Friday, January 15, 2010

The butchering of Chucky Joe

Today was the day. Chucky Joe is no longer. I expected it to be difficult to pull the trigger, and I was right, it was. It’s never easy to take an animal’s life, nor do I believe it should be.


We raised Chucky for meat.

I took care of him during the last 20 months and grew somewhat attached to him.

Even knowing the purpose for his life, this morning wasn’t easy. Out of respect for him as a living creature, it was important to make it painless and quick. It was. He never knew.

Once he was dead and had bled (that gave me enough time to shed my tears and calm down), we began the butchering process.

023We first removed his feet, cutting at mid-foreleg (cows’ feet can get kind of dirty and messy). 036Then, we hooked a rope to his rear legs to pull him inside the door of the barn to place him under the chain hoist and gambrel. We used the tractor and a pulley to do this; he was too heavy for us to do it without mechanical help.

068 Then, the skinning began. Skinning a steer takes longer than skinning a deer – something to do with the respective size of such creatures, I suppose. Once we started skinning the rear legs, we hooked the gambrel through the legs near the knee joint (there’s a strong tendon there that works well for this) and lifted the carcass a little off the ground to make the skinning easier. The chain hoist makes it easy to adjust the height. After we had skinned about halfway down and had raised it higher, we removed the head. This made it easier to get the hide all the way off (the head would otherwise be in the way and impede the process).


Once the carcass was skinned, we removed the front legs. Then, it was time to remove the stomach, intestines, and other organs. The children were really interested in seeing this part of the process. I carefully cut down the stomach lining from the groin to the sternum, and then we let the innards come out into a cut-off barrel. There’s a lot inside a cow! I cut out the liver and also saved the heart.


212With the carcass eviscerated, we began to cut it into pieces. We didn’t follow the traditional way of cutting up a cow carcass which involves splitting the carcass in half down the center of the backbone. We removed the neck, cutting it off where it joins the back at the shoulders. Then, we cut the ribs off along the side of the backbone, over far enough to leave the backstrap and tenderloin uncut. At that point, we removed the back and then the two hind quarters. We find it easier to cut it up this way; it involves a lot less bone cutting than splitting the backbone. This is important when you’re not using power tools.

221With the carcass cut into pieces and laid out in the back of my truck on a clean tarp, I drove it up to the garage. There, we rinsed the pieces off and hung them from a beam in the rafters of the garage. 222In there it should be safe from varmints and can cool off before we cut it up. Many people like to let a carcass hang for up to two weeks. Since our refrigeration is dependent upon the outside temperature and we don’t necessarily see a need to let it hang for such a length of time, we’ll start processing it next week.

Earlier in the week, the forecast looked pretty good temperature wise. However, it was warmer today than I would like and it’ll be warmer than I’d like tomorrow. It will get down to about freezing at night. The meat should be fine in the garage, but I would like it a little cooler. I don’t have control over that, though. So, we’ll work with what we have and get it cut off the bone next week. We’ll mainly be making burger and roasts. Maybe we’ll cut a few steaks off the back.



That is going to be some good eating! It's a little different getting your meat this way as opposed to the average American who buys it pre-packaged at the grocery store and has no idea, and really doesn't want to know, how it gets there.


Ramiah did a very good job taking pictures!


It's a lot more work getting your meat this way, but it also costs a lot less. Also, it's organically, non-industrially raised which would make it cost even more. I'll have to let you know how it tastes.

Yes, Ramiah took the pictures, and he did a pretty good job. He likes to get 'artistic' at times. I didn't include any of those photos, though.

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