ISU Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course Celebrates 40 years

By Ellen Bombela

For 40 years Iowa State University has celebrated the art of creating tasty meat products through its Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course.

The annual short course, which started July 16, provides participants with information on new trends and technologies from industry professionals through a hands-on experience.

Bob Rust, who started the Meat Science Extension program at Iowa State, came up with the idea for the short course 40 years ago. His background in sausage and processed meat production and his experiences with lecture-based programs offered by trade associations provided the basis for the idea.

“I felt that it would be great if there were some sort of program that would offer a hands-on experience along with the technical lectures,” Rust said.

When the course started there weren’t any universities offering general meat processing programs for meat industry professionals. Iowa State had just built a new meat laboratory that had facilities for “hands-on” activities, and with encouragement from industry, Rust decided to launch the first Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course.  

“This program represents not only the first such offering by any university, but the longest running, continuous Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course anywhere,” Rust said. 

The original program format is still followed today. Rust pointed out that it was difficult to advertise the course when it first started.  

“There was no internet and we had to depend on word-of-mouth and promotion of the program by supplier industry representatives,” Rust said. “Registrations arrived by mail and sometimes it was questionable if there would be enough enrollees to justify the course until the mail arrived on deadline day.”

The highlight of the course is a tasting celebration called Wurstfest, which is held the last night of the short course. Participants, volunteers and instructors are invited to sample a variety of sausage and processed meats produced by the class.

Matt Wenger, animal science program coordinator, has been involved with Wurstfest for 17 years. He coordinates speakers, registration and projects for the participants.

“In the short course we cover everything from the history of sausage to how to create a safe product,” Wenger said. “It is a five-day course with a mix of speakers, classroom demos and group projects.” 

Klaus-Peter Kreibig, a sausage manufacturer from Wuppertal, Germany, used to help teach and create products. He retired from Wurstfest in 2016, but said the 40th anniversary of the course is something he couldn’t miss.

“People are very devoted when it comes to this short course and the industry,” Kreibig said.

July 18, 2018