The rich history of meat science at UW Madison goes back almost one hundred years and has changed the world. In that near century, researchers have worked to maximize the quality of meat from the animals that are harvested and to prevent spoilage of that meat – greatly reducing waste – while providing nutritious and safe to eat food to accomplish all things good. The work continues, with exciting new areas in alternative protein, biologics, and cultured meat. MSABD will continue to support Wisconsin agriculture and the meat industry, provide solutions adopted by industry – such as high speed low temperature air blasting cooling – and teach the next generation of leaders and innovators who may someday find their own name added to this history.


1930: The first meat lab at UW Madison is constructed near the Stock Pavilion under the direction of Gus Bohstedt.

Researchers could now obtain tissue, analyze the composition of carcasses, and better understand their work.

1938: The first meat science course “Meat Production and Carcass Value” to be taught at UW Madison is held in the new meat lab.
1939: UW Madison Livestock Judging Team places 1st at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, IL. The team includes student Robert Bray from a farm in Dodgeville, WI.

Gus Bohstedt


1949: Robert Bray obtains the first meat-related PhD awarded at UW Madison. His thesis was titled: "Certain Characteristics of Connective Tissue and Factors which Affect them in Mammals".

1949: Muscle biopsies from live animals studied to understand muscle quality.


1952: Bernie Haasl becomes the first manager of the Meat Lab at UW Madison.
1952: UW Madison Meats Judging Team places 1st at the International Meat Judging Contest held in Chicago, IL.

1957: Release of improved beef grading standards.


1958: Ernest Briskey (advisor Robert Bray) receives PhD with research on PSE (pale, soft, exudative) problem in pork. He later worked at UW Madison with research on the fundamental physiological & biochemical changes in muscle tissue during postmortem transformation to meat. He studied how those changes related to the development of not only PSE, but also DFD (dark, firm, dry) meat. His research lead to the development of pork quality standards in Wisconsin.

Ernest J Bbriskey


Researchers found that swine who received exercise before harvest had less stress and glycogen (or energy) in their muscles, which reduced the production of lactic acid – a substance known to reduce meat quality.





1960: The meat lab is expanded to provide much needed laboratory, teaching, and office space for graduate students and visiting scientists.

Meat lab pictures - 1930,1960, 1970

1960s: Robert Kauffman, who joined UW Madison in 1966, authored many meat science bulletins that were subsequently used throughout the world. Notable titles include “Porcine Myology", “Ovine Myology”, and “Guidelines to Evaluate Market Hog Performance and Meat Quality".

1961: Designed improved rigorometer to quantify the onset of rigor mortis.


1963: Liquid nitrogen used to quickly chill pre-rigor carcasses to prevent lower quality meat (pale, soft, exudative).


1967: First use of an electronic microscope to study the emulsion of meat products. Emulsion refers to such fine meat particles that they are indistinguishable to the unaided eye, such as those found in hotdogs.

TEM of wiener emulsion

1968: Stretching pre-rigor muscles discovered to improve meat tenderness.

stretching pre rigor muscles to improve quality

In the 1960s, Kauffman also created the Animal Sciences Academic Quadrathalon to engage students in what would become the World Dairy Expo. Competitions are still held to this day and have spread to campuses across the United States, educating students on the applications and history of meat science.



1970: The UW Madison Meat Lab is expanded for a third time allowing all faculty, staff, and students to be housed in the same building.

1970 Meat Lab expansion

1970s: Sodium nitrate, widely used in meat products, comes under scrutiny. Robert Cassens led research to understand the reaction of nitrite in meat and found little to no risk for humans with typical consumption levels.

1971-1972: Bruce Marsh serves as the Director of Muscle Biology at UW Madison. His research into early postmortem carcass electrical stimulation improved the quality of meat and to this day greatly positively impacts the profitability of New Zealand's export lamb market.

1974: Quin Kolb publishes "Meat Curing-Nitrates and Nitrites" in Meat Facts.

