 15-pound cured ham made headlines recently after it stole the show at the Kentucky State Fair. In this particular competition however, a first place blue ribbon was not all the winning ham collected, but rather a whopping $2 million as well.

According to Modern Farmer, the judges responsible for selecting the winning ham look for certain visual qualities, including a tight and trimmed “butt face” (the flat edge of the hind leg where it is severed from the body), a black butt face color with a brown ring of fat and a taut, pecan-colored skin. But that’s not all, the judges also inject a probe into the ham to help them smell if the ham cured fully.

As part of a tradition dating back more than 50 years, the ham crowned first-place at the fair goes up for auction at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast, where local politicians, state officials and area business owners are able to bid on the ham in a charity auction.

Valued at about $60, previous winning hams have gone for several thousands, but this year’s $2 million winning bid marked a record amount thanks to three separate bidders who decided to combine their efforts and compiled the winning total.

With the entire winning bid going to charity, usually a health or education non-profit, the contest brings a great deal of attention to one expensive ham.  This however, was not always the case as the competition was originally developed as a way to keep the state fair focused on its agrarian traditions and highlight the state’s hog industry as well as Kentuckians’ prowess at curing ham.

“It used to be every farmer cured ham, but there’s not too many of them left that do that,” said Ronny Drennan, who owns the company that produced the winning ham. “It’s a dying art.”

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