Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Slaughtering a Beef - Solo!

Ok - here is a fun adventure for you, albeit gorey. Slaughtering a cow is just like a deer or elk... except it is multiplied by 5 or 10. These beeves are BIG!

Here is the steer after we drug him out of the woods and under the barb-wire fence. It worked nice and easy.

I've done several now solo and it is very doable, but when doing it solo, always use a tractor! That is the only way, unless you bone the animal out. I've done it myself for the same reason I do my own auto work - I haven't found a butcher I trust or like yet.

I prefer butchering in October and even better in November... but obviously we didn't have the option with this animal.

With the tractor it works great to gut them out. I roped the front legs to the bucket, and could lift or lower the body as needed while I openned up the belly and cut the membranes holding the guts and organs in. They spilled out nicely.

In less than 30 minutes I had the steer open, cooling in the shade, and ready to load on the truck.

After gutting, we need to skin and quarter the carcass. The most important thing is to cool the meat as quickly as possible, and to KEEP IT CLEAN!

First, I cut upward to the chin from the open belly, and skin off all the hide from the base of the skull down to midway on the body, so that both shoulders are exposed.

Next step is to separate each shoulder, and place them on a clean tarp. It is easiest to remove the leg and hoof when they are on the tarp.

With both shoulders off, I then take off the head. Then, I cut the front of the chest and briskett to separate the neck and chest off the back-end of the animal. This part is heavy, and is most likely to get dirty because there isn't anything good to hold onto.

If you are careful when skinning the hide off and kept the hide clean, you can now wrap it around the carcass as you cut off the front of the chest. I like to use a battery-powered sawz-all to cut through the briskett and backbone. A bonesaw or even a hatchet will also work.

In this case, I left one of the shoulders on the animal, so I could rope the front leg to the backhoe, and hold the front of the animal up while cutting the front of the body off of the back. This worked great and kept the body very clean.

Here you can see where I am just about to separate the animal into 2 pieces. When the backbone was cut, I then used the backhoe and dropped the front part onto the tarp in the pickup truck. Easy and clean. Keep it clean, clean, CLEAN! When in the truck I then easily removed the second shoulder and leg.

The front part of the animal is the hardest, because of the size, weight, and difficulty in keeping it clean. The back half is much easier.

I roped the back legs up and lifted them up to where I could work on skinning and quartering them. Be careful working under that bucket - it could come down on you! There is 6-700 lbs hanging here.

These are the basic tools I use: a good knife, sharpenning steel, sawz-all (battery powered), and a bucket of water with bleach in it. I also have a nice large bone saw I forgot to add in the picture.

I frequently wash my hands and knife in the bleach-water especially when handling the hide. The cleaner you keep your hands, the better the meat. Meat is very difficult to clean later on.

Anyway, back to the beast. Here you can see how I've skinned off the hide all around the back half. The hide is now only attached at the tail

If your knife is sharp and you are careful, the skinning goes quite well. Also, it is usually very easy to get rid of the hide and bones on craigslist - alot of people seem to want them for art and other projects!

Before removing the tail and the hide, cut around the "end of the digestive tract" where it exits the body. There is a nice, large cavity hear to easily cut around and remove the "end tube". Be very careful NOT to cut the tube and expose the meat to crap - there is bacteria in the crap. Besides, crap probably tastes like... crap. Careful!
Here is the open cavity. When the cavity is clear, simply cut off the tail at the base with a bonesaw, and the hide and tail will fall to the ground.
We're just about done! In the past I haven't bothered to cut the carcass in half, but with a nice saw it is easy, and makes the butchering easier to do.
Here we are using the hand saw (sawz-all blade was too short) and quickly cut through the pelvis and backbone.

And here are the two back-halves of the cow. At this point, we are done and ready to hang the meat. I like to use a wet rag and wipe down the meat - removing coagulated blood, hair, dirt, etc.
The less water the better. It is easiest to clean the meat now, before the meat stiffens and dries.

Here is the entire animal loaded into the pickup truck. Each year I buy a new tarp and wash it. It is cheap and keeps it clean.

One great result of this year's cow adventure is all the great neighbors I've met. Everyone was very helpful and kind. One woman - Mary, even called me later to offer us the use of her meat locker. She was worried about the warm weather (as were we) and the meat spoiling.

Here is all the cow in his new pen - chilling out.
As you can see, the entire process is not technical but is ALOT of work. I'm very sore and stiff from wrestling a 1200 animal into smaller pieces. Help is always a great thing, too. The kids will soon be big enough to help... that is unless they are at football...
The skinning and quartering process took me justs under 2.5 hours to do. Not bad. Three hours total to gut, skin, and hang the animal. Would have been nice to just call someone to do it, though. The only guy who is close (45 minutes north in Kelso) is booked until the 2nd week of October, though.
So, once again, we got it done, saved $150, and had another adventure in the great Pacific NorthWest.
Hope we didn't gross you out too badly with this posting! Next time maybe we'll try an audio podcast... or how about VIDEO!