Beyond the Bacon Pierce County

Connections in Pierce County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

Did you know that the work of a Pierce County Badger doesn’t stop at the award-winning products at his family’s meat-processing business?

Having grown up around his family’s meat-processing company in Elmwood, Wisconsin, Jake Sailer was encouraged by his father to try a different career before deciding whether to stay in the family business: Sailer’s Food Market & Meat Processing Inc.

Jake took that advice and spent three summers in road construction before returning to the family company full time to work with his father, as they had both inherited the business from Jake’s grandfather. At just 23 years old, Jake Sailer would learn a lot.

Now a fourth-generation company that’s moved to a new facility in Elmwood, Sailer’s Food Market is celebrating 95 years in business. It has gained acclaim since Sailer — now the company’s owner at age 46 — started submitting its products to competitions and racking up awards: 80 from the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors and 58 national honors since 2004. Through it all, he says he continues to learn.

We’re all working with meat, but there is so much more about it, and the [program] is what gave us the knowledge of the science behind it.

In 2012, Sailer graduated as a member of the inaugural class of University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Master Meat Crafter Training Program. Although he already had experience working in the business, the program helped connect the pieces of his day-to-day work.

“We’re all working with meat, but there is so much more about it, and the [program] is what gave us the knowledge of the science behind it,” Sailer says. “Once you start to understand all that, then it makes your job a little easier.”

Sailer — a member of the Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Advisory Committee at UW–Madison — continues to learn from networking, and he uses his knowledge to instruct others in surrounding communities. He teaches through the Wisconsin-Minnesota Processing School (rotated between UW–River Falls and UW–Madison each year) and leads tours of his facility. The company also hosts an annual educational day — complete with seminars, demonstrations, and tours — for local 4-H and FFA members.

“Our business depends on the future,” Sailer says. “I love to [teach classes] because I love to show the passion I have in hopes that it might spark the passion in someone else.”