5

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Butchering Skills

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 23, 2010 at 8:44 PM

I've been thinking that learning how to butcher animals would make it easier and cheaper to get healthier meat. There are all the labels, like grass-fed, organic, etc..., but ideally the best animal to eat is one I've seen alive, running around happy. The labels alone can't tell the whole story.

So anyway, has anyone dealt with these larger cuts of meat, like a quarter of a cow? What's the learning curve like? What sort of equipment does one need?

I've found a tutorial on pigs today: Mangalitza Processing Tutorial But I'm not very far along. I do like the seam butchering approach rather than blazing through the meat with power tools, though. Still, it'll probably be a while before I feel confident enough to try it.

35b6ce9b7f9dda8d40d3e6a1812ab0a9

(439)

on May 22, 2011
at 12:48 AM

THANK YOU for eatwild.com!!!! There's a place really close to me! We thought our last 1/2 cow we bought was grassfed, and then upon delivery I asked the right questions and found out it wasn't feedlotted, but was grainfed among other things. Living in western Nebraska, I've seen and smelled feedlots and will hopefully never again buy feedlot meat.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on April 21, 2011
at 07:33 PM

@August: That is exactly why I love libraries! They are supposed to be the repository of knowledge that most people do not need every day. *If I want to know, off to the library I go.*

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on April 21, 2011
at 07:31 PM

@Laura: Knowledge empowers us to make better choices. Even If I am not doing the cutting myself, I've become a smarter meat eater by knowing what is involved. I actually want to take a butchery course someday soon.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on April 21, 2011
at 06:17 PM

Thanks Adam. For some mysterious reason, the local library system actually had two of these! The other one will be easy to borrow too, though I shall have to buy my own if it is really good. I suspect really good butchery texts inevitably get bloody fingerprints on them.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:02 PM

Thanks for these recommendations:) Although the farm I'm getting my 1/4 cow from includes local butchering I'd still like to study butchering and practice for the day when I have my own livestock to work with.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on March 24, 2010
at 05:19 PM

Thanks. I can always use more tutorials.

Ab153bf62e1f51eea3243acdd2f7bfb9

(224)

on March 24, 2010
at 04:59 PM

Thanks for that link! I've been thinking about raising rabbits for meat and it's nice to get a butchering preview.

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5 Answers

3
Abb08da08e327d776926f2c9e4856582

(225)

on March 24, 2010
at 08:09 PM

You don't just get a quarter of a cow, as in front left, when you order a 1/4 of a cow. You get a quarter of the meat from all over. Check out eatwild.com to find a local grass-fed rancher, email them and ask if you can visit their ranch. More than likely, they will be very excited that you're taking the interest. You can then trust a local butcher to handle the butchering for you.

If you want to butcher your own animals, I'd recommend starting with lambs (assuming you don't want to take up hunting). My husband and I deer hunt, so we've butchered quite a few deer. We bumbled through our first time with a simple how-to book and a standard butchering knife set from a sporting good store. The first deer took both of us 8 hours to get into primal cuts, now we're done in 2 hours flat (and we're still on the slow side). Anyhow, this spring we bought a lamb from a friend who walked us through the process from slaughter to freezer. It was not terribly difficult or involved. With a good book or someone to help you through it once, it wouldn't be hard to learn.

As for equipment, for a deer, you need a place to hang it, a hanger (ours is a 1x1 with 2 screws to keep the legs apart and straps over a rafter), a good smallish knife (a selection of several of different sizes is optimal) and a bone saw (a saws-all can be handy, but isn't necessary). Actually even the bone saw is optional, depending on what cuts you want.

35b6ce9b7f9dda8d40d3e6a1812ab0a9

(439)

on May 22, 2011
at 12:48 AM

THANK YOU for eatwild.com!!!! There's a place really close to me! We thought our last 1/2 cow we bought was grassfed, and then upon delivery I asked the right questions and found out it wasn't feedlotted, but was grainfed among other things. Living in western Nebraska, I've seen and smelled feedlots and will hopefully never again buy feedlot meat.

3
Cfccbcf3450ac4919311ded8ef162d49

(2312)

on March 23, 2010
at 09:23 PM

We've butchered chickens, rabbits, and goats. A steer would be more than I'd like to tackle at home, just because of it's size. I don't know anyone in our rural town that does their own large animals these days. Most are sent to a local meat processor. That doesn't mean you can't still raise that animal until butcher time. Meat lockers can do the packaging so much more efficiently, IMO.

2
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on March 24, 2010
at 11:45 AM

You might want to try starting small. Rabbits are built along the same anatomical lines as deer and cows, and you don't need a garage, tarp, chain hoist and hose to dress them out and can do them in minutes once you're practiced. I did a tutorial with photos here a few years back:

http://fearsclave.livejournal.com/484915.html

Ab153bf62e1f51eea3243acdd2f7bfb9

(224)

on March 24, 2010
at 04:59 PM

Thanks for that link! I've been thinking about raising rabbits for meat and it's nice to get a butchering preview.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on March 24, 2010
at 05:19 PM

Thanks. I can always use more tutorials.

1
B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

on April 21, 2011
at 02:42 PM

I recommend the books of Merle Ellis!

His older book, Cutting Up in the Kitchen: The Butcher's Guide to Saving Money on Meat & Poultry is a classic and you can find it used for cheap.

His more recent book, The Great American Meat Book has great recipes, but not as much "cut it up yourself" as the first book

A different author... The last one I would recommend is Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game by Mettler. If you want to butcher it yourself, this is a super-direct guide.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on April 21, 2011
at 06:17 PM

Thanks Adam. For some mysterious reason, the local library system actually had two of these! The other one will be easy to borrow too, though I shall have to buy my own if it is really good. I suspect really good butchery texts inevitably get bloody fingerprints on them.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 21, 2011
at 03:02 PM

Thanks for these recommendations:) Although the farm I'm getting my 1/4 cow from includes local butchering I'd still like to study butchering and practice for the day when I have my own livestock to work with.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on April 21, 2011
at 07:33 PM

@August: That is exactly why I love libraries! They are supposed to be the repository of knowledge that most people do not need every day. *If I want to know, off to the library I go.*

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on April 21, 2011
at 07:31 PM

@Laura: Knowledge empowers us to make better choices. Even If I am not doing the cutting myself, I've become a smarter meat eater by knowing what is involved. I actually want to take a butchery course someday soon.

0
Ede89743a2ed76ea4ac17e879a1ad72e

on March 25, 2010
at 02:54 PM

A couple notes

A.  It IS possible to order a front quarter or hind quarter and not get just 1/4 of the cow. These are the cuts you will get...

      [http://www.askthemeatman.com/front_qt_cuts.htm][1]
      [http://www.askthemeatman.com/hind_qt_cuts.htm][2]

B.  Your first time will be not be perfect, but you will learn to follow the muscles and then make those cuts into steaks, if you want burger than you are going to need a meat grinder and a decent sized one at that to deal with the amount of meat you will have.

C.  Find a local source!  You should be able to find a local butcher that will be able to help you find a grass fed/finished beef, acquire it from the source and process it for you!! Butchering is not easy, not to mention that after slaughter you want the meat to hang in a refrigerated space for 7 to 10 days to age and tenderize... 

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