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New Meat Cutter and Butchery School

by Jeff Swenson, Livestock and Meat Specialist, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection


Madison College is working to fill a need within the meat community, as there are few options for anyone who wants to learn meat cutting and butchery as a trade. Outside of on-the-job training, few opportunities exist in the United States, and Wisconsin has been lacking a meat cutting school since the Southwest Tech program was discontinued.

Madison College (still referred to as Madison Area Technical College by many) will welcome its first students in the Artisanal Modern Meat Production program. The course is a one-year, 24-credit school with students earning a technical diploma upon completion.

Madison College is making every effort to accommodate potential students’ schedules. The entire curriculum is made up of eight courses, three of which to be completed online. The remaining courses will be taught on a two-day-per- week schedule at the Madison College campus. Scheduling needs of those enrolled with dictate what time the courses are offered, but it’s likely they will be taught in the evening. While it’s hoped and recommended that students take every course and graduate, courses can be taken individually based on time, interest and skill set hoping to be gained. Tuition costs for the program are estimated to be around $3,000 per semester.

Chef Paul Short, Program Chair of Madison College’s culinary program, has championed the program and revamped it from its initial incarnation as “Sustainable Farm to Fork: Modern Meat Production.” The initial vision included courses in animal husbandry and a final project or “Capstone.” In hindsight Chef Short believes the initial curriculum was too broad, and attempted to attract farmers, potential restaurant and butcher shop employees. Production agriculture and the capstone have been dropped, giving the course a sharper focus on training existing or potential meat processors.

Chef Short has extensive experience in meat cutting, and has taught the Protein Identification, Fabrication and Utilization courses in the culinary department in the past. Professional meat cutter Heather Oppor currently teaches the class. The goal of the course is proficiency in breaking down a variety of carcasses with the least amount of waste possible. Students learn knife skills and utilization while breaking beef, pork and lamb into primals, then retail cuts. They also break down whole chickens and ducks.

The course is offered through Culinary Arts, but this is a true meat cutting and butchery school with business education thrown into the mix. To Madison College’s credit, a wide variety of individuals were asked for input and helped to develop the curriculum including meat processors (both federally and state inspected,) wholesalers, chefs, restaurant owners and farmers.

The new program, Artisanal Modern Meat Butchery course is facing one large hurdle – enrollment. Enough students need to enroll this fall to justify running the program. It is almost certain the classes will not be offered in the future if the modest enrollment goals aren’t meant. Madison College and Chef Short hope industry stakeholders support the program by sending or recommending the program and spreading the word to anyone in their community that may be interested in learning the trade.

The Curriculum for Artisanal Modern Meat Butchery is listed below. More information can be found at the Madison College Website.

Term 1:

Pasture to Plate (online) 3 credits

Protein Identification, Fabrication, and Utilization 1 3 credits

Slaughtering 3 credits

Introduction to Entrepreneurship (online) 3 credits

Term 2:

Protein Identification, Fabrication and Utilization 2 3 credits

Retail Butcher Shop Operation and Sales 3 credits

Entrepreneurship for the Small Farmer or Butcher (online) 3 credits

Principles of HACCP2 credits

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