When you spend most of your day using a variety of razor sharp knives, even the most experienced butcher is going to draw their own blood once in a while. As a rank, novice butcher, I am pretty careful and have only needed the medic a couple of times. This last week I got myself good. I sliced into the meat of my left thumb with a 6″ boning knife about a 1/2″ deep. Thats about as deep as you could go without admitting you probably could use some professional help and perhaps a stitch or two. This is when I realized that the worst packaging in the history of the world has to be the Band-Aid.

No science here, but I’m guessing that a HUGE majority of band-aids are used for the hands. So, in order get the band-aid out of its hermetically sealed packaging, we have a couple options. We have developed opposable thumbs over the past several thousand years and they are perfect for peeling apart the 1/32″ flaps they expect you to pull on (it is also helpful if you haven’t trimmed your nails in a few months). Minor caveat….this is not perfect if one of the needed digits is gushing blood and has raw nerve exposed.

Use your teeth, you say??? No matter where you bite into the packaging you are guaranteed to tear off no more than exactly what is between your teeth. Go ahead, try it. That paper is not meant to be ripped. Bite. . . spit. . . bite. . . spit. Repeat about 20 times and you get just enough of the band-aid exposed to grab it with your thumb and forefinger. Oh wait, you’re still bleeding profusely and you scream in pain when AIR hits the exposed nerve? OK, then we are back to the bite/spit thing again. Oh, and apparently hermetically sealing something creates a vacuum that would keep you safe in outer space.  Those things don’t exactly slide right out, do they?

The last option is to ask for some help. This is probably where we should have started. However, the likelihood of asking for assistance is directly proportional to the embarrassment of how you injured yourself. If, for instance. you are a butcher and you cut a chunk out of your thumb while boning out a leg of lamb, you are going to exhaust all other options before admitting that Johnson & Johnson has defeated you and you need help opening the band-aid package. Oh, and can you squeeze a little Neosporin on there for me?

Packaging is a big issue in the meat industry, particularly if you do farmers markets like we do. Vacuum sealed package in an ice bath create all sorts of unique problems. Everybody wants to use less plastic anywhere we can. But not only are we required to have vacuum sealed packages at the Farmers Markets, we also need to use plastic bags to put the cuts in so that the rest of your purchases don’t get wet. Don’t even get me started on the packages that have bones in them. They inevitably get a pin hole in them and lose their seal. This means that we have to repack them, again using more packaging.

The reason we repack them is because most consumers want pretty packages. Given a choice between a rib eye that is ruby red and perfectly sealed and a rib eye that is exactly the same except that a pin hole has made the packaging loose and the steak is now bright red because it has been exposed to a little air, most consumers want the first steak. YOU can help! Ask about the steak in the loose packaging. If you are going to freeze it, get one with a good seal. But if you are going to throw it on the grill that night or within the next few days, take the one that has to be repacked and save some plastic!

We get asked all the time about our egg cartons. The clear plastic cartons that make our eggs look so pretty are actually a way we conserve packaging! You see, we get about 30% of our cartons back. We can reuse them because they are washable. If a farm uses cardboard cartons they are not supposed to reuse them because they can’t be properly cleaned. Those that are not returned are easily thrown into any recycling bin. We are also fascinated by the clever uses our customers have for them. We have one customer who has built a whole display for her jewelry business using our cartons! You can help by returning your cartons when you see us at the farmers market. When you crack open that last egg, toss the empty into your re-usable shopping bags that you use at the market. That way you won’t forget them!

I don’t know what the solution is to packaging in our industry. But we are constantly looking to reduce our carbon footprint. If you have any suggestions, send them our way. And if you have questions about why we do things, just ask. We try and think out most of our decisions, but it is always good to take a second look if we have the opportunity to make improvements. Are Band-Aids recyclable???