Saturday, 10 September 2016

Butchering- An experiment

Sixteen months ago we began an experiment. We wanted to try beef that was not bred for eating.

We bought this cast off (by-product of the dairy industry), Freisan bull calf from a local dairy for cheap as chips, $20 from memory, when he was two days old. Daisy fostered him along with another calf, plus her own calf.  This is all three of them drinking from Daisy.
As with all of our bull calves, Brian castrated him with an Elastrator ring at three days old, and as he grew up with the other steer calves there was no visible difference in his build, aside from his Freisan colouring, he looked exactly the same at the Angas bobby calf steers.
 There is a mindset, that dairy breeds are inferior as meat, but as we have learned over the years, the "mindset" of many folks and butchers is often miss-guided and doesn't make sense.   We wanted to try it for ourselves.
 The home butcher that we have been using over the past few years, has given up the job, so we decided we would butcher this steer using a more hands on approach, here on the property, as usual.
After watching our old butcher so many times over the years, we reckoned we could do it, but as with attempting anything this large, we were pretty nervous about it too.
Without going into detail, all went smoothly, with the help of Brian's eldest son who is built like the proverbial "brick ..... house" and as strong as an ox.

The picture above, was taken minutes before the steer hit the ground.
There was no trucking transport stress, he was not forced to stand around in an abattoir waiting his turn, was never in a feedlot, was never fed growth hormones or grain of any type, he wasn't pumped up with artificial foods to make his steak "marbled". No chemicals were ever necessary because he lived a natural life on quality clean pasture. He never knew or experienced a nano-second of violence in his life.
Watching a recent episode of Landline, (ABC Australia)  I saw a feature on award winning Wagyu beef. The meat is supposedly the best in the world and I was shocked to hear that the animals are kept in a feedlot for between 400 - 500 days!
How many days in a year?
Those animals were forced to live for most of their lives in small enclosures, so far removed from anything remotely natural. Fed grain and other man made, high protein fillers, they would have also been fed chemicals to prevent cross infections that happen when you keep animals in such closely confined spaces.
That's not the type of meat I ever want to eat. Awards or no awards. No thank you!

Brian managed the first stage of butchering a cow by watching and assisting our home butcher many times over the past few years.
After cutting the carcass into four quarters, it took two of them to hoist each section onto the hooks for hanging in the refrigerated cold room, where it hung for twelve days.
We weren't able able to weigh it, having no scales large enough, but it was BIG.

Cutting beef into portions however is an art, which we admit we have not learned to do...yet.  We are fortunate to have a friend who was a butcher in his previous occupation and last weekend we  paid him to help us cut up the meat, ever so grateful for his knowledge. While he was slicing up steaks, and separating the different cuts, Brian and I used our meat saw to cut up the T-bones and Osso Buco.

The rest of the weekend was spent packing meat into meal size portions, some in plastic bags, and some in vacuum sealed bags for longer keeping. Having the refrigerated cool room takes the pressure away from having to get it all packed away in a hurry, especially in warm weather.
We made mince, and then we made sausage mince, and we also made sausages using preservative free sausage mix. Thanks to Liz from Eight Acres who wrote about preservative free sausage mix here  I hunted around and bought some "Bio Beef" preservative free sausage mix from "Bake and Brew" shop in Gawler.  We used some of the natural sausage skins that were left over from our pork sausage making earlier in the year, plus I bought some Collagen casings from Bake and Brew while I was there. The sausages taste delicious, and both types of skins are good.

The bones were cut into small pieces, and along with all the meat, they also managed to fit into the freezers. I'll use some bones for making bone broth (I wrote about Bone Broth here) and the dogs will get some to eat as well.   I kept some fat to render down for making into soap. (I wrote how to render pork fat here but the process is the same for beef or any animal fat.)
I must admit, I was a little bit concerned that my one empty freezer would not be enough to hold all of that beef, so there was a sigh of relief when it all went in, but with not a centimetre to spare!
Not that I would pile all of that fresh meat into one freezer and expect it to freeze quickly.  I put in layers of fresh beef, alternating with a layer of already frozen food from the other two freezers. So there is beef scattered between three freezers, but it all froze very quickly with no need to move it around while it was freezing.
If I wanted to be organised, I could sort through the three freezers now, moving all of the frozen beef into one freezer, but I don't really care about it being all over the place. Every morning, when choosing something to cook for dinner that night, is a bit of a lottery.
However, it's all very well having soup in the freezer to take out and eat for lunch, but finding it is another thing entirely! The soup will show itself all in good time.
Now I hear you ask, how does the Dairy breed beef taste?
On the evening of cutting up the beef we cooked some T-bones on the barbeque grill. With a degree of trepidation, we both cut into the meat on our plates, it cut well. Then the taste and texture test, into our mouths, and we both wore the biggest grins you ever saw. This meat is delicious, juicy, TENDER.
We have been eating our own farm killed beef, usually Angas or Murray Grey, for quite a few years now and the meat from this beast is, hands down, the best ever.
Our friend the butcher praised the quality as he was cutting it up, and was surprised when we told him the breed of the steer, so there's one butcher who's mind-set has been altered.
So, when next we are looking for a new calf to hand raise for meat, we won't be fussy about it being a beef breed or a dairy breed.  If there isn't a beef breed available (our first choice) at the time we are ready, for example, when we have an excess of milk from our house cow and she will foster another calf, we will feel quite happy to take one of the many Friesan calves on offer.
They all taste great when raised naturally and butchered on farm, and now that we have done it once, we'll continue doing it ourselves. We saved lots of money too as it usually costs around $650 to get a beast home butchered and cut into meal size portions. We paid our friend for the four hours it took him on Saturday morning, and we gave him some meat, so we can be sure he will help us again next time we butcher a steer for our own eating.
 This dairy breed, Freisan, do take a little longer to grow in comparison to the Beef breeds, but it was barely noticeable. We probably kept him for three months longer than usual as we generally prefer eating meat from steers that are butchered between twelve to thirteen months old. The carcass is too difficult to handle when they grow much larger, as our normal size tractor and winch is what we have to use for the job.
Beef has been on the menu for most of this past week, but we'll eat some chicken tonight. Home grown and processed of course.
Brian is out there cutting more firewood for the inside fires, so it's time to go out and help him.
Bone broth vegetable soup is on the wood stove for lunch, which we will eat with thick slices of sourdough bread spread with butter, from Lavender's cream of course.
 We're into September, and so far we have had enough rain not to need to water our gardens. Vastly different than last year.
Have a wonderful weekend friends, wherever you are.
Cheers and thanks for visiting :) X


