Ronnie Drennan rubbed some salt and sugar into a ham about nine months ago and knew this was the start of something good.
He didn’t know it was $2 million worth of good. That’s the price tag his country ham snared Thursday morning in an auction at the Kentucky State Fair.
The auction of the state’s “grand champion” ham is an annual tradition and the money goes to the charity of the winning bidder’s choice. This year, the 16-pound piece of pork went to a group including owners of Louisville’s Hermitage Farms, Bridgeman Foods and Republic Bank.
Hermitage Farms and Bridgeman Foods agreed to each give $500,000 for the ham and Republic Bank is picking up the other $1 million.
The price tag is a record for the Kentucky Farm Bureau, which has been hosting the annual ham breakfast for 51 years. WFPL crunched the numbers — adjusted for inflation — and mapped the grand champ hams over the years.
The ham’s tender, Drennan, co-owns Broadbent B and B Foods with his wife, Beth. Since opening their store in Kuttawa, in the heart of western Kentucky, they have taken home the grand champion’s purple ribbon nine times.
“We just pride ourselves on making good quality products,” Ronnie Drennan said.
On Thursday, their pride and joy was flaunted around the showroom by a beauty queen, Miss Kentucky.
Quickly, the bids rose from a few thousand dollars to the million mark.
Steve Trager, of Republic Bank, said he came to the breakfast ready to walk away with prized pork.
“I was pretty committed to doing it,” he said.
The future of the ham is yet to be decided. Trager and Steve Wilson, the co owner of Hermitage Farms, said they will decide on where to send the ham. They both said it will go to something philanthropic.
In years past, the high price hams have been sent to missions and places they can help feed hungry citizens.
And in years past, no ham has sold for as much as this ham. In fact, the winning bidders could have bought 35,778 cured hams from Broadbent B and B Store for what they spent on one ham.
But Ronnie Drennan said he is just happy to be a part of the giving effort.
“We don’t even get the ham back, you know,” he said. ”It all goes to charity.”