September 26, 2014

"The Fall of the Zen Butcher."

The Atlantic looks at Black Earth Meats, which was an interesting operation here in Wisconsin.
[Bartlett Durand, a Buddhist and former vegetarian]... designed the processing facility with minimal industrial equipment, and to operate only on a scale small enough to accommodate a slower, more mindful rate of slaughter. Even from the moment of their arrival, the animals would be treated calmly and with kindness.... Durand worked to develop the skills of a group of eight butchers who could handle the entire animal, as he says, “from stunning to steaks,” and training them in what he called “the philosophy of sacrifice.” The butchers were taught that when engaged in taking a life, they were doing so with purpose, for the good of the community....

According to Durand, a few neighbors complained to anyone who would listen.... Durand says... that he attempted to work with his community by setting up a committee to field complaints.... In December of 2013, the village ordered Black Earth Meats to move the slaughter portion of their operation to another location.

Relocating the slaughter was a problem for a number of reasons, both practical and ideological.... Bartlett Durand cried as he read a prepared statement to his 47 employees....
Read the whole thing.

69 comments:

Expat(ish) said...

That is so the opposite notion of how the meat gets neatly from the Disney cartoon field cow into the lovely cool case at Whole Foods with a "4" on it.

No wonder it had to move.

_XC

Dave Schumann said...

There's nothing more to this story than: people are dicks, bent on destroying your life and property. Every. Damn. One. Of. Them.

If you assume that at all times, then every once in a while -- maybe once in a few years -- you'll be pleasantly surprised. Mostly you'll just be grimly prepared.

What good would that have done in this case? That's simple, his whole stupid idea that he could trust anyone wouldn't have gotten off the ground.

MadisonMan said...

I've often wondered how, say, Wyttenbach's just west of Prairie du Sac differs from Black Earth Meats (other than marketing, I guess).

I don't think I'd like to live next to a slaughterhouse so I can't blame too much the neighbors, but I have to wonder: What was there when you moved in? And IF I had problems, I think I'd walk to the business and talk to them about it. Not sure if that happened here, or if the neighbors went straight to the Town.

MadisonMan said...

The Comments are hilarious. People who have never heard of Wisconsin trying to make sense.

William said...

They don't want you to know this, but many steers become deeply depressed after castration and look for the easy way out. In some ways the slaughter house is a hospice that permits assisted suicide. So long as we castrate cattle and force them to live in overcrowded pens, we will have this problem. The root problem is not the slaughter house. The slaughter house is the cure.

Mark said...

Really good stuff, if you like goat theirs really stands out as exceptional quality.

While I'm not sure I'd love that next door, the neighbors seemed to voice their issues in the worst possible way.

Black Earth is no hub of business and has for a while seemed like a town that is slowly dying - this certainly isn't going to help.

Henry said...

I've gone to a number of workshops on butchery and meat preparation hosted by a local free range animal operation and it has just increased my respect for the animal and the people who take care to treat them humanely.

Anonymous said...

As Morrissey almost said, meat is euthanasia.

pm317 said...

huh.. some people want steak without slaughter!

I guess there is a certain optimal volume per acreage.. for these things. Someone should try to setup on-demand slaughtering -- 'we will come to your house with the bird/beast and prepare the meat for you.' If that idea sounds gross, become vegetarians, like me.

gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HoodlumDoodlum said...

I can't help but think that if the author disagreed with the owner's philosophy the story would have had a vastly different tenor. You can easily rewrite it as: Local business owner claims to be a do-gooder and starts raking in the money, but instead of staying small he expands his operation so much that he ticks off his neighbors (who have been there for years) by greedily taking on more production than the local infrasctructure can handle. If only he'd stayed small, gotten to the local community, listened to and respected their needs, and put some of that profit back into his neighbor's pockets this wouldn't have happened.

rehajm said...

Excpting the organics, the model is not unique.

The community sounds like one of those places that drives away any and all economic activity in the name of preservation, then relies on a trickle of windmill revenue for its subsistence.

John Lynch said...

How did the zoning laws let this happen in the first place?

I wouldn't want to live next to a slaughterhouse. Why did the slaughterhouse owner not understand that neighbors would be a problem?

I've butchered animals. I have no problem with how meat is collected. But it shouldn't be done in a residential area.

eddie willers said...

I just want $1.99/lb ground beef.

I don't care if you sing it to sleep or run it through an airplane propeller.

Dave Schumann said...

@John it is, indeed, right smack in the middle of a residential area. That seems to have been the point -- he didn't want to be out in ag-zoned land.

