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Bacon Bacon Bacon: Not Kevin - Smoked and Sliced

The University of Wisconsin meat scientists have launched a new “Meat Science and Safety Training Program” to turn out “Master Meat Crafters.”

Wisconsin is the natural place for this kind of program; after all, what other state is known for sausage, beer AND cheese?

The training program – the Wisconsin Meat Processing School – is made up of six workshops given over a 2 to 2 1/2 year period:

  • Fresh Meats School
  • Food Safety & Meat Microbiology School
  • Curing School
  • Cooked & Emulsified Sausage School
  • Dry & Semi-Dry Sausage School

Great idea, but are these graduates really Master Meat Crafters?” Let’s take a little closer look; it was the segment on meat-curing that raised the first warning flag.

In Six Degrees of [Curing] Bacon, the “bacon” section of the meat-curing segment was described as:

Students in long white coats and hairnets gather around as Jeff Sindelar, a UW meat scientist in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the program’s director, demonstrates how to turn the fresh pork bellies stacked nearby in white plastic bins into bacon with different flavor profiles. The laboratory feel is fitting, as it turns out there’s some science involved.

Sindelar gets an assist from Doug Ney, a self-described “meathead” who works for Red Arrow USA, a company that makes several varieties of smoke flavoring, also called “liquid smoke,” such as apple, hickory, maple, and mesquite.

The class observes how to add flavor using an injector machine, a method that replicates the results of older and much slower practices of dry curing (emphasis added). The pork belly moves along a conveyor belt beneath a row of pumping needles connected to hoses that deliver water and a foamy mixture containing the liquid smoke. While the smoky smell is almost overpowering, there’s no smoke anywhere.

Uli Lengenberg, Uli's Famous Sausage, Seattle WA

So how does an “old world German Master Butcher” learn his craft? GoodFood World asked Uli Lengenberg of Uli’s Famous Sausage about his training in Germany.

GoodFood World: How long does it take to become a Master Butcher in Germany?

Uli: The course takes more than 1000 days. You spend 3 years as an apprentice: 1 year getting experience as a chef and then 2 years working in a shop and studying in class. I spent 4 1/2 days a week working in a butcher shop and 1 day a week in class. We had Saturday afternoons off.

GoodFood World: When you’ve finished your apprenticeship, can you then open your own shop?

Uli: No. You’re not given the designation “Master Butcher” until you’ve spent 3 more years as a journeyman, studying under experts in various specialties. Most journeymen change jobs every six months to learn a wide range of methods and techniques. Once you’ve completed at least 6 years of apprenticeship and training, you can then open your own shop and call yourself a “Master Butcher.”

When you have your own shop, the government checks the quality and grade of meat you sell. If you don’t meet their standards, you will lose your designation.

GoodFood World: Did you learn to inject “liquid smoke” to give bacon and sausage a smokey taste?

Uli: No. I don’t believe it’s safe to inject meat full of chemicals. I learned to smoke meats the natural way in a smoke house. There are three different ways to smoke meat, each has a different application.

16-22C: Cold smoke
22-40C: Warm smoke
40+C: Hot smoke

All meats must be dry to absorb the smokey taste. If you don’t have a smoke house, there are powders and rubs you can use to bring on a smokey flavor for some products.

Programs like those offered by the UW Meat Sciences and Safety training offer critically important safe handling training, however they also offer techniques to cut corners presented by industry “experts.” Time to go back to good food, processed slowly, carefully, and with a focus on quality as opposed to efficiency and speed of production.

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5 comments to Bacon Bacon Bacon: Not Kevin – Smoked and Sliced

  • Rick

    You yourself state this program consists of six workshops, yet you chose only to write about a 1 hour session. You seemed to have skipped all the sessions that covered dry curing, tumbling, cover pickle, natural curing and the list goes on. Those that attended this program learned many skills, and many different ways of meat processing. You seemed to focus in on one portion you obviously did not like, and now present it as thats all they were taught.
    You also failed to mention as a part of the Master Meat Crafter Program all enrolled must have at least 5 years work experience in the meat industry, they must develop a mentorship program and mentor a new butcher, full report of what was covered had to be presented to the whole class. You also failed to mention the project that each participant had to conduct. Projects that took months to develop, a few people invested over a YEAR to one project documenting findings. Projects ranged from the effects of phosphates on meat products (good and bad both were presented by the way) effects of chlorinated water in the production of fermented summer sausage, a couple projects were also on dry cured and fermented sausages.
    So for you to say all they were taught is “short cuts” is a disservice to you and your readers. It seems you took the “short cut” in attending 1 hour of a program that lasted many hours.
    We hold nothing against the master butchers of Germany, in fact many are held in the highest regards and were instructors at the program (you should have checked that out too, but short cuts are easy). In short I find your review an insult to the readers intelligence.

    • Rick,

      Thanks for your comments…

      Time to readdress this – perhaps you are a butcher and would like to discuss?

      Gail N-K

      • Rick

        Sorry for the long delay in replying to you. If your still interested in discussing this I would be also. Yes, I am a meatcutter, I use meatcutter as opposed to butcher since I do not harvest the animals. I have been in the industry for over 30 years and am also a member of the first class of Master Meat Crafters.

  • Anthony

    Interesting information from Uli but I think it’s a little unfair to assume this program cranks out cost-cutting imitation butchers and products. Take the time to interview those currently enrolled or the graduates of the program. I think you’ll find a few things: Most of the participants either grew up around their places of business or have at least worked or owned it for many years. Most of them own smokehouses and know how to use them. Finally, most would know at LEAST as much as Herr Lengenberg.

  • No injections please. I love real smoked sausage or bacon. I don’t eat a lot, but it sure is great!