When it comes to making food for his friends and family, Thyron Mathews says fresh ingredients matter. And nothing compares to Iowa-raised beef for the smoker or the grill, he says.

“A week ago, this cow was out eating good corn and good food,” Mathews said last week while checking his beef plate rib entry as part of the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Cookout Contest at the Iowa State Fair.

Mathews; his wife, Terri; and about 50 other competitors celebrated Iowa’s livestock industry last week as they smoked, grilled and cooked their way to claim the coveted crown and the title of cookout champ.

In the end, Andy Skahill of Bettendorf was crowned the winner with his poultry recipe, “Southern Finger Stickin’ Chicken.”  He placed first in the poultry category of the contest and was voted as the overall champion. 

For many, it was the comradery of the contest...