An important public-facing part of the Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery (MSABD) program now has pride of place. The storefront for the campus meat shop — recently renamed Bucky’s Varsity Meats (formerly Bucky’s Butchery) — lights up the MSABD building’s main lobby, enticing passersby with a wide variety of meats produced in the facility as well as other made-in-Wisconsin foods and beverages.
“At the old store, there were always customers that had trouble finding it because you had to wind around these hallways,” says store employee Taylor Gracyalny, a senior double-majoring in life sciences communication and dairy science. “Now we have a whole designated space right in the front of the building — and it looks so good.”
Gracyalny, who was hired during her sophomore year, started out working in the old retail store. “I really enjoyed that because it allowed me to do customer service and talk to people about where their food comes from,” she says. “Plus, other student workers showed me the processing side, like cutting and packaging. I really enjoyed seeing the whole process.”
Bucky’s Varsity Meats has a loyal base of customers who rave about the products and like that the operation is largely run by UW–Madison undergraduate students, overseen by a staff manager. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the store has been offering curbside pickup (only) and operating with limited staff. When it’s fully up and running, the shop will employ up to 10 part-time students who will have opportunities to gain experience in animal harvest, meat processing, food safety procedures, product display, marketing, and customer service.
“The students we employ are all very talented and very diverse in their interests,” says Mitch Monson, the store’s retail operations manager. “I encourage them to learn different roles and take the opportunity to try new things if they want to explore and grow.”
With the retail space closed to customers, Gracyalny proposed a new role for herself, one designed to further prepare for her future career in marketing communications. With Monson’s blessing, she took over the store’s existing social media accounts and launched an Instagram account.
“For a lot of bigger companies, like food companies, it’s important to know how customers perceive packaging,” Gracyalny says. “They want to know where their food comes from. They want to know how it’s made. And I think I gained really valuable experience from interacting with customers in the store. Likewise, by doing the social media marketing, I was able to see what’s getting the most engagement and how best to reach our customers.”