Master Cheesemakers are the rock stars of the dairy industry. They train for years, perfecting one or two cheeses at a time, to earn the right to display the Master’s Mark seal on their products.
Now there’s a similar path to stardom for the state’s artisanal meat makers. This past summer, CALS meat scientists launched the Master Meat Crafter Training Program, a two-year advanced course that covers the principles of meat processing. It’s the only program of its kind in the nation.
“Our goal was to create a program that would be recognized and respected around the state, as well as around the country,” says CALS meat scientist Jeff Sindelar, the program’s director. “It’s very intensive. It’s designed to make the participants experts in their field.”
The program is a key initiative of Wisconsin’s Specialty Meat Development Center, a nonprofit resource center formed in 2009 to support artisanal sausage and meat makers in the state. Meat is big business in Wisconsin, contributing $12.3 billion to the state’s economy each year, but many of the state’s 475 meat processors are small, with little capacity to grow their businesses. The center’s goal is to help these companies develop new products and find new markets.
Moving forward, Sindelar plans to open the Master Meat Crafter Training Program to out-of-state processors. A number have already expressed interest, eager to differentiate their products with the Master Meat Crafter seal.
“When they complete the program, they can say they are Master Meat Crafters,” says Sindelar. “They can say their products are of the very highest quality.”