Old-Time Farm Animals Make a Visit to Eau Claire
By Eric Rasmussen
The Local Lounge, a new restaurant in Eau Claire opening this month, asked Second Opinion magazine to produce an article that envisions what life might be like in the Chippewa Valley fifty years from now. The article will hang in their “Future Foyer,” along with pieces from other local publications. Local author and English teacher Eric Rasmussen produced the following piece, which poses some interesting questions. What will the future of local farming and food look like? How will choices made today affect what our city and landscape look like tomorrow?
Fifty years ago, residents of the Chippewa Valley were no strangers to the animals that used to populate traditional farms. A few minutes in any direction (by gas-powered car, no less!) placed early 21st century Eau Claire residents out among the fields,where cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens roamed the landscape. Older residents no doubt remember the joy they experienced as kids when they saw these creatures, as well as the smells these animals produced.
Later this month, Chippewa Valley Protein Labs will be bringing some of these animals back to Eau Claire for a special one-day event, titled “An Afternoon on the Farm.” Modeled after a type of attraction that used to be common at fairs and festivals called a “Petting Zoo,” kids and adults can touch these animals, feed them vegetable byproducts, and learn about how these animals used to be part of the American food system.
“For hundreds of years, that’s how most Americans got their food,” explains Kathia Olson, who handles public relations for CV Protein Labs. “Today we can grow all of the protein a community our size needs at our facility on the city’s south side. But as little as fifty years ago, thousands of acres was needed to produce enough meat to feed everyone.” When asked if attendees will get an opportunity to try some of the “meat” that the animals used to provide, she explains that most modern people would find it pretty distasteful. “You might recognize some of the flavors from some of the products we produce in the lab, but everyone I’ve talked to who’s tried true meat hasn’t cared for it. There’s lots of fat and tendons and things that people aren’t used to anymore.”
The event is part of CV Protein Labs tenth anniversary celebration. For a decade, the company has turned plant and other organic matter into poultry, pork, beef, and seafood products from their facility on the former Oakwood Mall site. The company supplies residents of the northwest corner of the state, and their innovative turkey recipe has earned them global acclaim. “We’re always working to improve our flavors,” says Olson. “But nutrition is our number one goal, and the health of the Chippewa Valley is testament to the work we’ve done.”
Attendees of the “Afternoon on the Farm” event will want to remember a few important pieces of advice before they see these animals for the first time. First, they can bite, so be respectful of these living things. Next, don’t be surprised by the pungent odor. And last, don’t be afraid to touch the animals. They are a living link to the way things used to be, to a way of life that is so close, yet so far away. Also, don’t worry if they “moo” or “baa” at you. That just might mean they like you.