Quin Kolb at Meat and More presentation

Kolb was UW Madison’s first Meat Extension faculty member and ran the “Meat for Modern Living” program, as well as hosted the State Fair Meat exhibit.

James Lacey

Kolb followed in the footsteps of James Lacey. Lacey, a livestock extension specialist in Animal Husbandry, was the first meat lab staff member to relate to farmer needs for programs in slaughtering, processing, and preserving meat for their own use – especially during WWII and the immediate following years.

1977: UW Madison professor Robert Bray is awarded the R. C. Pollock Award for his extraordinary and lasting contribution to the meat industry. By the time he retires in 1984, Bray has taught over 2,500 students. Bray was inducted into the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame in 1994.

Dennis Buege

Dennis Buege joined UW Madison in 1977. In 1971, the USDA introduced HACCP to the public, and HACCP was adopted by the meat industry. Buege was instrumental in training meat plant managers on HACCP and assisting them in developing their own HACCP plans – providing service to Wisconsin meat processors and producers.



"He [Edwin] was an international authority on the use of sodium nitrite to prevent botulism and spoilage." - Memorial Committee

Edwin Foster

Edwin Foster

After overseeing the move of the Food Research Institute (FRI) from the University of Chicago to UW Madison in 1966, Edwin Foster established the Department of Food Microbiology and Toxicology at UW Madison in 1975. His research into packaging extended the shelf life of refrigerated ready to eat meats from two to eight weeks. Edwin influenced the course of food safety. Extensive joint research into food safety between MSABD, FRI, and UW Madison microbiologists continues to this day.


1985: Developed one of first monoclonal antibodies against muscle titin, leading to the development of treatments for heart diseases.
1985: Marion Greaser, faculty at UW Madison for 42 years, co-authors the widely used undergraduate textbook "The Meat We Eat".

Greaser also did research that led to the naming of troponin, which are regulatory proteins that mediate interaction between actin and myosin in muscles. Troponin is now an indicator of heart attacks in humans – an example of how the meat lab’s work on muscle led to improvements in human health. Greaser also studied titin, which protects muscle fibers from overstretching and has applications in improving meat tenderness and human heart disease reduction.

1986: Two filter paper (non-pressured) techniques developed to quickly and quantitatively measure water-holding capacity in meats.


1987: Ed Traisman helps initiate research at FRI on the at the time little known pathogen E. coli, which can be responsible for food-borne illness in ground beef.


1992: Vitamin E added to cattle diet to maintain color & shelf life in beef.

vitamin E fed beef maintains color

1996: Sodium bicarbonate discovered to minimize PSE condition in pork.


1997: Work done on understanding the biochemical basis of PSE-like conditions in turkey muscle.

Model for turkey PSE


2009: Identified the structure of hemoglobins in various fish and mammals to improve the understanding of the mechanisms that lead to discoloration and spoilage.

molecular representation of heme

2009: The Meat Science Advisory Board, made up of UW alumni and industry leaders, meets to create a vision that would eventually become MSABD.


2017: Mark Cook helps discover the preen gland from poultry can be used to make a stress reducer for fish in aquaculture, a prime example of biologics research.

2017: Ground is broken on the new MSABD Building.

2018: The new MSABD Building is structurally topped out.

2019: The smokehouses and CO2 stun pit, the first ever found in a University facility, are installed.

In 2018, MSABD Director Dr. Dan Schaefer asks Dr. Elton “Abe” Aberle, former dean of CALS (1998-2005), to join the MSABD Advisory Council. In evaluating the viability of biologics as a main programmatic theme, Dr. Aberle becomes one of the strongest advocates for biologics research at MSABD. Dr. Aberle also advocated for the construction of MSABD as CALS Dean.




2020: Dr. Vanessa Leone and Dr. Wei Guo join the MSABD faculty in support of the program’s biologics focus.

2020: The new MSABD Building opens.