Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butchering Day

Warning: DO NOT READ THIS POST if you are vegetarian or have a squeamish stomach. This post shows pictures of our steer being butchered. I don't want anyone whining that they weren't adequately warned about the graphic nature of these photos.


Okay. That said, last Monday we butchered our steer, Chateau (short for Chateaubriand - we always give our steers "meat" names).

We had a few inches of pretty fluffy snow during the night.

My husband was out of town (with the camera - I had to borrow a neighbor's camera, which is why this posting is so late) so a (different) neighbor came over to help.

First thing we did was herd the herd into the front pasture to make it easier for the mobile butchers to dispatch the steer. We figured having his herd around would keep Chateau calm until his time came. This was in fact the case, but we also found it was hard to scoot the herd back to the woods afterward because they didn't want to edge past Chateau's carcass. Ah well, we'll do things differently next time.

We bring in a business called Potlatch Pack, a mobile butchering service, because let me tell you these guys know what they're doing. Here the fellow (I think his name was Chance) is aiming a rifle at Chateau. One shot into the brain (a bull's-eye every time) and the steer was down. Wham, done. Very quick, very humane. After the steer was on the ground brain-dead, Chance slit his throat to bleed him out.

We herded the rest of the livestock back into the woods while Chance and his assistant Ed chained the steer by one leg and dragged him out of the pasture. Then they hauled him up onto the vehicle's hanging arm to finish draining the blood while the men don protective waterproof aprons for the messy work.

First thing they do is remove the head and feet. There are tough tendons in the back legs which they use to hang the carcass, and it's necessary to remove the head and feet to not only get to the tendons, but also to skin the steer.

Skinning the steer. Chance and Ed wear a chain belt with a holster of knives they are constantly sharpening. They are incredibly fast at skinning.

They re-hoist the carcass in order to finish skinning, as well as to gut the animal. I asked them to save the tongue and the liver for a neighbor who loves eating those organs (yuck). They also saved the kidneys for me, because the kidneys are wrapped in lots of fat and I want to learn how to render fat for soapmaking or perhaps tallow candles.

After the steer was gutted, Chance took a modified saws-all and sliced directly down the center of the backbone, dividing the carcass in half.

Then Chateau is put on rollers, all ready to slide into the truck.

There were three other carcasses ahead of him, and another came after (another neighbor was having her steer butchered today as well). Then the men were off to their facility in the town of Potlatch to hang the meat for about a week before cutting and wrapping it. We should have Chateau back, ready for the freezer, by Christmas. We plan to have fresh steaks for Christmas dinner, yum!

Those who read my columns know of my deep admiration for blue-collar workers, whom I feel to be the backbone of this country. I tell you, my admiration for America's working class is exemplified by these two young men. Here they were, working in cold weather, working hard, taking a dirty job and doing it quickly, efficiently, and (in this case) humanely. Hard working young family men doing what it takes to make a living and provide for their wives and children while providing a much-needed and much-appreciated service. What’s not to admire?


  1. Thanks for the warning at the beginning because it helped me mentally prepare. This was a very interesting post. Enjoy those steaks!

  2. I too have an admiration for them, this is hard, heavy work! Our butcher is a small man, but he knows his business. Enjoy that steak, we're enjoying ours (love the fillet, porterhouse and rump cuts)

  3. Great Post! Alot of people have no clue and indeed this is a job to be admired! We hang ours 14 days for a added tender/flavor beef, like in the old days.

  4. What did you do with the pelt and hooves? Are you going to tan the hide,and make some calf foots jelly I have heard about? I worked at a dairy while in college and a mom died giving birth. A friend was into Indian ways of life so we skinned out that big Holstein so he could tan it. It was too big for his large tanning frame! I think it rotted before he could do anything with it. I remember that hide was huge and thick!!!
    Happy eating...

  5. And my wife thought I was silly when I named our chickens stir fry and chicken fingers.


  6. Great post. More people should see this. Then they would realise the work required so they can eat. God Bless the blue collar workers, your family, and your steer. Good eats.

    See Ya

  7. If only more people could be reminded that their meat dinner didn't grow on a tree. They might be apt to respect the process a little bit more then.

  8. I very much enjoy your blog! Keep up the great work! God bless you and your family!

  9. Wow! What a wonderful way to handle meat animals. The men coming to your farm is the best way I've ever seen - zero stress on the animal. That would really improve the flavor of the meat to not have its system pumped up on adrenalin. Wish we had a butcher like that in this neck of the woods.

  10. Anonymous: the hooves were discarded, as were most of the internal organs. The hide was taken to a tannery by the butchers, where they'll tan it into leather.

    I have no interest in calves' foot jelly. I never eat regular jelly (too sweet) so the idea of eating calves' foot jelly is a bit much for me to stomach. Literally.

    - Patrice

  11. This was a great educational experience for my city-bred kids and I! :) Thanks!

  12. I think those mobile trailer type butchering stations are fairly common. That is how our cows used to get done.