It seems likely that zoning was pretty permissive. (That's what you do when you want to have jobs in your community). So he set up a business near residences that he was allowed to set up, believing that those residents wouldn't get angry and take his property and destroy his business.

It was, as you say, a stupid move. People shouldn't do business out in sight of other people, because other people will try to destroy them. They should go out into a big box in the hinterlands and hide.

It's important to remember that the same dicks and assholes who shut down businesses like this also, very likely, bleat about how Americans "sprawl" too much and this causes too much traffic and driving and pollution and such.

But, the whole "hypocrisy" thing is so played out. Of course they're all hypocrites. That's news? It's amazing people need lessons in this, but when someone says, "build dense cities and support a broader range of jobs than just office clerks," they're just bleating religious platitudes. At the end of the day, their "religion" will not stop them from taking your business and property if it annoys them.

Leslie Graves said...

It's Mount Horeb! But they persistently spell it Mount Horab.

Anonymous said...

No cattle should want to live past 75 months anyway. Once you get that old all you do is stand around eating grass. Which admittedly is pretty much what you did when you were younger but, let's face it, your cud isn't what it used to be.

Titus said...

They spelled Mount Horeb wrong.

Typical eastern elite-when I moved out here they thought Wisconsin was near Idaho.

Anonymous said...

I would never have become a locavore if I'd known it smelled like that.

John Lynch said...

A slaughterhouse isn't a normal business. Ever lived in West Texas? Ever been around a feed yard? Smelled it? Heard the noise?

Yeah, it should be out in the country. It's nuts to put it in a residential area. It's not about being hostile to business, it's about having your home invaded by stench and noise.

Shanna said...

@John it is, indeed, right smack in the middle of a residential area.

Thanks. Is it pretty spread out or right on top of the neighbors? I was amazed that zoning was never mentioned in the article (that I saw) because that seems pretty important.

I'm of two minds, because I wouldn't want to live next to a slaughterhouse either, regardless of how humane it was, unless there was a ton of space to separate us. But then again, why was zoned to allow this in the first place?

Expat(ish) said...

The beauty of google earth (the only product of theirs that I use) is that you can see this is a rural mixed use area - but that is pretty close to live to a slaughterhouse.

map here

-XC

Shanna said...

It's important to remember that the same dicks and assholes who shut down businesses like this also, very likely, bleat about how Americans "sprawl" too much and this causes too much traffic and driving and pollution and such.

And complain about Walmart killing off main street!

Dave Schumann said...

@Shanna -- right. Smack. In the middle. Next to a post office, down the street from a little park, across the street from a line of ranch-style houses.

I'd probably b*tch and moan about it if there was a noisy business across the street from my little house too. That's just the point. I'm not saying these are particularly hypocritical, or narrow-minded, or selfish people. They're people. We're all bent on destroying the work of others for our own gain.

And I want to emphasize -- NOT the "bad" among us, or the "short-sighted" or selfish among us. EVERY ONE OF US.

What's amazing is that people can't look into their own hearts when they start a project like this. If it is near people, they will try to destroy it. You'd also try to destroy it, being a person. What was he thinking?

I'm not trying to be sarcastic or anything. This has always been what people are like, everywhere and forever. What's amazing is that people keep relying on other people to be accommodating, not to do everything they can to tear down others. How do you spend more than a week walking this planet and have that idea about others?

Tibore said...

"John Lynch said...
How did the zoning laws let this happen in the first place?"


The Isthmus story laid that all out:

"She's lived in her home for 40 years, during which time the building has always been a butcher shop and meat market.

But in the early days slaughter was one day a week, and the meat was all sold in the store in front, says Mickelson. "It was a mom-and-pop butcher shop.

"The problems started about three and a half years ago," Mickelson says, when Black Earth Meats' business started to take off. Volume increased, says Mickelson. Problems she cites include noise from animals waiting for long periods in trucks, before being led into the slaughterhouse; animal parts remaining after slaughter or being poured into trucks; remnant pieces falling in the street; blood dripping from trucks or bins; and odors, especially in warm weather."


So it started as a sort of "corner shop" (in metaphor if not in literal terms) where slaughtering was not a daily occurrence to one where it was happening so much animals got backed up along with the waste products.

Dave Schumann said...

"I expect other people to be nice and allow me to intrude into their lives because it's important for the community."

There are people who really think like this. Honestly. It's absolutely astounding. You gotta assume they've fallen through some kind of dimensional gate from another galaxy.

Tibore said...

Oh whoops, link: http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=41756

John Lynch said...

