At this years Tennessee State Fair, Jack Stites of Cookeville, paid $4,500 for the state champion country-style, ‘trim product’ ham that had been cured by David Holden of Lynnville. No weight was given so we have no way of knowing price per pound.
By way of contrast at the Kentucky State Fair held earlier this year, ham buyer Luther Deaton Jr wrote a check for $600k to purchase the 2016 Kentucky Grand Champion country ham. That big ham weighed 17.38 lb and was produced by Broadbent B & B Foods of Kuttawa, Kentucky. That’s over 34k per pound.
Last years Tennessee grand champion ham brought in $4200. Kentucky’s blue ribbon ham sold for $400k.
We’ve been eating Tennessee country ham and Kentucky country ham since we were just broke off the teat. You’d be hard-pressed to tell any difference in quality among each states top purveyors.
The proceeds from the Tennessee sale goes to Future Farmers Of America while the proceeds from the Kentucky sale go to a wide variety of charities. Are Kentucky philanthropists that much better heeled than their Tennessee counterparts?
Way back in 1964 the first Kentucky Grand Champion ham brought in $124 ($949 in 2016 dollars)
We found an old interview with 1999 Miss Kentucky Heather French Henry who claims that her sheer beauty is the reason for the state’s ham gold rush: “Well in ’99, right after I won Miss Kentucky (ed note-a year later Henry would win Miss America) and was about ready to leave to compete for Miss America, the bidding had sort of stalled at about $40,000,” says French. “And the current commissioner at that time looked down, and he saw me and he said, ‘Miss Kentucky, come up here.’ … And he hands me this tray and says ‘go down there and walk around with the ham.’ That was the first year for Miss Kentucky carrying the ham, and it went from $40,000 to $118,000 that year.”
That settles it. If Tennessee wants to compete with Kentucky in the world of big ham auctions they’re going to need to bring in Miss Tennessee and have her parade the ham around the room til the numbers go through the roof.