Grove City, Minnesota, meat shop participating in Ridgewater’s new meat cutting program – West Central Tribune | Team Cansler

GROVE CITY – The first students on Ridgewater College’s meat cutting course could have jobs as early as the New Year.

During a tour of the Carlson Meat Shop in Grove City Monday, college officials spoke about the program’s widespread popularity and the need for it.

Although the program was only advertised in Minnesota, they’ve heard from meat processors across the country, including New Jersey, Florida and Nevada.

Carlson Meat Shop is an in-class partner that allows students to have hands-on experience for each class. The students gain their practical experience in butcher shops close to where they live.

The course consists of six online courses plus required hands-on experience. The course leads to an 18-credit certificate. Graduates are qualified to work in a butcher shop, work for a meat packer or start their own business.

Sophia Thommes, associate professor of meat cutting at Ridgewater College, talks about the new program during a tour of the Carlson Meat Shop in Grove City, which offers hands-on experiences for students. Thommes teaches a series of four week courses on various aspects of the business. A total of 10 students have registered for courses in the first semester of the program.

Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

Instructor Sophia Thommes, who teaches the courses, said the five four-week courses were held sequentially throughout the semester and that an agricultural marketing course, taught by the college’s agriculture department, runs the full length of the semester.

Manager Jesse Weseman toured the meat shop in Grove City.

The meat shop is certified by the US Department of Agriculture and has an inspector on site every day. It offers processing from slaughter to finished product. It is a class requirement that students learn all aspects of the business, including butchering.

Woman processes pork chops in the butcher shop

Nikki Schlueter, an employee at the Carlson Meat Shop in Grove City, scrapes pork chops in preparation for packing Monday, October 17, 2022, at the store. The store is working with Ridgewater College to provide hands-on experience for students on the meat cutting course the college started this fall.

Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

Weseman explained each step of the process during the media tour, which took the group from the slaughter room to the refrigerators where the meat hangs to mature, to the cutting tables where workers were busy processing a local farmer’s pig.

Weseman said he learned meat cutting at work, at meat stores in Hector and Olivia and from Chuck Carlson in Grove City. He enjoys showing the Ridgewater students about the business, he said.

“We want younger kids to get involved because we need a new generation,” he said. “There are not that many young people in the trades.”

It’s a problem when butchers approach retirement and have no one to pass their business on to, he said.

Carlson was a third generation company, but the fourth generation was not interested in continuing it. Finding the right person to buy it can be difficult.

Joel Inselmann, who owns a concrete shop and raises beef, heard the meat shop could close.

Photo of a man in a light brown shirt with a cap

Jesse Weseman, manager of Carlson Meat Shop, Grove City

Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

“If this guy closes, all of us local farmers will leave our butcher shop,” he said. “One day I came home and said, ‘Honey, I’m buying the butcher shop.'”

The sale ended two weeks later, in July 2020.

Inselmann said he is pleased to welcome students to the company.

“If we can help help the industry grow, we will,” he said. There is also hope that the students who work at the store will decide to stay.

Man in cap smiling

Joel Inselmann, owner of Carlson Meat Shop, Grove City

Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

“We will have a job for them if they choose to do so,” he added.

With an investment in new equipment, the store can process 20 hogs a month and 19 cattle a week, he said. The facility previously processed 10 cattle per week.

Raised in Wisconsin, Thommes learned how to butcher and make sausage at a young age. She was studying cattle ranching in college and teaching agriculture at Pipestone Public Schools when she heard about the Ridgewater position.

Beef carcasses hanging on hooks in a butcher shop

Beef carcasses hang in a cooler at the Carlson Meat Shop in Grove City on Monday, October 17, 2022

Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

She teaches online courses on equipment and procedures, slaughter and processing, food safety and advanced meat processing. A wildlife processing course is an elective.

Students can only enroll in one course, she said, but they must complete all six courses to earn a certificate.

The certificate is the first of three certificates the college plans to offer, she said. In the future, the program will be expanded to include a postgraduate course in meat cutting and a meat cutting and processing entrepreneur certificate.

The demand is there, school officials have learned since discussing the training.

Thommes said she gets calls every week from meat traders looking to retire or sell their business. They want to find a student to join the program and gain the knowledge they need to take over a business, she said.

A processor in Nevada called the college and said, “We’ll have 20 job openings for your graduates once they graduate,” said Jake Seamans, a member of the college’s communications staff.

Meat processing courses are planned for other universities in the region, said Thommes. A new program will open soon at a community college near Rapid City, South Dakota, and a community college in Wahpeton, North Dakota is partnering with North Dakota State University.

There’s also a meat cutting program at Central Lakes College in Staples that works in tandem with its culinary program, Thommes said.

“This is hardly a unique situation in Minnesota,” Seamans said.

While many current butchers likely learned their craft through apprenticeships, “I think higher education will help provide the next generation of the workforce,” he said. “We can help them develop into mature business people very quickly and give them a great career.”

Ridgewater, which has a traditionally strong agriculture program, is well positioned to support the education of the next generation.

Weseman said he sees students on the Ridgewater course learning things he hasn’t learned in several years.

Meat cutters can make anywhere from $16 to $27.75 an hour, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Leave a Comment