This year’s inductees into the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame will be recognized at a ceremony on May 3. The honorees, who have made outstanding lifetime contributions to the meat business, are Larry Clark, owner of Lodi Sausage Company and Meat Market; George, Ruth, Craig and Lea Culver, co-founders of Culver’s restaurant; and Kathy Glass, microbiologist with the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This year’s winners
After graduating from the UW-Madison’s meat and animal science program in 1966, Larry Clark took a position at Oscar Mayer as a livestock buyer working with regional hog farmers to help recruit the needed supply of hogs to the Madison plant. In 1989, he was able to realize his dream of owning his own business by purchasing the Lodi Locker, now the Lodi Sausage Company and Meat Market, located in Lodi, Wis. The business is a model small meat plant, known and respected for high-quality, locally sourced fresh and processed meat products.
Clark has shared his time and talents with the meat industry and his community. His contributions include building the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Meat Products Auction into a significant fundraiser for Wisconsin 4-H, lending his expertise to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other organizations when chronic wasting disease emerged in the state’s deer population, and partnering with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to serve as manager of the Specialty Meat Development Center to help educate small-meat-plant owners about processed meat opportunities to help their businesses.
Culver’s restaurant co-founders George, Ruth, Craig and Lea Culver (below, from left) built their legacy by following the credo to “do the right thing” for guests, team members and the community. In 1984, they established the first Culver’s restaurant in Sauk City, Wis. The first two years proved challenging, as frozen custard was not well-known in the area. By following the motto “don’t mess with the quality,” however, the business started to thrive.
All four co-founders were hands-on. Ruth and Lea were in the front of the restaurant, providing service and hospitality. Craig worked the grill, searing ButterBurgers to perfection, and George was in charge of the food preparation area. They made a great team and began to surround themselves with team members with the same dedication and values.
The first successful franchised restaurant opened in 1990. Today, Culver’s has over 700 restaurants in 25 states. George and Ruth passed away in 2011 and 2008, respectively. Craig and Lea remain actively involved in the business, with Craig serving as chairman of the board of directors and Lea serving as executive director of the Culver’s Foundation. While Culver’s has experienced many changes since 1984, its mission remains the same: Every guest who chooses Culver’s leaves happy.
Kathy Glass grew up on a farm in Edgar, Wis., where the knowledge she gained in food production sparked her interest in science, and she developed the work ethic that would help her build a professional career as a food microbiologist. In 1985, she joined the Food Research Institute at UW-Madison, where her first project involved exploring the use of sodium lactate as a substitute for sodium nitrite to control Clostridium botulinum.
Glass is now FRI’s associate director and runs the institute’s Applied Food Safety Laboratory, which conducts practical research and testing of food formulations, with the goal of identifying strategies to inhibit microbial growth and toxin production. The results generated in her FRI lab are beneficial to meat companies, ingredient suppliers and consumers, and her expertise is sought by companies and regulators alike.
She has served on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s standing committee on food safety and the USDA/Food and Drug Administration National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, helping to guide policy on food safety in meat products. Glass’ efforts over the course of her career have significantly improved the safety of processed meats in the U.S.
The Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame induction luncheon ceremony will take place at noon on May 3 at the Dejope Residence Hall in the Mendota Room on the UW-Madison campus. Tours of the new Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building will be offered prior to and following the luncheon. The cost to attend the event is $40. Register online by April 25.
The Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame was created in 1993 to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the meat industry in Wisconsin. The Hall of Fame program is coordinated by the UW-Madison Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery program.