Non-GMO Month

Non-GMO Month was created by the Non-GMO Project to educate communities about consumption of genetically modified organisms. The upcoming Non-GMO Month is a way to encourage community events and participation in your area. To learn more you can follow the direct link below.
Non-GMO Month

Meat Tour

I have been determined to discover where meat comes from before the grocery store. This led me to a meat market called Black Earth Meats that offers one on one handling during the butchering process. Many of their products come from local farms across southern WI that raise the animals with the highest quality and humane treatment.

It was early morning when I began to drive west of Madison. Slaughters occur 2 days a week, I hoped to go only 1 of the 2 days to see the whole process. I was welcomed by a friendly staff that provided me a hair net and a white coat.

Quickly I followed the plant manager behind the meat market, where there was packaged tenderloin and other select meats ready for sale, past the cutting room and then farther down the hallway beyond 2 doors. As I walked through a foot bath and another large door, I entered the slaughter room. There were four butchers, each individually and skillfully eviscerating  the animals. There appeared to be blood everywhere. I was asked if I wanted to see the actual “kill.” I replied, “yes.” I slowly made my way past an exsanguinated pig which led me to a narrow, boxed off section that held one pig.There were 1/2 a dozen pigs lined up inside an even narrower, steel isle 15′ away. Screams and squeals from the pigs chorused loudly through out the room. I was asked if I was ready and watching, I was. There was a man in the box area preparing for the “kill.”  The pig was stunned in the neck by an electric current and then once more under his leg. His heart rate slowed down, color faded from his face as a pale white set in, tongue hanging out and then collapsed to the cement. The stunned pig was silent.

Then the pig was dragged just a few feet to a hanger where it was hoisted up to hang upside down by its hooves. It was then exsanguinated, by the use of a pointed knife that was inserted behind the jaw and below the neck bone. This then severed the jugular vein, carotid artery, and trachea. Blood then flowed freely, pouring into a large barrel. The carcass was then removed,  and placed on a hook for a USDA Inspector to examine for signs of disease or pathological illness that would cause the carcass to be unwholesome for human consumption. The inspector also has to complete other health regulations before, during, and after the slaughter. For more information about USDA inspection you can learn more at the Food Safety & Inspection Service website.

During this time the slaughtering staff was often using watering hoses to remove blood and sanitize the carcass. The pig was laid down on a steel table to have its hooves removed by trimming the main tendon and then removing the hoof. Its genitals were cut and placed in a steel bin for the inspector to examine. Two hooks were then placed through the pigs hind legs to be hung to complete the process. It was eviscerated by removing the intestines, kidneys, stomach, and liver for inspection.

Once the pig was raised high it was cut in half by the use of a hand chainsaw. It was then rinsed with water to remove any remaining bacteria. Weighed. Then transported from a hanging shaft into a large walk in cooler to help with the process of cutting and deboning. Before leaving the “kill” room I noticed a large banner with these words, “WE HONOR THESE ANIMALS, FOR BY THEIR DEATH WE GAIN LIFE.”

After seeing the slaughtering process, I moved to view the cutting and deboning room. There was  a larger amount of staff, they were listening to music and enjoying conversation with each other. A group of three were individually cutting an already cooled pig while others were processing beef, packaging, and cleaning. One man said the cutting room is their graduation from the kill room.

Image taken from the web of what our beef looks like in the grocery store, following the slaughter/cutting process

Overall, I saw what I wanted to see. Many workers at the meat market asked what school I was from and why I was there. I said, “I want to know where the meat I eat comes from, where it is before looking nicely packaged at the grocery store.” I often heard the reply, “people think their meat comes from the grocery store, THIS is where it starts.” I am thankful I was able to receive a tour of Black Earth Meats, they encourage people to visit. I discovered a link, by experience, to where the meat comes from before the grocery store or farmers markets. This summarizes the slaughtering process at only one meat market. The food chain is one giant wheel that holds various beliefs among different cultures.


National Organic Program

I have been questioning what an organic product is according to the USDA.

Products labeled “100 percent organic” must
contain (excluding water and salt) only organically
produced ingredients and processing aids.
Products labeled “organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding
water and salt). The link below will take you directly to the organic labeling & marketing information.
National Organic Program

Greenhouse Design of Dome

While I was volunteering for Sustainable Fox Valley this morning at Just Act Natural’s Green Market, a women asked me if I knew where to find a geodesic dome kit. I was unsure how to respond, I have heard of domes before. Like the bio-dome that is a controlled ecosystem or the comedy movie called, Bio-Dome. This was a question I did not have an answer for until now.

I researched the topic and discovered that there are kits sold from CO to design your own geodesic greenhouse. This is beneficial to do year round gardening in cold climates. The link below will take you directly to the site to learn more.
Greenhouse design

Milwaukee’s Rock the Green Music Festival

Rock the Green Music Festival is a non-profit festival that encourages sustainable and healthy lifestyles for communities near and far.

Veolia Environmental Services is a large sponsor of the event. The company will provide on site composting and recycling. There will also be eco friendly programs, emerging green technologies,  and tips to reduce your carbon footprint.

The festival will be powered by clean energy sources such as: biomass, solar, wind and bio-diesel powered generators. All disposable items will be replaced with their compostable equivalents, while a Green Team will manage waste recovery stations throughout the grounds. Finally, free water stations will replace the usual individually sold, plastic water bottles.

There will be locally grown food and beverage vendors, a bike tour before the concert, and 6 bands to fill the stage. Many interactive areas will focus around our 4 main elements: earth, water, fire, and air. These elements reflect the various sustainable and renewable technologies.

Milwaukee’s Rock the Green Music Festival

Community Garden Partnership- Fox Cities

Most of the food my family and I eat has come from our garden or local farms. Yesterday, we stopped at a Community Garden in Appleton. I picked a leek and 2 heads of romaine lettuce. To give back to the garden I trimmed the flowers of the purple basil and pulled out weeds and dead leaves.

The Community Garden Partnership is a program of the Goodwill NCW. The partnership provides opportunities for diverse groups to share their gardening experiences. The link below will take you directly to the Community Garden Partnership site.

Community Garden Partnership

Seeds are Turning

Photos taken by Zach Chisholm

This is our second year digging our hands through our soil outside our home. We have very little space to work with. Regardless, we are seeing positive results in the making!

We sowed our soil and planted our seeds (some that are organic) in the second to last week of May. We have received plentiful amounts of rainwater to naturally hydrate our seeds for much of the summer. The sun has done most of the work, leaving Zach and I with little care to give. Often we take some glimpses to watch our garden produce magic before our eyes. We then try to capture as many photos as we can during this amazing process.

We began with our herb garden, which included: oregano, basil, cilantro, lavender, and chamomile. Many of the herbs took off and are flowering beautifully! The picture above shows our oregano looking full and healthy. We are sure to trim the flowers on our basil to encourage growth.

Our garden has been producing quite a vast amount of organic eggplant. This is our first year growing eggplant and the vegetable has grown significantly over the past 2 months. The jalapenos are close to its prime to be ready for picking. The tomatoes have been going through cycles of green to red. Our garden has been surprising us in many ways.

We had a few earwigs on our corn. They turned out to benefit our garden by being a natural “pest control.” The soil in our garden has been healthy without the use of chemical fertilizers.

Our bell peppers are beginning to transform from green to red and yellow. Our work in the soil is beginning to shine with results. This is an amazing process for our family to see. We can’t wait to bring our veggies and fruits into our kitchen!