Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finals Week Fun

There's nothing quite like the life you get when you've been freed of the books and studying chaining you all quarter. Even getting up EARLY this week hasn't been able to put a damper on my mood although a severe cold is doing its best. So let me tell you about a couple of my days back in the research loop so you can understand what I do, and maybe also give you an idea of the efforts we put in to protect the food chain.

Yesterday I was up before dawn thought about the day. We met on campus and left in the truck around 5.30 to head North to a pig farm where we would be collecting samples starting at 7.00. This research is specifically for finding ways to better handle and treat pigs so that they are less stressed on a daily basis. Not only is stress reduction important to the consumer, but it is important to the farmers because they want to keep their animals as healthy as possible.

After sample collection, helping to save a pig from the abuse of its pen-mates and saying goodbye to the farmer, we were headed back to campus. I grabbed a quick shower and then hung out until I had a meeting in the afternoon. After the meeting I went downstairs to learn how to make the plug-ins for the thermometer we use in some experiments. This was frustrating work, but thankfully all I was doing was learning so in the time I made 1 successfully, Katie had made 5. At the end of a 12 hour day, I went home to Amanda and finally got to relax for the rest of the evening before an early bedtime in preparation for this morning.

This morning was pig slaughter/harvest. Because it's the end of the quarter, there were less students on the floor, but their vacancy was taken up by some researchers and their visiting colleagues from my alma mater who were collecting liver, jejunum and duodenum samples for a variety of research purposes. This just goes to further emphasize the critical value of animal by-products in the world around us.

My job this morning was to singe the hair and scape any remaining hair from the skin of the pig. Hair can harbor bacteria which can later infect people, and even though we don't eat the skin, the skin comes into the meat lab where food products will be fabricated, so it's crucial to make sure we keep the area as sterile as possible. The removal of hair is so important and time-consuming that half of the crew today was dedicated solely to this purpose, with me at the end of the line, singing what hadn't already been spun off the skin or shaved by 4 people with knives. Following the end of harvest, we then proceeded to scrub down every inch of the facility, sterilizing and sanitizing the living daylights out of it to prevent any bacterial growth before the next time we use it.

For the rest of today, I'll be reading journal articles on subjects that potentially could be in my field of research next summer. All just a couple of days in my life...

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