Monday morning a week or so ago marked butcher day. I left home early and drove about two miles to meet up with Dan and Ted.
Dan’s family has been in this area for over a century. His family owns a lot of grazing land in the area which he leases to area ranchers. Dan’s land is particularly good for grazing because he has water rights to the area creeks and diverts the water to his pastures so that his land is green when everybody else’s land is tan or brown. He owns a few head of cattle and calls me when he has an extra. I purchased a steer from Dan to help stock our freezer.
Ted was already there when I arrived on Monday, driving his white truck with the license plate “dead cow,” towing a trailer with the beef industry bumper sticker.
Ted is a freelance butcher who slaughters two to three animals a day.
I hired Ted to slaughter the steer and deliver it to the meat locker for processing.
The morning was spectacular and the steer against the hills of green would have looked idyllic had I not been preparing mentally to watch the slaughter.
“It’s almost done. You’ve just about missed it.” Dan said. “I wondered if you would be too squeamish to see this.”
“Dan, I was a Future Farmer of America.” I didn’t mention that rugged mountain women can take anything.
Ted directed Dan on where the steer needed to be, Dan placed a container of grain in that area and we all moved away to let the steer find his way to the grain. Ted shepherded him around the corral, gun in hand.
When the steer found the grain and began to eat, Ted took one shot and the steer dropped to the ground. The steer quivered and then lay still. Ted sliced his throat. Ted and Dan worked with the winch on Ted’s truck and dragged the steer close to the truck bed.
Now a carcass
Ted skinned the steer’s head, sliced the head away from the neck, and placed the head in his trailer bed.
“This is the part that inspires vegetarianism in some,” Dan pointed out. Dan and I exchanged comments about the grain still sitting inside the steer’s mouth. I took a couple of pictures and made a mental note “don’t post these on the website.” Of course I’ve posted them anyway.
Ted skinned the legs above the hoof and used a small sharp knife to remove the hoof and lower leg right at the joint.
“Are you sure you want the feet?”
He cleaned his knife in a bucket of hot water and placed it back in his apron, next to about three other knives suited for different tasks.
As he gutted the steer, he brought out the liver. “Here it is,” he said. He must have known how effective liver has been for me in fighting depression.
“It looks like a good one,” he said.
“Really? Can you tell?” I asked.
“Oh yes, some of them have flukes. They may come from dirty water.”
“How else can you tell if the steer is healthy?”
Ted ran down a list of signs of a healthy steer. He sounded like a veterinarian.
“Do you really want these lungs?”
He pulled the hose off of the trailer and sprayed down the steer.
The rest of the organs remained inside the steer’s carcass. Ted hoisted the steer high up on the back of his truck. The steer’s carcass hung high on that truck bed for a few minutes and I imagined it riding like that to town.
Ted lowered it into the truck bed and made his way down our winding road to the meat locker.
At the locker, Ted would remove the hide and hang the carcass in cold storage.
Ted gets about $25 for that beautiful red hide from a dealer who then hooks up tanners and leather manufacturers.
In the next two weeks I will work out the details of the meat processing. I will reconfirm that I want all of those organ meats, order a whole lot of hamburger, and request the bones. We will split the steer with friends and have just about as much beef as we can eat for the next year.
I Met My Meat Part II, a follow up