Bovinova: Ingenuity, Intelligent Product Design, and Meat Comas

This week, for my triumphant return to the blogosphere, I’m not going to talk about the standard fare of “stupid plaintiff” this or “dumb product” that. Instead, I’ve got a positive message about ingenuity and the virtue of inspired product engineering. I’ve got a message about Bovinova.

For those of you that don’t know, Bovinova is a massive epicurean barbecue hosted right here in Greenville, South Carolina, and it happened not too long ago on May 19. The main event of Bovinova involves a whole cow (minus the head) which is slow-roasted over an open fire for 18 hours, all while a host of goats, pigs, lambs, llama, chickens, and turkeys are being cooked. This year, more than 700 guests were served more than 1,000 pounds of meat, which makes Bovinova the leading cause of acute food coma of any event in South Carolina, including Thanksgiving.

In any event, one of the coolest things about Bovinova is the engineering and design that went into the grilling apparatuses. Instead of roasting the animals rotisserie-style, they are secured to a grilling plane. There are only a few places in the world where whole animals are cooked this way, so there’s not a whole lot of institutional knowledge out there about how to design the grilling surface, how to support the weight of a suspended cow for a long period of time, and how to rotate the cow over the fire so that both sides get heat. Obviously, these are not insubstantial questions. If the grill is designed without these aspects in mind, the cow may fall into the fire, large portions of the cow may not be cooked properly, or worst, one of Bovinova’s patrons may get physically ill from the meat.

However, thanks to some forethought and a lot of planning, the team of guys who built the grill anticipated these concerns at the outset of the design stage and engineered their way into effective solutions. What resulted is a grilling system that makes your charcoal Weber look like an easy bake oven. The entire cow can almost effortlessly be pulled off the fire, flipped 180 degrees, and returned to the fire; it can also be elevated at an angle to allow fat to render more effectively. I’m not going to go so far as to say that this is a “set and forget it” type of assembly; but it’s pretty close. As a consequence of their exceptional craftsmanship, not only are the hosts of Bovinova able to stage the biggest, most unusual cookout you’ve ever seen, more importantly, they’re able to do it in a way that minimizes the risk of injury or liability.

And that’s why Bovinova is my new favorite holiday.

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