I read the article. I still don't get why the zoning let the operation get so big.

Shanna said...

Thanks Tibore, that makes some sense. It sounds like the business grew and they didn't want to buy another place to properly expand. This kind of stuff really does belong out in the country, if possible.

animal parts remaining after slaughter or being poured into trucks; remnant pieces falling in the street; blood dripping from trucks or bins

If I were a neighbor this would have had me up in arms too. Because ew.

Rusty said...

Sounds like Mt Horeb has been gentrified. Meat processing was accepted when the majority of people in town worked in agriculture in one way or another.

Dave Schumann said...

@John -- sounds like it didn't. Hence the lawsuit.

One of the articles had the owner originally making noise about fighting the suit and making the town compensate him for shutting down the plant. So he considered it, at least. He probably got advice that the town's legal position was strong enough to make it difficult.

He took a little operation across from some little houses and made it much bigger. He also doesn't seem to have bought anyone in power in the town or state. That was, frankly, stupid. And not in a "oh I wish this town had behaved according to my political beliefs so that economic freedom could flourish", sarcastic way. That's utopian (and remember what that word's etymology is). In a sincere, "that's a dumb way to conduct one's business" way.

Skeptical Voter said...

Interesting to learn that are still some butcher/meat locker places in business in small towns. I went through grade school in a town of 25,000 in S.E. Washington state. My brother and I grew three steers--that wound up in the local butcher/meat locker business, and then made it on to our family table. The same facility processed deer that local hunters killed. That's all part of life--and how meat gets on the table.

I'm very amused when I read a comment from some (usually San Francisco) twit who says you should buy your chicken in the supermarket where "no animals were killed".

Still it sounds like the guy may have been scaling up the volume in his business and his neighbors complained. Probably retirees from the city who had "never heard of such a thing before" and now that they'd moved right next to it, didn't like it.

Michael said...

Eddie Willers at 12:43

Michael said...

Always love stories about "the community."

Joe said...

One of the commenters pointed out that the "factory" is a tiny little building in the middle of town that was originally a butcher shop, not a meat processing plant.

If true, this adds clarity to several parts of the article. Namely, it means that animals were being kept outside until slaughtered and the stuff left over stored outside until transported to a rendering plant.

(I once lived in a small town with a slaughterhouse roughly in the middle, though you'd never know it because all animals were kept inside until slaughtered and waste stored in a refrigerated rooms until transported. After hearing horror stories about how bad slaughter houses were, I was struck at how humane this one was and how much the butchers respected the animals and the process.)

traditionalguy said...

Eat Mor Chikin.

traditionalguy said...

Maybe he could re-locate to some black earth in the corner of the Dog Park. Those same sight and sounds will keep Meade's friends excited.

Tibore said...

While I have some sympathy towards Durand and Zimmer, I have to say that they had a hand in their own demise. An unintentional one - after all, what business owner doesn't want to see growth due to wild success? - but one all the same. If the neighbors are to be believed, that area could accommodate a small shop and processor, but their growth - due to a really good business model, all hippy-esque, gentrified, "Stuff White People Like" talk aside - turned them into something other than that. Which became a problem. And that I can understand. If the mom and pop store next door eventually grew to feel like a Wal Mart, even if it weren't really that big, you'd be pissed. I worked for a small business that was transitioning into being a regional distributor; when the trucks delivering parts - actual 18 wheelers - started having to spill over from the commercial into the residential neighborhood, the neighbors got pissed. And rightly so; it was an annoyance, a hindrance (blocked streets), and all in an area where the residents didn't expect to have to deal with such hassle.

Were the neighbors too intransigent? That argument can be made; the Atlantic seems to be leaning that way rather heavily. And there's merit in that; the meetings the parties all had seems to have been lots of contention with little headway towards compromise. So nothing about the details of this story exonerates them either.

But in the end, even good intentions can lead to negative outcomes. And putting the business where they did, for all the "ideological" reasons they may have had above the practical, led to the outcome. Which is too bad. You get the sense this processor could've become something big had they been somewhere other than where they were.

n.n said...

Call it a clinic, claim privacy rights, then market a pro-choice doctrine. No self-respecting activist could logically oppose them.

Joe said...

Here's a Google street view of the "plant".

https://www.google.com/maps/place/1345+Mills+St,+Black+Earth,+WI+53515/@43.1362811,-89.7477804,3a,90y,7h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1srwfmXHkOzjljm6wUsxxKpw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x88079e581b719f29:0xb7886ff7122a02d6!6m1!1e1

I Callahan said...

