Superior Meats in takes 'best sausage' title in Wisconsin
SUPERIOR, Wis. -- If you're looking for the best sausage in Wisconsin, look no further. A coarse ring bologna made by Superior Meats won the title last month during the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors annual convention. The Superior-base...
SUPERIOR, Wis. -- If you're looking for the best sausage in Wisconsin, look no further.
A coarse ring bologna made by Superior Meats won the title last month during the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors annual convention. The Superior-based shop raked in seven awards at the event, essentially an Olympics for meat processors.
Because of a state fondness for sausage, "the show in Wisconsin is bigger than the national show," Superior Meats manager Mike Cragin said. "You think Wisconsin, you think sausage."
Although Superior Meats has won numerous awards, this marks its first "best in show." Earning the title of best sausage in Wisconsin is "very big," said Cragin, an Oliver native. Many of their competitors use automated processing to turn out perfectly proportioned product. At Superior Meats, everything is mixed, stuffed and tied by hand.
"The fact that we can win out with just the pure, Old World style, that's really cool," said Mitch Frost, who has been working at the specialty meat market for eight years.
The shop's coarse ring bologna earned the gold in its category as well as best in show. A beef snack stick recipe by Superior Meats' Ben Buchanan placed second out of 47 entries and the shop also won second with its ring liver sausage. Third-place finishers included their buffalo blue cheese snack stick and cranberry wild rice bratwurst. The shop's maple bacon links took fourth place for fresh breakfast sausage links.
Since the small IGA at 6301 Tower Ave. began concentrating on its meat market in 2000, the shop has seen continued growth.
"When I started here we had seven employees; we have 25 now," Cragin said. Hot dog production alone has risen from 12 pounds a week to about 150. "It's exploded," he said.
In addition to custom-cut meats and freshly ground chuck, Superior Meats makes more than 100 different sausages, from Greek and cranberry wild rice to red pepper provolone and bacon cheddar. Ideas for new recipes are welcome, and new products such as corn dogs are in the works.
Despite its size, Superior Meats has no problem with waste.
"People ask us what we do with our old stuff. We don't have any old stuff," Frost said, because the whole counter turns over in about a day and a half. Every customer has a favorite.
"There are certain sausages we have to have in our case all the time," Cragin said. "Beer brats, of course; bacon cheddar, apple, cranberry wild rice -- certain ones that just always sell."
"I've seen fights nearly start because someone took the last one," Frost said.
Superior Meats didn't see instant success at the state competition, however.
"The first time we went down was in 2005, and we didn't win a thing," Cragin said. The comments on the scorecards offended him, so he toured the show. "Looked at winning product, I realized we weren't even close to theirs."
Cragin, Frost and Buchanan signed up for a sausage-making seminar. Cragin toured winning shops, gaining insight, recipes and information from their artisans. In 2006, Superior Meats earned three awards. Every year since, the business has medaled.
"We really put a big effort into it," Cragin said. "We take a lot of pride in that show."
The new trophy sits on the largest service meat counter in northern Wisconsin next to awards from past years and Duluth's Burger Wars.
Superior Meats focuses on quality, freshness and customer service, offering an old-fashioned butcher shop experience.
"It's an art and it's a dying art," Cragin said. "The quality we make here, it says it all we won seven awards."