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Meiosis is a complex developmental process that generates haploid cells from diploid progenitors. We measured messenger RNA (mRNA) abundance and protein production through the yeast meiotic sporulation program and found strong, stage-specific expression for most genes, achieved through control of both mRNA levels and translational efficiency. Monitoring of protein production timing revealed uncharacterized recombination factors and extensive organellar remodeling. Meiotic translation is also shifted toward noncanonical sites, including short open reading frames (ORFs) on unannnotated transcripts and upstream regions of known transcripts (uORFs). Ribosome occupancy at near-cognate uORFs was associated with more efficient ORF translation; by contrast, some AUG uORFs, often exposed by regulated 5′ leader extensions, acted competitively. This work reveals pervasive translational control in meiosis and helps to illuminate the molecular basis of the broad restructuring of meiotic cells.