Co-op receives loan for Nueske's expansion

Mike Zoromski, smokemaster at Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats in Wittenberg, moves 850 pounds of smoked bacon into a cooler in 2007. Nueske's is famous for its smoked bacon and sells their products locally, statewide, across the U.S. and overseas.


The Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative in Rosholt has been approved for a $390,000 loan to help Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats purchase equipment to expand operations.

The funds are part of more than $9 million in loans and grants for 15 projects recently announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support job growth and economic development in 12 states. The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program, through which USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment.

Funding of each award  is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

In February,  Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats announced it was planning a $34 million expansion that would create 65 jobs. The expansion is expected to almost double the size of the 83-year-old family business’ Wittenberg facility, located at 1390 E. Grand Ave., to 153,000 square feet. The additional space will allow the company to more than double its maximum production capacity from 9 million pounds of meat products per year to 23 million pounds, said Megan Dorsch, Nueske's marketing manager, at the time.

Dorsch said the addition for Nueske's  — which employed 170 people at the time of the announcement — should be up and running in 2017. The last time the premium meat company underwent an expansion was in 2005, when it increased the building to 80,000-square feet.

The expansion can be attributed to the company's "steady growth over the last decade," Dorsch said. Nueske's manufactures a range of Applewood-smoked meats — like ham, sausage and turkey — but, specifically, its popular Applewood-smoked bacon has played a distinguished role in Nueske's success as a company.

Chef Bernard Kurzawa of Bernard's Country Inn cuts some bacon from Nueske?s Applewood Smoked Meats in Wittenberg for his Irish cream of potato soup.

“Bacon has always been our best-seller," Dorsch said.

Over the past 10 years, the popular breakfast meat has accrued major culinary acclaim, Dorsch said. Instead of just eating bacon with eggs in the morning, people have started incorporating the meat into more and more dishes.

“People are using it more as a flavoring and an ingredient than just a standalone ingredient," Dorsch said.

Nowadays, people will add bacon to everything: vegetable dishes, cookies, donuts, ice cream and appetizers. If a food pairs well with the salty meat, somebody somewhere has probably experimented with the dish.

“We saw the big bacon popularity wave probably crest in 2009, but it's remained really popular," she said.  "People were at first really into bacon food as this comfort food and luxury. And now, people are really into adding (bacon) as a flavor.”

The new jobs created as a result of the expansion will be in a range of areas from positions in the office to jobs in the production facility.

The Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative is a member-owned, non-profit distribution cooperative located at 10401 Lystul Road in Rosholt. Started in 1938 to bring electricity to rural families, farms and businesses, the organization currently provides electricity to 7, 100 members on 1,500 miles of electric lines in Portage, Waupaca, Marathon and Shawano counties. For more information please or find them on Facebook.