Black Earth Meats, NIMBY and WEDC

As the consumer interest continues to grow for organic, sustainable, and humanely butchered meats…the media is finally starting to catch up.

The New York Times published an article about hogs raised humanely outdoors and the small farms that practice humane practices. One of the drivers behind the return to this type of farming is local restaurants:

“No chef that opens a restaurant nowadays can do so without first seriously considering where his products are coming from, whether vegetables or little piggies,” said Nick Anderer, executive chef at Maialino, an restaurant in the Union Square Hospitality Group.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article about Black Earth Meats in their print edition January 19th and online on January 17th. Black Earth Meats processes more than just hogs and offers unusual breeds and encourages using the entire animal during butchering.

(Bartlett) Durand, the managing partner of the business, said he wants the feel of the “old-school butcher shop, but with the increased efficiency and food safety of today.” The plant is held to the same standards as larger packing houses, including an on-site inspector who oversees every step of the process. But Durand keeps the facility at a “human scale,” using small teams of employees to process each animal.

The part that no one wants to think about is the killing — but if you choose to eat meat, this is an inevitable part of the process, Durand believes. At Black Earth Meats, when the “kill room” is not being used for slaughter, it is quiet and clean. A large sign on the wall says, “We honor these animals, for by their death we gain life.”

Factory farms may never go away but it is important that local sustainable farming practices have a chance to grow and prosper…what a boon that would be to the Wisconsin economy and agriculture!

But not everyone is happy in Black Earth. A sidebar article from the print edition of MJS (which apparently wasn’t published on line) said that because of neighborhood complaints about odors and noise and traffic congestion, the Village of Black Earth had given Black Earth Meats 120 days to move out of town! The shop has been a butcher shop and slaughterhouse since the 1950s but the current owners took over in 2007 and upgraded the operation. Bartlett Durand, the firms manager, has asked the village for $1.8 million to move the plant.

So this is where WEDC should step in…$1.8 seems like a pittance to protect 40 jobs…considering the money that WEDC has lost track of in its very short existence and it certainly seems like a trifle to maintain a going business that certainly has serious potential to grow its business and number of employees.

Hey WEDC: It’s time that you put some of my hard earned tax money you’ve been sitting on where your mouth is and actually help a small business with potential!


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5 thoughts on “Black Earth Meats, NIMBY and WEDC

  1. Three grocers, each with a butcher shop and meat case, served an immediate population of about 600-1200 (depending on the season) where I grew up. Combined with numerous Lake Michigan commercial fisheries, animal protein was 90% local until about 1970.

    Your idea has exceptional merit, unfortunately we might need to structure a denial of service attack on the Recall blacklist servers to ensure a good outcome for the needed project loans.

  2. Thanks Ed.
    I reside a few miles from Black Earth. Small town of 1300.
    Black Earth Meats has done an excellent job with their niche at a time most small butchers have not.
    The relocating situation will get worked out though I’m not sure when or how. The facts are Black Earth Meats is quite successful and has grown in recent years, and, it is located in a residential area that has created hardships for the folks that live nearby. It’s time for the business to regroup, grow and relocate. It’ll be a little painful in the short term, but, best in the long term.

  3. Great post and comments, thanks to Ed, nq, and ig.

    ig, do you know if the odor is coming from the livestock, the “kill-room,” or both?

    1. It’s both. Small scale over the years has been tolerable. Increased volumes have created traffic/parking issues with trucks and stock trailers, liquid waste/sewage problems and more. The sight, sound and smell now dominate what used to be in the background. No intentional wrong doing that I’m aware of, just growth of a particular industry that no longer fits where it sits.

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