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Slaughtering and Butchering

by on September 18, 2009

Prefatory note: Frequently when the subject of slaughtering and butchering is brought up, people become squeamish and begin arguing over eating meat, treatment of animals, etc.

  1. While I very much enjoy the butchering process, I do not enjoy the slaughtering process and by slaughtering I mean the actual taking the life of the animal. I understand and respect the fact that every animal is a creature of God just as much as I am a creature of God (Genesis 1). And the taking the life of an animal is not easy.
  2. However, I also understand that God commanded mankind to exercise dominion over creation and that He gave mankind animals for food; thus it is not immoral to slaughter an animal for food (Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and Genesis 9).
  3. I do not use the term “humane” to describe the treatment of animals because animals should not be treated humanely. They should be treated responsibly and with the proper stewardship and shepherding and care as demanded by God’s command to mankind (thus cruelty is prohibited). But humane refers to the humans. You treat a human humanely; You treat an animal responsibly as a shepherd.
  4. What I really enjoy is the butchering process, and by butchering I mean taking the animal from the point of being without life all the way to the table. To me, this process demonstrates a person’s understanding of creation and God’s command of dominion over it. By butchering the animal myself I can choose to save every part of the animal possible. It is a fascinating process to see the full anatomy of an animal! Suffice it to say, that when you go to your local meat counter and see the brisket, steaks, ground meat, and roasts, that there was a whole lot more of those animals than just those cuts!
  5. By doing the actual butchering you gain an appreciation for the meat that you eat and the creatures from which the meat came. (Not to mention you are in control of the quality of your meat from the living animal to the cooking of the steak on the grill)

Cautionary note: As the title suggests, this post describes the slaughtering and butchering of animals for food at some friends’ farm. If  detailed description of this process bothers you, please do not continue reading. May I suggest browsing the other posts here for something that suits your fancy a little bit more. Thanks for browsing!

1 male goat

The goat was (relatively) easy.  As I have done in the past, we dispatched the animal with a shot to the back of the head (22 works fine), followed quickly by slicing the neck just under the head to cut into the jugular vein; the goat typically bleeds out in five minutes or so. Just like you would a deer, we cut slits in the back legs between the tendon and bone and passed a t-post through the slits for the purpose of hanging and spreading the goat. Using a rope over a tree branch we hoisted the goat up and secured him so that we could easily skin and butcher him. Remove his testicles. Same them if you want; apparently they are good when sliced, breaded, and fried. The head is easily removed by using a knife to cut through the skin and flesh to the bone, then twist and his head will come free.

If you want to tan his hide, as we did, use a hatchet or other medieval device to retrieve his brain from his cranal cavity. From there, remove the fore legs at the first joints and skin like you would a deer. Unlike previous times, we washed the whole, skinned carcass down with a mixture of vinegar and water to wash off the hair and to kill some of the bacteria on the surface of the meat.  (2% acetic acid is supposed to do a pretty good job of dropping the bacteria counts; we did it again after evisceration.) I eviscerate goats just like deer as well: I find it easiest to cut through the chest plate before cutting into the intestinal cavity; this prevents trying to cut through the chest plate while  having someone try to hold all the innards from falling out. With deer, I can usually cut through the chest plate with a pair of heavy shears; not so this goat, he was three years old and it was like trying to cut through steel plate. So I switched over to a hatchet, which worked much better. That being done, you cut around his anus to free it of the connecting tissue, then carefully slice open his intestinal cavity and let everything drop free, being sure to keep the kidneys and heart. You can also save the lungs and liver if you want to eat them. (The heart was promptly taken inside and seared. Katarina said it tastes like filet mignon; It certainly was good!) Then we removed the fore-quarters and deboned them. The ribs were removed with a saw and the neck was deboned. The loins and tenderloins were removed and then the hind quarters. I brought one hind quarter home to attempt to make mocetta or violino di capra, which is a cured hind quarter of goat very similar to prosciutto. The offal and bones that we weren’t going to use went to the dogs for dinner.

8 Roosters

As for the roosters, they were a whole different ball game. On Wednesday night, my friends had captured many of the chicken, hens and roosters, and put them in the coop. Apparently, roosters are smarter than hens because all of the roosters, save one, escaped out of a small hole while all of the hens were trapped inside. (They had a record egg collection day, however!) So, we had to capture the roosters. While some of us worked on the goat, others were trying to capture them; It didn’t go so well. The roosters ran faster than we could and then went into the woods. Feed was thrown to draw them out; It worked to draw them, but we still couldn’t capture them. Thus, we had to employ a shotgun. It sounds drastic, but in retrospect it dispatched them quickly; by that I mean they didn’t struggle or live half alive for a time; they just died. Which is good, because you want a quick death both for the animal and for the quality of the meat; it works both ways.

The slaughtering done, all that was left was the butchering. Heads were removed with a cleaver. Then they were hung by their feet to bleed out briefly. My research on butchering chickens said that the easiest method is just to skin them with the feather intact; this is supposed to eliminate the plucking process and make it go quickly. Not so much! After trying to skin my second rooster, I opted for the plucking method. I found it to be much easier and faster. Evisceration didn’t go so well either. It is said that you just reach in the chicken and pull the entrails out. Ok, I tried that and it didn’t work. So, then I tried cutting it all out. That didn’t work; the cavity is too small! Then I tried to cut the bird in half and remove the entrails; while this worked, it mutilated the flesh and you ended up with odd looking half-birds. …So, I returned to the reaching-in-and-pulling-method.

Just pull HARD. (gloves are nice to wear; they help you not feel so nasty from doing this). Eventually, the entrails come out and you have a relatively cleaned bird. I now know why people don’t slaughter their own chickens anymore; they’re nasty and a pain.

Chock the chicken experience up as just that: experience!

That being said, I would probably do it again; … just because…

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