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How Chris Salm Went From Sausage Making To Commercializing University Research

Christopher P Salm
Courtesy of Chris Salm
Chris Salm is the co-founder of Madison-based Ab E Discovery. The company works to reduce the need for antibiotics in animal feed.

Chris Salm grew up on a dairy farm, got a Ph.D. in animal and food science, and worked as an executive at several large food companies. At age 50, he took an entrepreneurial leap of faith and founded Salm Partners, a Denmark, Wisconsin company that now makes about 20% of the nation’s pre-cooked sausages and hot dogs.

Salm Partners doesn’t have any of its own retail brands; it makes its pre-cooked sausages and hot dogs for Hillshire and other well-known brands. A key ingredient in the company’s success is that it doesn’t compete with customers, Salm says.

Eleven years after co-founding Salm Partners, he turned management of the sausage maker over to a successor and co-founded Madison-based Ab E Discovery with Mark Cook and Jordan Sand. Ab E Discovery was founded on a unique technology developed in the UW-Madison lab of Cook, a well-known agriculture researcher. Cook’s technology creates antibody-rich eggs that neutralize Interleukin-10, a protein that invading bacteria and other pathogens use to turn off the immune system. The technology, when put into animal feed, reduces the need for antibiotics. Ab E built a new plant in Waterloo that processes the antibody-containing eggs.

Ab E has built a business around helping university researchers commercialize food and nutrition products. Cook passed away in 2017, but Ab E recently had its first sales on a product inspired by Cook’s research that has potential to eliminate the need to give antibiotics to animals, and maybe someday humans.

Chris Salm's Tips For Other Entrepreneurs:

  • We live in a relationship driven world — surround yourself with credible collaborative cohorts that have mutual respect and trust.
  • Have enthusiasm for life and what you do and openly show it. Find opportunities to get goose bumps.
  • You must have something new and beneficial that is discovered, invented, and/or created before the work of innovation can begin. But it’s only innovation if it becomes available in the marketplace.
  • Make it a focus to be a trusted asset for your customers, and make sure you have suppliers as partners that you respect and trust.
  • You have to go into commercializing new things with the right motivation. Define your motives, understand them and be transparent about them.
  • You can’t negotiate and be transparent at the same time. Define transparency as being the same on the outside as you are on the inside.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate as you make progress.
Kathleen Gallagher is the host of Midwest Moxie and previously the host of How Did You Do That?.