Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mobile Butchering Day

Patty, minutes before butchering. Notice how calm and mellow he is. 

We had a steer butchered this morning and I promised that I would share the experience in a post here. Now, I know this isn't for everyone- but before you call out the PETA people or make rash comments below, know that what I'm showing here is an animal that was raised in the best way possible, given a wonderful, easy life and became food in as peaceful a way as possible.

If you have wondered what it would be like to be more self-sufficient or wondered what it would be like to have an animal killed on your own place, chances are things are going to go about the way they are described below. The photos that follow this are probably not for children or the weak of stomach. There is nothing cruel in the photos that follow (unless you are a vegetarian and don't believe in eating animals...), but it isn't for everyone. That being said, my kids have seen these photos and were fine, but they've seen a lot of home butchering before (wild game) and nothing much about it phases them, so take caution as you see fit. 

Again, photos will be graphic, NOT gory, and may be unsuitable for some readers. You have been warned :)

The picture at the top of this article is Patty, our steer. He is pictured just moments before butchering began and was as calm and mellow as can be. This is so important, for the animals to be in a peaceful state. It just takes so much stress out of the situation. He had no idea what was going on and was calmly waiting for his breakfast. Not a bad way to go if you ask me. 

The guys in the mobile butchering truck were very calm and quiet as they approached him. One shot and all was over. In this next picture, which I intentionally blurred a bit, shows the throat being cut to allow blood to drain from the animal. I know it may sound barbaric  but if the animal still has the blood in it, it makes the rest of the process a lot harder to do and takes longer since you would need to clean things much more often. Also, bleeding the animal out in this manner allows the meat to cool quicker- think of all of that hot blood still around the carcass- with it removed the cooling process can begin immediately with the removal of the blood.    

Necessary measures. 

Now things really start to move fast. The animal was moved to a cleaner spot and the whole beast was hosed off to maintain an impeccable level of cleanliness. These guys were always spraying off; themselves, the animal, their tools. Cleanliness is so important in situations like this.  

Spraying off the feet and hind end area before skinning begins. 

The feet were removed to make it easier to skin the hide off. 

Feet coming off at the knees on the forelegs. 

And the skinning began at the hind feet. Right now, the animal was propped up with wheel chocks. Absolutely ingenious! We had never seen this done before and it is such a great idea. It keeps the animal from rolling around and dirt or other undesirables getting onto the meat. 

Spraying off and beginning the skinning at the rear. 

The animals is skinned from the middle out, so that is is laying on the hide, and then hoisted into the air for the removal of the stomachs and entrails. But before that happens, the rib cage is split open. It will be too high in the air to be reached once the animal is hoisted up so this step is done now. If they were to split the animal completely open at this point, the hoisting action would cause all of his insides to spill out and cause a mess. NOT what you are looking for. 

Breast bone being split prior to hoisting in the air. 

The animal is hoisted up and the gut removed all in one big piece. Everything is attached....

Guts being removed. 

Here is a really awesome view of the entrails. I have never seen a set come out of an animal so completely or cleanly. This shows every piece and part that makes up the gut of the bovine animal. Stomachs, liver, heart, lungs, intestines...everything. I should have taken a picture later when the stomachs were opened and the grass/hay removed, but we were getting ready to be done and leave at that point so I forgot. 

An immaculate display of bovine entrails. Had the kids been here, this would have been one heck of a lesson in anatomy!

At this point, the animal is hoisted into the air pretty high and the hide is removed the rest of the way. The animal is carefully checked over and sprayed down with water once again. Every step of the butchering is followed by a spray down and check for cleanliness. 

Hide completely removed, animal being checked over before being sprayed off one last time. 

The carcass is now split in half completely, down the backbone. This helps to cool the animal off faster and to make it easier to handle once it gets to the butcher shop. The cloudiness you see here is a combination of steam from the hot animal and fog that was rolling through. 

Splitting the carcass in half. 

Usually, the meat would be tagged with our name and loaded onto the truck at this point and taken to the meat processing/butcher facility. But, our butcher is in another town over, so we opted to have the carcass loaded into our rig, in a plastic and tarp lined truck bed, so we could transport it to our butcher of choice.

Meat loaded up and ready to head to the butcher. 
Secured in our rig, it was time for the mobile butchering truck to leave and for us to be on our way. The meat will hang to cool and cure a bit, about 7-10 days and then be cut and wrapped for us. We'll go pick it up and deposit it into our freezer. 

As you can clearly see, the process is very humane and swift. It took about 45 minutes start to finish and was quiet, quick, efficient and well done. Done correctly, a farm kill on an animal does not have to be a bloody, gory mess. It can be done with respect to the animal, cleanliness and professionalism- and should be carried out in this manner. 

Nothing makes my mind rest easier than knowing that the animal we will be consuming in a couple of weeks lived the very best of life, was fed the most wholesome diet, was well cared for and had a peaceful end. Not something I feel when I cook up a steak from the grocery, to be sure. 

I hope this was an educational experience for those of you who read this far. It certainly is important for anyone who wants to have a better idea of where their food comes from to take a look at an informative article like this, if not witness it in person, at least once in their life. It's not always the most glamorous or even enjoyable job, but it is necessary and may someday be essential for you. Learning to deal with the situation and coming to terms with exactly what has to be done is an essential skill for anyone who is thinking of becoming more self sufficient. 


Jen said...

This was very informative. Thank you for sharing. I really miss farm life.

Charley Cooke said...

Thank you for leaving a comment! So glad you found it informative, I was hoping someone would :)

Lois said...

Well done Charley. I really appreciated the step by step pictures. We have raised our own meat chickens for years, but never done a steer. I was impressed with how clean everything was. The fact that all the entrails came out so cleanly was really cool.

What happened to the hide? Will you tan it? Are any of the entrails usable for anything? We save the hearts, livers & gizzards of the chickens to make the best gravy & broths ever!

Charley Cooke said...

The hide is sold to a tannery by the mobile butchering guys, it's a way for them to make a little extra cash. You could certainly keep it and tan it, but we aren't in a position to do that right now so we passed this time. You can keep any of the entrails you'd like- just ask for them! Many people eat the heart and liver. It's just a personal preference. These guys did a great job, we couldn't be more pleased!

Jill Larson said...

If I had a farm, I would definitely get cows, but afraid I wouldn't be able to kill them when the time would come. Did you ever have an issue with that, or do you have any tricks to keeping from becoming too attached to your food?

Charley Cooke said...

Jill- I've had so many animals become food over the course of my life that I don't even really think about it anymore. I think the trick is to always remind yourself, and especially children if you have them, that the animal is for food. It's not a pet, it's not for play- it's to raise and grow in a comfortable life until it's time to feed you. It's hard the first few times but it's a lot easier than eating the beef from the store for me. I know how those cows end their lives and it isn't nearly as calm and peaceful as the animals you will have someday will come to their end. That helps too :)