2016 Wurstfest Celebrates History of Event

Wurstfest Celebrates Both a Milestone and a Farewell

by Sarah Mathers
Summer Intern, CALS Communications Service

This year, Iowa State University will be hosting the 38th annual Wurstfest. Wurstfest, organized by the Department of Animal Science and Meat Science Extension, has been an event occurring since 1979.

For 30 years, the annual Wurstfest program has included Klaus-Peter Kreibig, a wurstmacher (a sausage manufacturer) from Wuppertal, Germany, who has taught the short courses and plays a large role as to why this event is possible every year.

This year, 2016, is Kreibig’s final year with Wurstfest. He is retiring.

Kreibig was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1950. At the age of one, he and his family relocated to Wuppertal, home of the famous Wuppertal Suspension Railway. The year was 1951, with the country still struggling to recover from World War II, Kreibig’s parents moved in order to find any work they could.

“We had no pocket money as children,” Kreibig remembers. “We didn’t make much money. So when I was 12 years old, I was looking for some idea to make some pocket money. Across the street in Wuppertal was a butcher shop. Sometimes when the butcher smoked sausages, he would open up all the doors. As a child, you’re nosy; you’re standing and watching. I think he [the butcher] thought, ‘Hm, this child might want to make some money.’”

Kreibig started doing simple cleaning around the butcher shop. He earned five German marks for six hours of work, equivalent to about 47 American cents per hour. “My parents were more interested in me being a salesman and getting an education. When I left school, I decided I wanted to be a butcher,” he says.

At the age of 14, Kreibig started his apprenticeship to become a journeyman butcher.  He learned about the production of basic sausages, proper ways to cut meat and slaughtering techniques. Three years later, he was officially a journeyman butcher. Kreibig then worked a couple of years in a meat plant before completing required service in the German army for two years.

After returning from the army, Kreibig attended a master butcher school and officially obtained the title of master butcher by 1971.

It wasn’t long after becoming a master butcher that Kreibig became very interested with meat production. He attended Fachschule für Fleischtechnologie, a school in Berlin for meat science production. After graduating as a state certified meat technician, he worked for Devro, a collagen casing company.

In his time with Devro, Kreibig became the director of marketing for meat technology. He also found his way to Iowa State for the first time, where he first started taking place in the annual Wurstfest short courses.

In 1979, the first Iowa State sausage and processed meats production short courses were developed by Iowa State professor Robert Rust and Hans Schneider, a master butcher from Germany located in Chicago. After Schneider died in 1986, Kreibig stepped in to fill his shoes. It was in 1987 that Kreibig gave his first presentation at the short course.

At this time, Wurstfest was an already existing event held by Iowa State that has begun in 1978. However, it was a much different event back then. Kreibig stated the event took place in the Memorial Union and lasted about two hours. When Kreibig first became part of the event, he was there to give presentations, not to demonstrate the making of sausages.

As time went on, Kreibig started looking into opportunities with the Iowa State directors of the short course to give participants a chance to learn first-hand by making sausages.

“After a whole week’s education, participants should get to see what they’ve learned in theory and practice and even get to taste what they’ve made,” stated Kreibig.

Throughout the years, the amount of sausages produced and guests attending have increased drastically from 25 products and approximately 75 guests to 60 products and approximately 250 guests consisting of short course participants, graduate students, meat science professors and student employees of the meat lab. All of these people have influence Wurstfest in someway and are truly the heart of this event.

This is Kreibig’s 30th and final year of working with Wurstfest.  “I think my biggest accomplishment over the past 30 years has been to create new products, but also having the freedom to do that,” says Kreibig. 

Kreibig acknowledged his Iowa State family and all that have done to keep this event so spectacular. “When people hear, ‘Klaus is coming and he’s going to make these products,’ everybody in the team helps me make them. I can be a composer, but without any musicians I have no music,” he says.

“Wurstfest is a celebration,” Kreibig says. “It’s an opportunity to be happy and to present and taste so many sausages. It’s about the people you meet and the enthusiasm of the people who like to come. For many, it’s an honor to be invited to Wurstfest because it’s very special. For me, it makes me proud to show people what’s possible in the sausage world.”