It’s hunting season, and this blog is all about our little homestead and how we live, so here goes one of the less pleasant parts of our lives; getting meat from field to freezer. Be aware that this may not be to your taste as it’s visual and quite graphic.
We live on a very small homestead, being only half an acre. We do not really have room to raise livestock for meat, nor do we really want to do the killing, but we do eat meat and make rich bone broths. This means we have to both get meat and bones somehow. For us, that requires searching out hunters who are happy to share the game they kill.
Recently, I found a farmer on Craigslist (a wonderful tool to the homesteader) who acquired a special permit to kill a large number of deer that have been invading his crops. He offered the deer free of charge to those willing to do all the cleaning and butchering. We had to be ready at a moments notice to accept the deer and start processing. Last night he delivered 2 does to us, and we got started.
First of all, you need to have a few tools before you can dress out an animal. Be sure to prepare ahead of time, especially if it’s a large animal like a deer or goat. Here is a list of recommended tools;
- a place to hang the animal where you will have light to see what you are doing
- surgical-type gloves
- a very good set of sharp knives!
- a hacksaw or reciprocating saw
- trash cans for the stuff you won’t be keeping
- large coolers and ice
- a water hose (with water, of course)
- a freezer or other method of storing the meat when done
Once you have your gear together, make sure you know the process or have someone with experience available to help you your first time. I am putting a video I found to be extremely helpful in here. The method these hunters use really saves a lot of time and energy, and I would recommend it if you are doing this on your own for the first time.*Note; this is very graphic, but as tasteful as you can get dressing out a deer. Use common sense if allowing a child to view it.
If the video doesn’t play, use the link in the above paragraph.
After aging the meat, you can take it to someplace to have it processed, or do it yourself. I find a meat grinder and sausage stuffer to be a great deal of help, and it really saves a lot of money doing it yourself. Below I am including some images of meat cuts on different animals. There are, quite obviously, many more animals used for meat than these, but this gives you a general guide to some.
One of the most important parts of getting good-tasting meat is the aging process. You will need to keep the meat refrigerated or on ice for at least 3 days, though a week or two is even better. If you skip this step, your meat will be gamier and less tender.
We try and avoid waste, so we tan the hide if possible, and use the organ meats if they are in good condition. You can eat the brain, and make wonderful meat stocks with the bones and cartilage. As in everything, using all you can will make you a good steward of our resources. If you would like to see a good book that details the benefits of using more of your kill, you can go here.