The first few months of 2020 have been an interesting time for Andy Pearson, who recently joined Excalibur Seasoning as a sales & marketing consultant.
Earlier this year, his parents prepared to retire and sell the family’s 6th Street Market – a long-time, popular meat processor in Ashland, Wisconsin. Andy, who spent 21 years as executive butcher and co-owner, and expanded the market’s processed and smoked sausage line, was ready to take a leap of faith in a new career.
“Being on the processor side for so many years allowed me to experiment and capture what applications worked in the field for myself,” says Andy. “Excalibur was my main source of meat seasoning over the years, so I knew their products.
“I’m able to relate to meat processors. I understand a smokehouse schedule, the grinding style, and mixing style. I know what works to help create and produce better-quality meat products.”
Andy says any business owner, especially a smaller operation, knows how much time must be spent on the job to succeed and keep the doors open. Hard work comes from family experience.
“My dad went to school in Pipestone, Minnesota for meat cutting and my grandfather was a butcher. When my dad was laid off for two years, he butchered wild game to stay employable. I recall being six years old and running home off the school bus to stand at the cutting table and trim meat with him.”
When Andy later met Excalibur Seasoning Sales Consultant Rick McLimans through the family market, he was encouraged by Rick to enter meat products in award shows and study at the UW-Madison Master Meat Crafter Program. Andy won state, national and international honors for his entries and completed his Master Meat Crafter certification in 2014.
“It’s incredible what you can do in the meat industry,” says Andy. “In 2013, I entered in a competition for the first time at the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors (WAMP) and won Grand Champion in fresh, traditional bratwurst with my own original recipe. Later, it was a National Grand Champion honor for my Andouille sausage that I also created from scratch. I entered ten products at a competition in Germany, and won nine gold medals and one silver.”
Andy says he will miss the competitions and the strong relationships he cultivated with his retail customers. But don’t think that he is walking away from the smokehouse for good.
“There’s no way I can get out of processing completely. I kept the fermentation chamber I built and have a stuffer and smoke house at my disposal. My dad and I have a small stash of equipment, so together we may set up in a garage to make some sausage in our free time.”
Andy, who started part-time with Excalibur in February and came on full-time in April, plans to stay rooted in Ashland, so he’ll cover sales territory in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.
“Many people may wonder why I would walk away from a successful operation and choose a new path. I felt it was the right time to part ways with processing and the family business. This was a decision I made for me, and my wife and daughters.
“I have a strong connection to Excalibur, which allows me to stay involved in the meat industry. I believe this is the career for me.”