When Life Gives You Meat and Spices, Make Sausage

By: Nicole Onken, CALS Communications Service

Sixty-one participants from 20 states and nine international countries traveled to campus for Iowa State University’s 39th annual Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course, held July 17 through July 21.

The Iowa State Meat Science Extension Program hosts the short course, which annually shares trends and technology with meat industry professionals. The course is unique because participants have the hands-on opportunity to make the products.

Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course participants prepared to package bacon. Photo by Nicole Onken.

The weeklong course begins with lectures, taught by nationally and internationally known industry professionals.  This year, topics covered included basic meat science, non-meat ingredients, solid muscle processing and spices and flavorings. The lectures coached students to work as teams to prepare processed meat products.

After two days of classes, each team worked with an industry professional and Iowa State meat science graduate students to help them create their products. Teams were assigned different meat products, such as ham, bacon, beef brisket and smoked sausage.

To make sausage, the main focus of the short course, the group members combined ground meat, spices and other additives, such as cheese, jalapeños, apples or wild rice, in a large meat mixer.

Then the mixture was removed from the mixer and put into red meat lugs, which look like small wagons, for transport. The participants tested their skills by hand-stuffing the meat mixture into the casings. The long chains of sausage links were hung on large stainless steel racks and put in the smoker.

When the products were finished, the teams prepared the meat to be served at Wurstfest, which is the short course’s formal celebration at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center. The teams also prepared presentations to share with classmates later in the week.

Kim Nies, an associate research chef at Ed Miniat LLC in Chicago, was a first-time attendee.

“The short course has helped me learn more about products I’m already working on,” said Nies. “It’s great to get a variety of information and make connections with new people. I’d like to come back again in the future.”

Attendees sampled 42 different types of processed meat products at Wurstfest. Photo by Nicole Onken.

On Thursday night, participants, speakers and others involved in the short course were invited to Wurstfest. Guests were invited to sample 42 different types of processed meat products made in conjunction with the course.

Items on the buffet included German salami, pistachio sticks, smoked beef brisket, mushroom and Swiss cheese smoked sausage, apple smoked sausage, cheddar cheese and jalapeño smoked sausage, Munich white sausage and wild rice smoked sausage.

This is the first time in 30 years that Iowa State’s Meat Laboratory staff made all the meat products themselves. Prior to this, Klaus-Peter Kreibig, a German wurstmacher, was an integral part of teaching and producing sausages for the course. He retired last year.

Roger Mandigo, emeritus professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska, has participated in 38 out of 39 short courses. This year, he was a group leader for the smoked polish sausage team and also gave a presentation on meat emulsions and batter technology.

“I enjoy interacting with the participants every year,” said Mandigo. “They are always very eager to learn, and we have the opportunity to educate each other.”

Interaction among participants and speakers was emphasized throughout the weeklong course just as much as product production.

“I enjoy the interaction in this course because of the diversity of the group,” said Joe Cordray, professor of animal science, extension meat specialist and professor-in-charge of the Meat Laboratory. “This year’s group was very interested and enthusiastic and had great participation in all the activities.”

The annual short course is supported by the Iowa State Department of Animal Science, ISU Meat Science Extension and the ISU Meat Science Program. Other short courses offered throughout the year include a Basic Sausage Short Course, Cured Meat Short Course and a Dry and Semi-Dry Sausage Short Course.