  1. I'm so glad your experiment worked out so well Sally! It's good to know you can take advantage of the unwanted calves when you come across them if necessary.

    1. Thanks Erin, maybe more people will consider growing the cast off calves for meat instead of disposing of them. I can certainly vouch for their good eating qualities.

  2. Sally I do admire yours and Brian's bravery for butchering your own meat. I am glad your experiment worked out so well. I'll just bet you in particular had more than a few tears in your eyes beforehand. Not for the me I'm afraid.
    Well done to all concerned :-)

    1. Yes Merryl, that first part of the process is very stressful for all concerned. We don't want to see anything go wrong at that crucial moment. I'm not very brave, hiding inside with the radio playing loudly until Brian, comes to the window and signals that all is done. X

  3. A huge task. What a great feeling of achievement you must have felt when all the meat was packed away and you tasted that first bite. Well done guys. I take my hat off to you both.

    1. Thanks Annie, you know how it is. And then that end product makes it all worthwhile. :)

  4. Very interesting reading, Sally. We has a sausage making workshop at our simple living group and it was quite a eye opener.

    1. Sausage making is quite an art, but I think we've got it sorted now. Did I mention my improving skill of linking the sausages? But it only works if I shut one eye, stand on one leg, and hold my tongue just right. ;) lol

  5. What timing. We currently have our two rescue dairy cows hanging in the home butcher cold room in our yard, and he's coming to cut them up tomorrow. One was a Freisan and the other was a Guernsey. Can't wait to see how it all goes. It was an experiment that we probably won't try again, as they tore our fences apart, but I'm glad we got to give it a go. Cathy.

    1. How did it go Cathy? Have you eaten some yet?

    2. They were really small, so we just had him make sausages and minced up the rest - but we did get two meals of steak. I made a delicious beef stroganoff the other day, and the sausages are lovely. So it was definitely worth it. We won't be buying meat for a good while to come.

  6. All our steers have been dairy or dairy cross because they are cheap! The meat is as good, if not better, in terms of taste. The beef breeds fatten up faster and have bigger rumps. They are "better" for industrial meat production and horrible feedlots! Well done slaughtering yourself, that's on our list of things to try. I know that freezer squeeze relief! And I hate sortung it afterwards brrrr.

    1. If our home butcher hadn't left us Liz, we would never have tried doing it ourselves, but I'm so glad we did it now. We couldn't have managed without our butcher friend cutting up the carcass though. That's really tricky and I'd hate to spoil it and waste those amazing steaks.

  7. I'm so glad your experiment worked! My neighbour is a dairy farmer and I've been interested in taking in one of the young boys with the intention of eating him, now I'm even more keen on giving it a go!
    -Kelly B

    1. Kelly, I know your neighbor and we occasionally get Murray Grey/ Jersey calves from him. They do very well and are good eating when killed at 12mths old. One of the Jersey bull calves that are usually sold cheaply,once castrated, would probably grow just as well as our Freisan steer. You would need two though, to prevent loneliness and fence jumping, plus good fences with an electric strand. :)

  8. I am not sure it matters what breed you use when you give the animal the best care and attention. Yes you might get a bit less meat overall and like Liz says the beef breeds give bigger rumps so the people at the supermarket get their generic looking steaks that ate always the same size. At the end of the day having had home kills ourselves I believe it is the hanging time that makes the biggest difference to a well cared for animal.

    1. I agree Fiona, the long hanging time is a crucial element in the whole process. The cold room that Brian built from scraps in the rubbish pile at work, has been a life saver for us. The only cost was a new refrigeration unit, which should last us for the remainder of our days, hopefully.


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