Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Home Butchering

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I hope by sharing this I don't upset anyone.  I am not up for debate of the ethics of meat-eating.  In fact I'm possibly the least likely to know about anything to do with butchering...  I haven't eaten much meat at all during my adult life...  Some locally-caught fish, homegrown roosters, and very little else. Sometimes for years at a time I ate no meat (or even no animal products) at all.

But now I keep a house cow.  To produce milk, a cow has a calf.  Lucy's first calf when she came here was a Wagyu-cross male.  Unneccessary as a lawn mower and so deemed for the freezer.  And so, at 20 months old this week, his time was up.

 Wags as a new calf

Since we'd known all along that he was to be eaten, for most of our family it was no big deal to call the butcher out.  Some were in fact eager to watch the whole process, learn bovine anatomy and really find out how a walking beast became a packet of protein.  I didn't watch the WHOLE process, but surprisingly I watched quite a lot of it and was amazed at how peaceful and non-gory it was.  Everything was done humanely, quickly, cleanly.

Basically for us the process so far:
1. obtain a beef-cross calf (via Lucy, but there are other ways of obtaining cattle)
2. late weaning apparently promotes tastier beef, as does early castration
3. allow him access to abundant food (for us, grass) and water from birth
4. treat naturally for flies and ticks using neem oil, other essential oils, mineral supplements etc (diatomaceous earth as a worm preventative)
5. carry fewer stock so there is plenty of feed and less problems with pests and parasites
6. call the butcher, ask a million questions
7. buy a freezer
8. catch the steer in a suitable paddock, away from other stock
9. let the butcher do his thing

Wags had a beautiful life

So now we have a cold room in our front paddock for a week.  After this week of hanging, the beef will be ready to cut, pack, label and freeze...  So I'm researching types of freezer bags and different cuts of beef (I only know how to cook roasts, minced and diced beef so far)...  There are a TON of resources about home butchering on the 'net.

A few of our family members eat beef (local, biodynamic beef), who knows I might try some too?  I never would have imagined that I'd write about turning one of our animals into food, but this is where our farming journey has brought us...

I'll write about stage two of this home butchering process next time!


mainely stitching said...

When I decided to start homesteading with animals, it was with the understanding they would provide food, one way or another. I've learned to butcher our birds (chickens, guineas, ducks, etc). We'll call a butcher in when our goats reach the size that they transform from springing kids to meals. Some family members have difficulty eating an animal they knew, but I feel much better about the life they enjoyed up till butchering and I'm relieved to be offering my family a safe & healthy food source.

Kate said...

Congratulations on taking full responsibility for your food, and for choosing not to turn away from the realities of the cycles that support us. I'm with mainely stitching. We started with laying hens with the explicit aim of getting food from them and not turning them into pets. They got a good life, but no names. And when they passed their good laying years we slaughtered them ourselves and turned them into chicken stock. I agree that it's not as easy as buying from the store, but what we eat now isn't available elsewhere for any price. Because now what we eat includes full knowledge, and the possibility for genuine gratitude and respect for the animals we consume.

Xa Lynn said...

I believe the food my family eats should be as local as possible, whether we grow it, raise it, or hunt it. I'm not up to caring for beeves yet, but having butchered a half dozen deer in the last ten years, I agree that the process was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

Xa Lynn

Anonymous said...

We were a family of six and after Dad retired from the service we landed on 80 acres in Missouri. Not long after that we all spent a Saturday processing 4-5 dozen chickens for the freezer. My dad and brother did the outdoor part and my mom and the girls did the indoor part. The whole process was just a "learning about farm life" experience. The smell left us with no appetite for chicken for a month, but after that they were delicious.

If it had just been a half dozen birds, I think it would have been different. We also bottle fed a few calves and by the time they were older, we were hugely attached. Mom told us market prices were very good and they would be taken to the sale barn, which left us believing possibly someone else would finish raising them. Later, the freezer was quite full of beef cuts, which of course, had come from some "unknown to us" sale barn animal. Ha - not likely. The beef was so delicious, it left us never wanting store bought again.

I'm very curious to see how your home butchering goes. Looking forward to that post.

brenda from arkansas

africanaussie said...

Just the other day we saw on the the news that a small abattoir (in Australia) was closed down for using unethical practices. While we don't like to think about the process, at least you know every step of the way, and that it has been ethical.

Debs said...

Like Kate I want to congratulate you on taking resposibility for the whole cycle of food production. I grew up with the understanding of where everything I ate came from. My Dad taught us that you can eat whatever you want just understand that for you to eat meat an animal is slaughtered. He taught us to hunt and not be wasteful. No sport hunting in my family. We raised pigs and went thru the realization that the pork chop on our plates had been walking around the back of the barn once. this was unusual for the 1950's. I appreciate what you went thru to raise and then butcher your own meat. I wish more people would own the process and be grateful for the lives that feed them.

Bel said...

Thank you everyone! It's great to get positive feedback, as I hear a lot of 'how could you?' from meat-eaters and vegetarians alike!