Trailblazing in business

Trailblazing in business

Kari Underly: A business trailblazer

There are certain trades that are historically thought of as being a man’s job. Butchery is one of those fields. However, the stereotypical image of the large male meat cutter is slowly eroding. Indiana Wesleyan University graduate Kari Underly is working to change the image of the male butcher. She is a third generation butcher and uses her skills and background to cultivate a new era for the industry.

Greater opportunities

We caught up with Kari at the Women’s Chef and Restaurateur conference in Chicago and she talked about her role as a leading woman in such a male dominated industry. Kari was brought in to teach women chefs from all over the country who were interested in local whole animal utilization for farm to table restaurants. Chefs were inspired by Kari’s knowledge and skills as she taught the chefs how to process an entire lamb into cuts for creative menu planning. She had a positive reaction to being labeled as a trailblazer.

"What I really appreciate is being able to teach young women or older women. Breaking down that gap."

Kari Underly

Opportunities are growing for women in butchery and Kari is trying to elevate the value of the butcher and bring awareness to the craft as a skilled trade. Typically, when we think of butchery we think of very large pieces of meat, and this used to be a hindrance for women. However, Kari described how that mindset has been evolving and products have gotten smaller. She also says women bring a different sensibility to meat cutting. That more nurturing and caring approach lends to the desire to teach people how to eat healthy and think about the source of the food and not just viewing it as a large object to muscle through with a cleaver.

Teaching the art and trade of butchery

Kari is taking her position as a role model and a teacher one step further. Right now, she is working on developing a school called Range Meat Academy. She says there is a great interest in learning the art and trade of butchery and it can be difficult and strenuous to continue to attend conferences and workshops. The traveling can be intense. So, this school is an opportunity to roll all of her years of experience into one offering. Having a physical location for learning is very desirable.

Kari explains the school is a 360-type of program. They’ll work with a farm in West Virginia and also a location in Chicago. That way, students get an urban experience with the scale of meat cutting and butchery and they also learn what it is like being on the farm and to understand what farmers and ranchers do. By offering teaching in this format, she hopes people will look at the profession as something to take pride in and not just something to do.
The school would also provide students with a business background, something that is very important to Kari as an IWU graduate. Those who are interested in the field need to learn economics if they plan to run a small butcher shop. The business training also provides an opportunity to teach people how to create a business plan so they can seek financing as they work toward becoming a business owner.
Kari earned her BSBA from IWU because not only would it help her succeed in business, she felt earning a degree was an important milestone to reach. You can hear more from Kari on our YouTube page and follow her journey on #IWUJourneys.

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