Food Iowans scoff at the loose meat sandwich being most representative of our state.

Iowans scoff at the loose meat sandwich being most representative of our state.

Are Iowans upset as cuisine crown crumbles?

Published on March 18th, 2014 | by Josh Hafner

Another week, another national publication declaring something as quintessentially Iowan, accurate or not.

It started around last October when Deadspin — a sports site, mind you — named corn dogs the Hawkeye state’s official food in an article called “The Great American Menu.” We Iowans balked.

We love our state fair, to be sure. But giving deep-fried, mystery-meat-on-a-stick to America’s pork-producing paradise — the reigning home of bacon, pork tenderloins and pork chops — seemed a mischaracterization.

Now comes Slate Magazine’s “United Steaks of America” map, which more narrowly assigns one iconic meat to every state in the Union. Iowa got loose meat, that crumbly, sloppy-less joe beef dish long served on buns statewide.

Maid-Rite started slinging its loose-meat sandwiches in 1926. The Ottumwa restaurant Canteen started its eponymous version in 1936. Other Iowa diners followed.

But is the beef dish Iowa’s greatest meat offering?

The state raised 3.9 million cattle in 2012, per the Iowa Beef Industry Council. There are around 19 million pigs fattening in Iowa at any given time, however, per the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Iowans not only put out more pork than any other state, we party over it, too. The Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival here once sold out in four minutes, but that didn’t sway Slate’s decision on loose meat:

“A loose meat sandwich is like a hamburger, except that instead of being formed into a patty, the ground beef is scattered all over the place like a big handful of wet sand.”

Ouch, Slate. Ouch.

Indiana got the pork tenderloin on Slate’s map, citing a 1908 version of the fried, breaded cutlets. South Carolinians stuff their pork chops and so won that item. Tennessee brought home the coveted bacon thanks to Benton’s, the state’s acclaimed cured-meat producer.

To be fair, every state wanted to get bacon. Sales for the salty pork slices rose by nearly 10 percent in 2013, according to the Daily Mail. That’s $4 billion in bacon. Sixty-five percent of Americans said they would support bacon as the United States’ “national food,” according to a poll from pork supplier Smithfield Foods.

You tell Juice: What should Iowa’s official meat be? Take the poll!


About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

Back to Top ↑

write my essay paper