On May 13 the Wisconsin's meat industry will honor a legend in major league baseball and two business leaders who are carrying on traditions started by their grandfathers. On that date the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame will induct baseball announcer and actor Bob Uecker, Dennis Vignieri of Kenosha Beef International/Birchwood Foods and Russ Wenzel of Wenzel Farm Sausages.
Although Uecker has never made sausage or worked in a meat plant, he has been a master at promoting meat during his many years of play-by-play coverage of Milwaukee Brewers baseball. He often talks about meat as a tasty, nutritious food during his commentary, urging his listeners to set up the grill for hamburgers at a tailgate party or bring pork chops to a picnic, all without missing a single play on the field. Uecker is also a spokesman for Usinger's sausage company.
Vignieri upholds standards that have guided Kenosha Beef International/Birchwood Foods since his grandfather started the firm seven decades ago. He has been with the company for over 30 years, currently serving as president and CEO. Under his leadership, Birchwood Foods has expanded to produce a variety of products ranging from conventional frozen patties to fully cooked beef, pork and poultry products at plants in Georgia, Indiana and Ohio as well as Kenosha. Vignieri;'s approach to creating quality products is reflected in Birchwood's state-of-the-art Culinary Café; a research and development facility blending culinary skills, food science and process engineering. He also serves as Vice-Chairman on the Executive Committee for the American Meat Institute.
Wenzel got his start skinning hot dogs and packaging fresh bratwurst at his family's Marshfield operation during summers in high school and has since done virtually every job at the company. He now serves as president. Under his leadership the firm has continued to grow and is celebrating its 59th year of operation. Today, it makes more than 30 products under its own name and manufactures custom sausage for four
other brand names. Wenzel has served on the board of the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors and was President for the past two years. This activity led to his involvement at the national level, including serving as president of the American Association of Meat Processors.
The three will be honored at a luncheon on May 13 at the Sheraton Madison Hotel on John Nolen Drive. Cost for the event is $30. Send reservations before to Jeff Swenson, Wisconsin DATCP, Division of Agricultural Development, 2811 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI, 53708-8911. The Wisconsin Livestock and Meat Council hosts the event.