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Badger Ham Company History


Badger Ham Company began in 1939, as an entrepreneurial dream in a modest 2,000 sq.ft. Building located at 35th and Lincoln, the bustling commerce side of Milwaukee. Soon after, a partnership evolved combining the experience and talents of Jacob Schwellinger and Frank Rakowski. Jacob, an experienced meat cutter, was versed in the old world techniques of curing and smoking ham, while Frank complimented the team with a knack for salesmanship.

Together they focused on a single-minded goal, to specialize on one product: Ham, and to do it better than anyone else. Schwellinger realized early on that there would be no substitute for quality and was dedicated to producing nothing less. His traditional technique of ham cured by hand, carefully trimmed and delicately smoked over an open flame using select hardwoods is still being utilized by Badger Ham today.


In 1955, and Jacob’s son Jack joined the business, followed by his second son, Jerry in 1961. With a strong work ethic and commitment for quality inherent of family owned businesses, Badger Ham grew and expanded exponentially.

The two brothers remained focused on perfecting their single product line: ham, for the discriminating taste of their growing customers. Expansion ensued with state-of-the-art equipment that updated operations to maintain pace with the growing demand for their product.


badger ham history award

In 1976, Jerry's son Mark, the third generation Schwellinger, joined the business and Jack later retired in 1985. Expansion once again meant progress with new efficiencies in production, while never compromising their relentless focus on quality to make the finest gourmet ham.

To test the success of their efforts, Badger entered their product in an official open competition sponsored by the Wisconsin State Fair. The judges, upon completing their due diligence, presented the coveted "Seal of Excellence" award to Badger Ham. Dispelling rumors of this being a fluke, Badger entered again the following year, and won again. This prestigious honor would eventually be garnered by Badger Ham for eight consecutive attempts, earning them the enviable reputation as Wisconsin's "Award-Winning" Gourmet Ham.


badger ham team

Today Badger Ham, in its third generation, continues to expand at the increasing pace of its growing customers. The integration of computer technology and digital control has honed the consistency factor beyond human standards, but the hand curing and traditional smoking techniques along with a relentless commitment to quality will never change.