Butchering Beef (Warning: graphic pictures)

Well, I’m a little behind posting this as I’ve been working for Chris W at Ravenwood Tree and Landscape down in Mass. part time.  So, as the story goes, a month ago my neighbor Joe showed up with a request to help butcher a cow that wouldn’t stand up.  That changed our day pretty quick for that Sunday.  I hadn’t butchered a cow before, so I came up with a quick plan that, of course, was radically changed as the day progressed.  Claudia and I went over with the tools we thought we were going to need.  The cow was lying in the barn near the door while the rest of the cows were tethered to the wall.  We had to wait for someone who was buying Joe’s pigs to show up and load them.

Joe had wanted the cow butchered that day, but I explained to him that the meat needs to hang so that it will firm up as well as age.  We settled on killing, skinning, gutting, and then letting it hang for a week which would be more than enough work for that day.  This would work out perfect since Amy and Fred, who were supposed to host the next Homesteading Arts Cooperative (HAC), wanted to postpone until May.

I said a quick thanksgiving and prayer in my head (since I could tell Joe is not one for such weirdness) and then shot the cow at the X between the ears and eyes with my 9mm.  She went down clean which was a relief after the debacle I had with our giant sow last fall.  I had used self-defense ammo, not full metal jacket(FMJ), and it took me 5 shots to put her down- a mistake I will not make again.  Joe lifted her up with a rope that broke several times before we were able to lift her up over the compost pile and slit her throat to bleed her out.  We then loaded her on our trailer and brought her over to our place to do the rest.

Removing the hide.

Removing the hide.

We started by cutting off the head and feet with a reciprocating saw.  Luckily we had Joe’s tractor which we used to hoist the cow up and start the skinning process.  We skinned the legs and belly down to where we could get enough hide to use the old rock and rope trick (see lower right side of photo) to pull the hide off with a truck.  I had not used that method with a hide before, and it did work reasonably well until the rope broke.  Hides come off easier the fresher the kill; otherwise, I would have left it on to keep the meat clean.



We got a quarter 55 gallon barrel underneath the carcass and spilled the entrails into it as we gutted.  Joe didn’t want any of the organ meats, so we saved the heart, liver, tongue, and pancreas for ourselves.  After that we transferred the carcass from the tractor to the chain fall and hosed and scrubbed it down the best we could.

Joe and Mike

Joe and son Mike with the carcass on the chain fall.

We wrapped the cow in row tunnel cover cloth (not shown) to keep any flies off.  That week it was just barely cold enough to age the meat properly.  While we waited for next weekend and the HAC, Joe got a large roll of freezer paper from the butcher he usually uses- who gave him a hard time for butchering the cow himself.

Quartering and break down.

Quartering and break down.

On Saturday the core HAC folks showed up which is extremely generous to help someone they didn’t even know.  I can’t express in words how much I respect I have for them all except to say thanks.  We had one table quartering and processing into whatever size Joe wanted and another table wrapping.  The wrappers were not at all happy with the bone dust the saw produced.  Next time I’ll try to find a finer saw blade.

Jen wrapping.

Jen wrapping.

We had started about 10am and were pretty much done by noon not including set up and breakdown.  You can get a lot done quick with a dozen people and a Sawzall.  After lunch we even had time for some more basket making.

Claudia and Mark hard at work scraping Brown Ash weavers and ribs.

Claudia and Mark hard at work scraping Brown Ash weavers and ribs.

In the end I think Joe was very happy and surprised to have a group of folks show up to help him out.  There are some mighty good people out there- you just have to find them.  Thanks again everyone!

About Broad-winged

Broad-winged Farm is a permaculture landscape in process. Situated on six acres of prime swampland, our goals are energy efficiency, food sustainablility, and land stewardship.
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1 Response to Butchering Beef (Warning: graphic pictures)

  1. Jodi says:

    We have a dairy farm and have done this once before. Mostly sending ours to the local butcher to do it. I’m glad someone posted about doing this at home. More people need to be aware of where their food is coming from.

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