We find as time passes that we hit more and more first experiences. This week hosted a biggie — the butchering of our first grass-fed beef. We didn’t do it ourselves, though. My husband and kiddos have butchered our own goats, but the size of the beef and not being set up to do it efficiently made us confident that hiring out for it would be the best choice.
So we got the local experts, Oakland Lockers, to do it for us — both the butchering and the processing. They’re very good. We’ve gotten local beef processed by them for years. This year was different in that our own beef went to them instead of someone else’s.
All in all, a milestone, and it felt like a very big deal when it was happening!
I asked Josh from Oakland Lockers if I could take pictures of the butchering, and he said yes. Then I asked him if it was okay if the pictures might end up on my blog, and he said yes, again. So…. here are the highlights of the butchering event.
Warning: Queasy Alert
I don’t think the pictures I’ve selected to show you are that gory, but… if you are at all queasy, you might want to avoid this post. On the other hand, if your children are interested in this sort of stuff, gather them ’round!
How It Went Down
We made the appointment some weeks in advance, as we were told Oakland Lockers keeps very busy throughout grass season visiting ranches with the mobile slaughtering service. Our appointment seemed to come very fast, and two days ago, Monday the 16th of July, was the day that Mercy (our cow) was slated to go.
Mercy was the first calf of Gracie, the milk cow that I let go in June (story here). Born December 2010, she was half Jersey and half Red Angus. To us, she seemed quite big and she just grew and grew and grew all along. So we had good hopes for her turning out well, but didn’t really know as we had no other cow for comparison.
A friend said that when Josh from Oakland Lockers arrived, he would know right away how big she was. So, that was almost the first question I asked him — and he said she was a good 1100 pounds. I was hoping for anything over 1000, so that made me happy.
The kids herded Mercy over to where Josh and his helper would do the work. She was so friendly, and in fact, got so close to him (too close) that he had a hard time getting the shot. Finally she backed up enough, and then it was over quickly.
They dragged her over to the truck, turned her over on her back, cut off the hooves, and began skinning her. They only skinned the belly and legs, leaving the skin on the back to act as a protection from the ground. You’ll see that everything they do is so clean and so efficient.
They constantly sharpened their knives. Very nice knives, too. (Victorinox? My husband just got some of those for butchering goats and small game. They’re awesome.)
Once the underside skinning was complete, they lifted her up on the hook-deal-winch-thing on the back of the truck. I think at this point I asked how nicely fatted she was. Josh said she turned out very well, not too lean. That made me happy.
Cleaning, cleaning, always keeping things clean. The truck had water and hose ready to go. Inside the truck, you can see the other beeves processed before ours. Josh said our place was the last stop of the day. They try to do all the mobile slaughtering in the first part of the day while it is still cool.
The knives. I took this shot for my husband who could not be present (he was at work and couldn’t get away).
My son C. and his two close friends. They pulled in to visit just when Josh shot Mercy (they heard it in their car). They’ve seen this done before, because they’ve had Oakland Lockers do their slaughtering on several occasions. Still, they were very interested and enjoyed every minute. As boys will!
The girls sat on the fence posts. They look really sad, but they did fine. They were not sad. They thought they would be, but then said it wasn’t so bad. They’ve butchered goats, ducks, and chickens before, and this was much the same though larger scale.
And here’s the kids’ view so you can see what they were seeing.
The boys checking out the tongue. The tail is also in the bowl. The liver and heart will be added soon. This is the bowl of organs I would later take into the house to use or freeze immediately.
She’s entirely lifted up now and they’re gutting her.
Then they finish skinning, and also cut off the head. (We put all the guts, head, hooves, etc. out in the pasture where the chickens and the dog have been munching, chewing, and pecking happily since.)
They made incomplete cross-body cuts in the rib area, then sawed her in half completely.
The back of the truck — spic and span. They hosed it off as needed, and hosed their boots off every time they’d get in it. I was really impressed by the cleanliness.
Hosing off the carcass before it went into the truck.
Lifting the halves into the truck.
Cutting apart the quarters right in time to slide everything in. Look at the fine kidney fat hanging inside there. I’m keeping that fine fat for sure. On a pig, it is the highest grade of lard, called leaf lard. (Does this mean it is called leaf tallow on a cow?) It is going to chill up at the lockers and they’ll trim it away and package it up for me so I can render it at home.
And closing up the refrigerated truck to head back to the meat locker. The carcass will hang for two weeks, and then cut and wrapped according to our specifications.
I brought the heart, liver, tongue, and tail inside the house. I was shocked how big the liver was! We ate the heart for dinner Monday and Tuesday. The rest went in the freezer. I cut the liver into five pieces before freezing. We have not had tail before… the other things I know how to fix and we enjoy.
And that was our first beef butchering experience… from the side lines.
Question for you: Can you recommend any tail recipes? Have you butchered your own beef, or do you hire it out like we did?