Meatstock, a festival devoted to barbecued meat, debuts in New Zealand this weekend, with a two-day event in Auckland that’s already partly sold out.

There will be live, gladiatorial on-site competitions, with barbecue masters cooking various meats onsite for five hours or so, before handing in an unmarked box of goodies for judges from the Australasian Barbecue Alliance to taste.
There will be a showdown between two butchers: Hemi Marcum who’s been cutting up meat since he was in fifth form in Hamilton and Vaughan McNabb, an AFFCO manager from Wairoa who, at 56, says he is aged like a juicy piece of premium Angus. 
There will be mesmerising, fine-smelling demonstrations from headlining acts like pitmaster Moerlando ‘Big Moe’ Cason, who features on a TV show called BBQ Pitmasters and from “Hillbilly” Wes Griffiths, who runs a Texas-style barbecue joint in Sydney, Bovine and Swine BBQ Co.
Twelve of New Zealand’s top barbers — including Barkers Groom Room talents Vea Fonua and Mase Makavaha— will compete, showing off their skills with the blade to win cash prizes. There will be live blues and country music including NZ country singer Cam Scott and Aussie rockers The Delta Riggs. (Crowd surfing and stage diving are not permitted, and are also just a really bad idea when you’re full of meat.)
And of course, you will be able to stroll amongst food trucks selling all sorts of barbecued meats, sink bourbons and craft beers if that’s your thing, and perve at crazy smokers and barbecues.
Festival co-founder Jay Beaumont says New Zealanders and Aussies have been happily barbecuing with gas since the 80s but for some reason, “there’s now a push to go back to the roots of barbecue”, which means strictly wood or charcoal, and often cooking unloved, secondary cuts like brisket, beef cheeks and ribs until they break down into a glorious, jelly-like, ultra-tender delicacy
In just six months, Meatstock’s New Zealand Facebook group has already drawn more than 11,000 members, “who talk about nothing but barbecue in New Zealand”, and Beaumont says they’re drawn by the myriad complexities and possibilities. “It’s about the timbers you use, the cuts, how long you take to cook them, the methods, the temperatures, the rubs, the spices, the sauces...There’s offset smokers, cabinet smokers, wood smokers, direct cooking, indirect cooking… There are lots of different elements and so much to learn, and people get fascinated by it.”
One classic part of the barbecue experience seems to be missing out. At Austin’s famous Franklin Barbecue, said to be the finest barbecue joint in America, people queue for four to six hours every day, and many who wait in line end up going hungry when the food sells out. Meatstock has already sold out its Saturday, reaching capacity at 6,000, and Beaumont says “unfortunately, we can’t have unlimited numbers. Because it takes so long to cook, you can’t just throw on more briskets if you get busy.” 
That’s part of the scene’s ethos, though. Connected to the display of skill from barbers and butchers, barbecue is about doing things properly in a way that takes time. “Going to your local barber or butcher, cooking things low and slow, and getting back to having a sense of community, as opposed to franchised hairdressers and mass-produced meat in plastic packaging...it’s about bringing it back to how it should be: handmade quality.”
Meatstock is at ASB Showgrounds, Feb 25 & 26, 10am-6pm. Buy tickets(Sunday only) or learn more.