While serving time, some inmates learn to serve cuts of meat, too

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Inmates at a northeastern Minnesota prison might be able to earn a butcher's license while behind bars, under legislation proposed at the Minnesota Capitol Monday.

A measure introduced by Sen. David Tomassoni, a DFLer from Chisholm, is meant to address a shortage of butchers in Minnesota while also giving inmates a path toward gainful employment, the Associated Press reports.

Northeast Regional Corrections Center in Saginaw (right) is a 150-bed minimum security institution that offers vocational training in addition to education and treatment programs.

The AP reports inmates there are already processing and selling meat. Tomassoni's bill and a companion one in the House would beef that training up with a pilot program allowing the inmates to earn a butcher's license.

The state Ag Department would set up the program and a food workers union would help provide the training.

MPR News reported in January on the dwindling number of local butchers in Minnesota, with a New York Mills meatcutter telling the network it seems to be a dying industry.

According to MPR, the owners at two-thirds of the state's butcher shops are at or near retirement.

Minnesota's hunger for locally processed meat doesn't seem to be shrinking, though.

Earlier this month WCCO asked viewers to choose Minnesota's best butcher. The winner – Thielen Meats, a fourth-generation shop in the town of Pierz – sells 5,000 pounds of bacon per week, its sibling owners told the station.

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