White Oak Pastures is unique in so many ways, but something that stands out to me is our zero-waste protocol. This is something I believe really sets us aside from other farms. I mean, lets be honest, this is one of the MANY things that sets us aside. You may be thinking, what does she mean by “zero-waste?” Well, this is so exciting…let me tell you!
First of all, you are probably aware of the fact that we slaughter, under USDA inspection, 5 days per week. We slaughter 35 head of cattle per day, as well as 1,000 chickens. The other species are on an as ordered/needed basis. This leaves us with a lot of blood, bones, guts and water to clean it all up.
Here’s a list of the different ways we make our farm operate with zero waste:
Blood – With all of those animals, you can imagine there’s a good bit of blood. We capture the blood from each slaughter and use it in our aerobic/anaerobic digester, which breaks it down into fertilizer that we can apply to our pastures.
Bones and Viscera (guts) – Any that aren’t sold as meat or pet treats are composted in a method that was designed by Cornell University. For 2 years, we use this layered system, which stacks a carbon source, animal parts, carbon source, animal parts, and so on. After the 2 years of turning these stacks, we are left with rich material that’s great for our land. This method has helped us, along with good land stewardship, to increase the soils organic matter on our farm from .5% to over 5%!
Hides – When the cowhides are removed, they are taken to the “hide barn” where we prepare them to be sent for tanning, or we start the process of making rawhide pet chews. We use our tanned hides for rugs and leather making such as, wallets, bracelets, coasters, etc. We tan the rabbit, goat and lamb hides by hand. This process is very time consuming, labor-intensive and we love every second of it!
Beef Fat – The fat is collected from the cutting room and used in one of three ways: sausage making in the kitchen, soap and candle making or biodiesel. Our sausage is delicious, our soap and candles smell amazing and we can’t wait to ramp up biodiesel production in the warmer months of this year!
Skulls – the cow skulls that aren’t purchased by our customers, are painted and used for decorations around the farm.
Teeth – we are working on a few different ideas for joining our leather jewelry pieces with some of the sun-bleached teeth. It’s a thin line of making the jewelry look unique, or making it look a bit gross or morbid. It’s a work in progress, people.
Water – The water used to wash down the processing rooms, is pumped through a septic system into a waste water lagoon. The water is later applied to the pasture through an irrigation system. We are able to collect the rich nutrients that would otherwise be lost. It’s genius! (I can say that because I had no part in this amazing plan.)
Vegetable Waste – This is fed to the rabbits and let me tell you, they love organic veggies!
Meat and Vegetable Waste – This is fed to our black soldier flies, whose larvae is fed to our chickens. We love this new program and can’t wait to watch it grow!
Eggs – Our cracked or “reject” eggs are fed to the hogs. The hogs can apparently smell the eggs coming because they all run to the gate to greet me each time I have a bucket to feed!
We also have a 50,000 Watt Solar Voltaic Array that collects sunlight and turns it into electricity. We use Solar Thermal Technology to heat the water used during processing and clean up.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what zero-waste means to us, and why we are so very proud of it!
Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy way, but we want to make things better today than they were yesterday, everyday.