It's important to remember that the same dicks and assholes who shut down businesses like this also, very likely, bleat about how Americans "sprawl" too much and this causes too much traffic and driving and pollution and such.

But, the whole "hypocrisy" thing is so played out. Of course they're all hypocrites. That's news? It's amazing people need lessons in this, but when someone says, "build dense cities and support a broader range of jobs than just office clerks," they're just bleating religious platitudes. At the end of the day, their "religion" will not stop them from taking your business and property if it annoys them.

Wow. I'm finally reading someone who is as cynical as I am. I think you've pretty much nailed this.

I Callahan said...

It really is right in the middle of a neighborhood.

Tibore said...

"John Lynch said...
I read the article. I still don't get why the zoning let the operation get so big."


Sorry, didn't mean to imply you didn't read it. Was just taking the opportunity to highlight it in the comments here.

I share the same question. The Isthmus article points out that despite the grocery-commercial zoning the lot had, slaughter was permitted "... as long as the physical footprint of the business does not grow." Well, what then, the place just stops slaughtering? That's part of what leads me to blame both the village and the business: The village for being so specific they outsmarted themselves and ended up with an "overgrown" business anyway since it stayed in the same "footprint", and the owners Durand and Zimmer because they didn't plan fast and soon enough for outgrowing their location. But yeah, John's question stands. I know we mostly want to keep government intrusion minimized, but at the same time only a deluded anarchist would opine that government has no role in situations like this.

khesanh0802 said...

Lack of foresight and sensitivity by the owner of the abattoir. I have been in numerous small towns in the midwest where there are small butcher/slaughter places on the edge of residential areas. These places only process a few animals a week and are cleaned up every day. Obviously the people of Black Earth were comfortable with that size operation. Regardless of the owner's spiritualism the abattoir had clearly become a commercial operation with all its attendant problems. If the owner had thought ahead he would have moved the slaughter long before it became a problem with the citizens. Durant's problem is that he was paying more attention to his relations with the animals than the citizens on whom he depended. Stupid!

Joe said...

Once you look at the building in Google earth view, it becomes really apparent that the building was never meant to be anything more than a shop, not something which produces anything in volume. Wasn't this actually a victory of the common man over big business?

https://www.google.com/maps/place/1345+Mills+St,+Black+Earth,+WI+53515/@43.1362811,-89.7477804,3a,90y,7h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1srwfmXHkOzjljm6wUsxxKpw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x88079e581b719f29:0xb7886ff7122a02d6!6m1!1e1

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with how meat is collected. But it shouldn't be done in a residential area

Typical lefty, always wanting to suppress the freedoms of others.

The free market should decide where a slaughterhouse is or is not located. You and your fascist friends need to butt out of other peoples' business.

chickelit said...

This sounds like the kind of liberal overreach/NIMBYism which garage mahal favors for the state of Wisconsin.

In garageworld, everybody needs to be a cushy-paid GEF office worker.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

madisonfella said...The free market should decide where a slaughterhouse is or is not located. You and your fascist friends need to butt out of other peoples' business.

Sarcastic troll alert! madisonfella's ignorance of actual freemarket ideas is dark enough that it's not worth explaining concepts like Coasian bargaining, exchangable property rights, etc.--such information would be like light passing within a black hole's event horizon. I suggest no one waste their time.


Shanna said...

only a deluded anarchist would opine that government has no role in situations like this.

This is precisely what zoning is for. The city/village (?) should have taken care of it when they overgrew. I'm guessing there is some sort of noise/waste law they were violating (animal parts/blood/etc).

But this business doesn't seem to want to take responsibility for the fact that they outgrew their space, because it would cut into their profits. Although I like their general business idea, they needed to bite the bullet and expand elsewhere.

Titus said...

Mount Horeb is (seriously) called Troll City. There are fucking trolls everywhere. A troll behind a bush, a troll by the bike trail. It's fucky creepy.

tits

Babaluigi said...

Interestingly, somewhat of a similar situation has cropped up in Louisville, Kentucky. Residents of "Butchertown", near downtown, have relaunched a lawsuit against Swift, the last butcher operation in Butchertown. The area is on the NHR, and quite charming in places...but frankly, when driving by on certain hot and/or damp days, there is a distinct whiff in the air...and it is not just from the modern plant. From the 1850's on, the ground and the very buildings themselves were soaked with blood for what, decades?, Some things just cannot be completely washed away--not even by The Great Ohio River Flood of 1937.

