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Anthony Reams graduated Friday, Jan. 17, from the Master Meat Crafters and continues at RJ Meats. (Hudson Star-Observer Photo by Margaret A. Ontl)

It’s official: Anthony Reams is a Master Meat Crafter

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Anthony Reams, a 2004 Hudson High School graduate, did not plan to follow in his father’s footsteps, but something happened along the way. It’s called experience. One of Rick and Ann Reams son’s, Anthony was one of 21 who graduated in Madison on Friday from the UW-Extension Master Meat Crafters program.

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The two and a half year program allows participants to build on their experiences in meat science and processing through a comprehensive curriculum of a plant research project, workshops and assignments. Topics included food safety, microbiology and meat curing. Each Master Meat Crafter also completed a mentorship component, sharing what they gained with an employee or another individual. Anthony mentored his cousin Cody Reams.

“I wasn’t planning on being here for 10 years,” said Reams. “The more time I spent here the more I enjoyed it. After a time I found the work I was doing was truly enjoyable and I also was going to get married so I had to make a career decision.”

Today, Anthony is a good fit at RJ Meats, working alongside his father Rick, his brothers Aaron, Joe and cousin Cody.

“I really like cutting for the meat case and helping people decide what they want for dinner,” said Anthony.

Students in the program traveled to Madison once a quarter for intensive two or three day sessions.

“They packed as much information into our head as we could absorb,” said Anthony. “They were long nine to 10 hour days.” They had over 6,000 pages to cover and it included the study of fresh meat, whole muscle, cured items, fresh sausage and many other topics.

Each student had to design, execute and complete a project. Anthony chose to study consumers’ perception of three heritage breeds of pork.

During the course of the project and research, 61 people sampled bacon, pork chops, ham (only Duroc and Berkshire), brats and pork shoulder from three breeds, Duroc, Berkshire and Hampshire.

Generally, Duroc and Berkshire scored higher in appearance and tenderness than Hampshire also known as a common or commodity breed.

“I seemed to be the only student who chose to deal with raw materials,” said Anthony. Many of the other students focused on shelf stable snack sticks or sausages.

Throughout the course students had a wide variety of industry leaders as guest speakers including folks from Oscar Meyer and Kikkoman.

Two courses stood out for the younger Reams: microbiology and curing-dry sausage.

“Microbiology was a lot of class work and labs,” said Anthony. “When I started working here I was cleaning. You just did it you didn’t know why. This class covered every pathogen and more.”

The science of old world cured sausage and meats intrigued him as well. Citing a prosciutto made from a particular breed of pork the Iberian, which sells for $2,000 a pound.

“That’s on my bucket list to try,” said Anthony. “I learned so much not only from the classes but from doing my project as well.”

Just ask him about the breeds of pork, and the history of each is easily related. Heritage Breeds from the Mangalista, a Hungarian breed to the Red Wattle which has its origins in the South and the Duroc brought to American in the 1860s, the Berkshire that dates back to the 1600s and the Ossaban, a Spanish breed, are a few he has studied and worked with.

Anthony graduated in the second class of the Master Meat Crafters program. His father Rick graduated in the first class in 2012.

“We are very proud parents today, not because he is following in the business with us but he truly has a passion for what he is doing,” said Rick Reams on Friday. “Of course it helps that he and I will be only one of two father-son graduates of this program. The other father-son pair are friends of ours who have helped us so much over the years -- Louie Muench Jr. and Louie Muench III of Louie's Finer Meats of Cumberland.”

According the UW-Extension, this one-of-a-kind program allows graduates to earn the accreditation of a Master Meat Crafter. A seal of distinction can now be used by the program graduates on their product labels as a symbol of their unique skills and extensive knowledge.

The Master Meat Crafter Program has been developed in conjunction with the Specialty Meat Development Center and is supported by DATCP, University of Wisconsin Meat Science Extension, University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors.

In 2012, 17 graduates completed the first Master Meat Crafter Program. To locate specialty meat products from all 38 Master Meat Crafters or other specialty meats businesses, visit http://datcpgis.wi.gov/SpecialtyMeats/.

Applications are now being accepted for next Master Meat Crafter Program.

Space is limited. Learn more at http://fyi.uwex.edu/meats/. For complete details, contact DATCP’s Livestock and Meat Specialist, at (608) 224-5082 or Jeffrey.Swenson@wisconsin.gov.

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