Butchering for good meat and a clear conscience
PHILOSOPHY: I started butchering in 2010. I felt compelled to know more about local meat production after realizing I knew so little about it. In 2009, I dropped off 10 lambs to be slaughtered at a USDA inspected slaughterhouse. A day or so later, I learned the plant had been closed for inhumane treatment of calves. It was said that workers at the plant were skinning calves while they were still conscious. The confusion and fear this caused me to feel was unreal. I had met the butchers, trusted them with animals I helped raise and care for, and expected that the lambs were handled professionally. Suddenly, those worker I had connected with earlier at the plant looked more like monsters than like humans in my memory. The discussions the event sparked were difficult ones that made me question the local and national meat industry and left me wishing I was alive in a different time, before fast food, before America had forgotten good food. I wanted to learn how to butcher and see for myself if it is possible to do humanely. I walked into The Royal Butcher with no knife skills or knowledge about meat. I handed them a resume listing my academic achievements, community service, research projects and farming experience. I handed them a cover letter professing my dedication to local agriculture and love for sheep. The manager at the time all but laughed at me, and told me to come back Monday and try it out. I showed up Monday and stayed for five years. I acquired skills from many mentors and coworkers. I played a part in the plant's humane handling program and food safety practices. I worked there full-time either on the kill floor or in the cutting room. In 2015, I left The Royal Butcher to have a baby. Now, I do on-farm slaughter because I can manage my own schedule and it allows me to work directly with the people who raise animals for themselves. It gives us the opportunity to talk about how to kill the animals swiftly and as painlessly as possible, and how to make food out of a whole beast. It's also a great anatomy lesson. I think we are getting back to some of the practices of a simpler time when growing your own food was more than just having a vegetable garden. It is an exciting time to be in the meat industry.
ON-FARM SLAUGHTER: I am an itinerant slaughterer. I slaughter sheep, goats, pigs and small bovines on-farm. This means I go to the animal, rather than transporting the animal to a plant, and the animal is slaughtered outside or in a farm building. The carcass is then typically taken to a custom cutting facility where it is cut to order for the owner of the animal. To learn more about this, contact me. email@example.com, (802) 338-2250.
CUT SHEETS: Here are standard cut sheets for BEEF, PORK and LAMB/GOAT.
To legally sell meat slaughtered on the farm there are guidelines to follow and paperwork to fill out.
REGISTRATION of your farm as a site where on-farm slaughter happens
SLAUGHTER LOG to turn in each quarter
CERTIFICATE OF OWNERSHIP necessary for carcasses taken to a custom cutting facility
PIG CUTTING VIDEO I love giving workshops and teaching the skills I've been practicing. This is a workshop I did virtually during the pandemic with NOFA Vermont. NOFA is awesome and their winter conference is where I saw my first pork cutting and seeds were planted in my brain and heart then that have grown into abundant, flowering, self-seeding, perhaps somewhat invasive careers and ways of living that I could not be more grateful for. NOFAVT
Photo © 2019 Meg Juenker