...Along those lines, I have recently finished rereading "The Jungle"...I am a happy carnivore, but I had almost forgotten why I shy away from sausage...

Paddy O said...

"Well, of course, this is just the sort of blinkered philistine pig-ignorance I've come to expect from non-creative garbage. They sit there on their loathsome spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker's cuss for the struggling artist."

"We're sorry you feel that way, but we did want a block of flats, nice though the abattoir is."

The Architect Sketch

Titus said...

Trolls waving, winking, gesturing to cum closer, eating, sitting. Big trolls, little trolls, female trolls, a family of trolls. Why Mount Horab, why?

Titus said...

I stopped eating anything on four legs long ago, so there, kiss my ass.

tits.

Titus said...

In Mount Horab you can put your head in a cut out troll and take a pic.

paminwi said...

One point the article failed to mention is that the company had a $4000.00 grant to help find a new place to relocate. The company came to the village with these 4 ideas and it seems the mice could not happen fast enough so the city moved ahead with litigation. The minute that happened the bank who had a loan guarantee with Black Earth Meats pulled the loan guarantee

So....business now out of business.

In thing to remember this us a very small town and there are list of relationships here, both family and long time cronies that certain people could push buttons to make this happen. This guy was an outsider and he did not kiss the right asses at the right time and next thing you know he is out of business.

http://www.naturalnews.com/046254_organic_meat_company_small_business_owner_village_board.html#

paminwi said...

Mice should be move above

HoodlumDoodlum said...

paminwi said...This guy was an outsider and he did not kiss the right asses at the right time and next thing you know he is out of business.

See, I think that's another side of it, too. I was pointing out that the Atlantic article seemed to take the position that it was just small-minded townsfolk who refused to buy in to the owner's new age philosophy and ended up chasing him away. With the same material you could write a story about a greedy businessman overwhelming a tight-knit community's infrastructure or about an outsider who didn't grease teh right wheels to gain exemptions from onerous local regulations.

ken in sc said...

Every Muslim in a majority Muslim country essentially lives in a slaughterhouse. At least once a year they sacrifice sheep, goats or larger animals in their yards. This is for the Eid and other special occasions. I would not be surprised if they do this in Detroit and St. Paul currently. Coming to a neighborhood near you.

Birches said...

I just want $1.99/lb ground beef.

I don't care if you sing it to sleep or run it through an airplane propeller.


I think those days are long gone. The sale price on ground beef right now in my area is $3.99/lb.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The employees learned to keep quiet, move slowly, and position themselves so their very presence helped guide the animal along the slaughter line.

I always wondered what kind of training the Obamacare navigators received.

Anthony said...

I have to admit I like the approach they took with the animals. I think if it weren't too outrageously priced, I'd buy it over regular beef. But yeah, they went about the business side of it all wrong.

Drago said...

Titus: "I stopped eating anything on four legs long ago, so there, kiss my ass."

...too many jokes....too many jokes....head explodes...

jono39 said...

My first paying job at age 5 was to put the cover on the barrel after the executioner cut the heads off several chickens. A few failures leading to airborne drenchings in chicken blood quickly brought me up to speed. I have only fond if dim memories of this experience and have no memories of people being in any way ghoulish or weird. It was a living. BUT who would want to live next door?

chillblaine said...

A few years back here in San Diego, the zoning of porno shops was a big issue. The NIMBY's are always concerned about where sensitive men go to handle their meat.

David said...

Small slaughterhouse-butcher operations are still reasonably common in the midwest. When in Wisconsin for the summer, I buy most of my meat from such a place. Their slaughter rate is considerably less than at Black Earth though.

To be blunt I do not think the owners were very good business people. This push back as they expanded was foreseeable, and it sounds like they did little to anticipate and respond. It's highly unlikely that they needed that exact location to be successful. Sounds more like lack of flexibility and imagination.

Mary Martha said...

Many seem to be upset about the homeowners destroying the business. What about the business destroying the value of the homes?

I would be happy to buy a home with a nearby neighborhood butcher where there is once weekly slaughter. I would NOT want to purchase a home next to a commercial meat processing facility (mo matter how organic and new age it may be)

Joe said...

I have a suspicion that the foundation of this article is a complete crock; if this company was financially in the black, it could have easily found another place to set up shop. They were either not profitable or the owner(s) was skimming so much that there was nothing in savings. Instead of blaming himself, he's blaming everyone else.

Francisco D said...

"Postville" is about Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn who develop a kosher slaughterhouse in small town NE Iowa. I strongly recommend it to those interested in understanding the complex and sometimes contradictory interests in such a situation.