Sizing Up Sacramento

It’s mid-June and all of us on the Judging & Competition (J&C) Committee are eagerly awaiting the arrival of all of our cheesemaker member entries in Sacramento, CA. As we map out the spaces for receiving, storing, and judging your cheeses, and we fine tune and improve our process from last year and previous years, the J&C Committee would like to remind you of important details for this year’s Judging & Competition. In this article, you’ll find information on the following:

  • Proper Quantities of Cheese to Send
  • Entry Review Process and What to Expect
  • Branded Packaging Penalty
  • Letter to U.S. Customs (for Non-U.S. Entrants)
  • Judging & Competition Volunteers

The trucks are lined up and chilled down. Scores of speed racks and sheet trays arrive. Pre-printed index cards with category codes along with hundreds of clips are placed out on tables. With these tools, we will get ready to put together the different entry categories and build our secret library of cheese on the docks of the Sacramento Convention Center.

As you know, it’s a vast amount of cheese, arriving in every size imaginable. We see everything from 1-ounce goat buttons to 200-pound blocks of Cheddar. So how much cheese is the right amount to send? The appropriate quantities listed in the entry guidelines are as follows:

  • “Send your cheese in its original form. Cheeses may not be plugged and/or resealed. Cheeses must be entered as whole wheels, loaves, or blocks. Exceptions will be made for larger form cheeses, i.e. Emmental and Cheddar. These cheeses must be presented in the form in which they are available for wholesale distribution (10 lb. Print, 5 lb. Brick, 20 lb. Wedge, etc.).”

For example, if you produce cheddar in a 40-pound original form and then the cheddar is re-cut into 10-pound prints for wholesale, the 10-pound print may be submitted for judging. You do not need to send the entire 40-pound form.  By sending the smaller format cheese, you can potentially save money on your shipping costs to Sacramento. While these guidelines work well for large format, bagged Cheddars, they don’t work for rinded or clothbound cheeses, and the choice is wholly up to you. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding cheese size and format.

The J&C Committee is currently reviewing all of the 2014 entries to ensure they are in the correct category. Entries are reviewed for their milk type, flavor added, style, as well as other characteristics to ensure they are being judged in the best category for that particular cheese. Committee members may be calling and/or emailing you over the next week or so to seek clarification on cheeses that may fit into multiple categories, or for other questions. Please be aware that we are trying to finalize all category changes by June 20, so all correspondence should be completed prior to that date. Once all of the entries have undergone this intensive committee review, ACS will “freeze” the database and all additional changes will be made on-site in Sacramento. Your entries will go through two more rounds of review on-site: once during receiving and then, finally, by the judges. It doesn’t happen very frequently, however, some cheeses are actually moved to a different category on-site based on judges’ recommendations.

We also want to stress that there will be a 7 point penalty this year for all cheeses which arrive with branded packaging materials on the cheese entries themselves. To be clear, your shipping packages can arrive with your company branding. However, the individual entries that will be presented to the judges must be free of all commercial branding. The only exclusion is for cheeses that have imprinted insignias or date/lot stamping. Cheeses should only be identified by the unique entry labels that will be available for you to print online in the first week of July.

For members shipping from outside the U.S., please note that you can download a copy of the U.S. Customs Letter on our website. This letter should accompany your shipment to help with the import process into the U.S.

We have already received a great response from volunteers wanting to help out with the Judging & Competition, but we are still looking for some extra help. The six days of intense work that happen before the conference even gets underway require many hands to make the J&C process a success. Please visit the volunteer page on the ACS website to see where you would like to help out. Remember, cheesemakers are welcome to volunteer for some of the positions available during J&C. If you are already planning on volunteering, thank you in advance.

See you in Sacramento!

Thank you,

Tom Kooiman
Judging & Competition Chair

Michelle Lee
ACS Programs & Operations Director