Cannibal Sandwiches: A Misunderstood Wisconsin Tradition

Imagine: It’s the holidays and to quiet your pre-dinner hunger, someone hands you a slice of rye bread topped with a thick spread of fresh raw ground beef, chopped onion, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Sounds great, right? Well, if you happen to live in Milwaukee, it probably does. That’s because the concoction — dubbed the “cannibal sandwich” — is a Christmas tradition in the Wisconsin city. In fact, Bunzel’s Meat Market goes through over 1,000 pounds of raw beef and about 250 pounds of raw onions every holiday season, just for cannibal sandwiches. The raw meat sandwiches originated with German immigrants who immigrated to the city in the 1800s. Today, the sandwich is seen as a staple at family gatherings, holidays, weddings and more. The FDA, however, warns that it’s not a good idea to participate in the holiday treat because of the risk of E. coli. Locals say the safest way to have a cannibal sandwich is to make sure it's made with ground steak, rather than ground beef. The steak should be the leanest you can find, freshly ground with a clean meat grinder, and the sandwich must be eaten the same day it’s made.