This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. (January 2020)
Fred Usinger, an apprentice sausage maker from Wehen in Germany, emigrated to Milwaukee in the late 1870s. Usinger found work at a small butcher shop on Third Street owned by a Mrs. Julia Gaertner. After approximately a year, Usinger purchased Gartner's business and married her niece, Louise. The couple grew the business and, eventually, their sausage was being shipped nationally.
Fred Usinger died in 1930, and company leadership passed to his son, Fred Jr. Then, in 1953, leadership passed to Fredrick Usinger III. During this time, the company's plant on Third Street was expanded. Fredrick adopted a brand image which involved elves, a feature which remains today.
A distribution center in the Walker's Point neighborhood was opened in 1994. During the 1990s, operational control passed to the fourth generation siblings, Fritz and Debra Usinger. The company was chosen as an official supplier to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some production moved to a new facility adjacent to the Walker Point distribution center. Debra Usinger died in July 2012.
Usinger's produces many kinds of sausages and meats, in many cases using traditional 19th-century recipes. Examples include varieties of bratwurst, salami, kishka, chorizo, liverwurst, beerwurst, bologna, pastroma, frankfurters, summer sausage, blood sausage (Blutwurst), ham and head cheese. It is not uncommon to see a worker from the surrounding restaurants pop in to get Usinger's products for their tables when they urgently need to restock.
Michael Bartlett's 1984 book The Book of Bests decreed, "If we were forced to pick just one "great" hot dog we'd probably go with Usinger's of Milwaukee. Usinger's line of cold cuts reaches heights of quality and flavor rarely achieved in this country." Former New York Times food writer Mimi Sheraton wrote in 1973, "Now, the good news. If ever I decide to move to Milwaukee, it will be because of Usinger's..."