Reams enjoys time spent at German trade fair
Rick Reams, owner of RJ's Fresh Meats in Hudson, traveled to Germany in early May hoping to enter some of his award-winning sausage and meat into international competition. His plan hit a snag -- custom officials in Germany wouldn't let him take his meat across the border.
The good news is, Reams and his other traveling companions had a great time at the IFFA meat industry trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany. And they managed to get some sightseeing into the trip.
IFFA is the leading international trade fair for processing, packaging and sales in the meat industry. In 2013, 60,000 trade visitors from 142 traveled to Frankfurt to see the range of products and services offered by 960 exhibitors.
"We had a great time, but it was disappointing to have to leave my meat at the border," Reams said.
He said he had been tracking down the proper paperwork for months, but one small detail doomed Reams, and most other Americans.
"I had all my paperwork from the state of Wisconsin, all my federal inspection records, letters from state officials and more," Reams said. "What they were looking for was a raised or embossed seal. They essentially said my paperwork 'means nothing to us.'"
He said he had spent four months looking for rules, regulations and people to contact. He worked with German unions but there was no clear-cut list of rules. Only one American company was able to get meat to the international fair. Ironically, that company was another area firm, Olson's Woodville Meats.
On the trip with Reams was Dave Downs of Lakeville, Minn. Downs is owner of Mar-Co Sales, a firm that sells meat processing equipment. In Germany, the pair met up with Steve Watters of River Falls. He is an animal and food science professor at UW-River Falls.
"I left my meat at the border and we continued on," Reams said. "The fair was phenomenal. The display area itself was huge."
He compared it to one display booth at the fair.
"The Robert Reiser display was larger than the entire trade show in Wisconsin and Wisconsin's is the biggest in the United States," Reams said. And Robert Reiser, a supplier of processing and packaging equipment, was just one of 960 exhibitors.
The big change in meat processing is the computerized equipment available to producers.
Watters talked about touring a meat casing company, Naturin Viscofan, near Frankfort.
"Not too long ago the company had 1,600 employees," Watters said. "Now they have 300 with everything being computerized. They operate 24 hours, seven days a week, and can't keep up with the demand."
The men were all impressed with the show, but needed a little tourist time also.
Reams, a fan of Hacker-Pschorr beer, decided it gave him a good excuse to travel to Munich, home of the German beer.
The trio took a train from Frankfurt to Munich -- 320 miles -- for a one-day adventure.
"It was a high-speed train," Watters said. "At one point I saw a panel that said we were traveling 312 kilometers per hour (about 200 miles per hour)."
Even with a few stops along the way, the trip only took about three hours.
"We were passing cars and trucks on the Autobahn like they were standing still," Watters said. "The ride was as smooth as silk."
In Munich they did a lot of walking, visiting eight meat markets. They also saw the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, the heart of Munich. The famous landmark clock dates from 1908 and consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. It chimes every day at 11 a.m. (as well as noon and 5 p.m. in summer) and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century to the mass crowds.
Reams, however, suffered one other minor setback on the Munich trip. After a long walk to the Hacker-Pschorr beer site, the travelers discovered it was not the brewery, but the corporate headquarters with not a service counter in sight!
The group also went on a cruise on the Rhine River one day and saw a variety of sights including castles, wine vineyards and more.
"Essentially all imports come into the country by barge," Reams said. "So, we saw barge after barge on the river."
He said the Rhine has more castles per mile than any other river.
"Most are either religious related, museums or youth hostels," he said.
Many of the villages along the Rhine also are home of vineyards used to make ice wines.
"The vineyards were all along the slopes of the river," Reams said.
Ice wines are unique because the grapes must be immediately picked after the temperature drops to 27 degrees.
"As soon as the temperature dips to 27 degrees, the entire town is summoned to come and pick the grapes," Watters said. "They must be picked before the sun hits them in the morning."
In another interesting tale, Reams said a Radisson Hotel in Frankfurt had to be evacuated after a crew on a construction site next door found a 500-pound bomb left over from World War II. The bomb was safely dismantled and removed.
The IFFA meat industry trade fair in Frankfurt is an event that happens every three years.
"I'm already getting prepared for the next one," Reams said. "This time I'll get my meat into the competition!"