Let talk about butchering for moment shall we.. I normally say Freezer camp, it my PC way for saying, killing, butchering and processing an animal raised for its flesh, hide, bones, feathers and blood.
Today in the most gentle way possible, I am going to take the gloves off for a bit.. I am not just using a pretty words of freezer camp, I want to talk about homestead, rising costs, and the general public..
Per the provincial and fed laws, its pretty simple, if you want to raise a livestock animal that will be used for any of sale, be it to be sent to the sale barn for joining into the wider commercial system (I have never sent a single baby born on my farm to the sale barn) it will then continue on into feedlots and then into large commercial butchers, perhaps even into the federal butcher plants, allowing that Canadian Lamb to go across Canada or the World.
If you want to do farm gate sales, you must send your lamb or other meat producing critters to a provincially approved Butcher, the one that I have used is close, small and local, they only do a single kill day per week and the rest of the week is about the butcher process. This meat is inspected and approved for sale within the province only!
Then there is home butchering.. this meat is only allowed to be used for the people who live on the land that birthed, raised and then processed them. It has no legal re-sale allowed..
This is something that I have noticed, while we have seen an increase in raising of livestock, be it rabbits, ducks, chickens, goats or sheep.. there is a booming market and massive increase in folks wanting to have tiny-micro farms to produce their own eggs, milk and meat.. but these folks are still one very large step removed.
They send their animals for slaughter and they come back in parts, pieces and bags all brown paper or into freezer packs.. It’s a missing step that for some will always be missing.. but for most, its something they could do and it would change so much..
When you send your chicken or lamb to the butcher, you miss so much of the end product if you garden or farm.. you miss the blood to replace buying blood meal for your gardens, you miss being able to make your bone broth, you miss being able to use Bone in your land, your gardens and making bone char in your fires, you miss being able to make bone jewelry, if you send your birds out, you miss being able to collect and save your own down feathers, you miss being able to collect and process your own feathers to use as potassium for you land..
If you send it out, you miss organs (often very hard to get back) you miss being able to use the non-human guts uses to create healthy protein sources to feed back to you and or feeding back into your land.. instead you have to buy from sources that come from the out and put it back in.. when if you where willing to home butcher, you would in fact be able to create a closed loop system, both you and your livestock need plants, we need gardens, and fruit, and veggies both above ground and root veggies.. after all meat is only a small part of our diet, most of our diet is plants.. we need to feed the soil and our plants to get bigger, healthier returns.. soil is a living thing and she has a great hunger.. feed your soil and she will return it to you a 100 times over..
but when you take your critters to the butcher, you take from your land, you take from your soil and you only give her bits back, you miss parts of the loop and both the soil, your plants suffer for it, and so you go to the store and buy the commercial things at extra cost to put back into your soil..
However lets move back to another reason why we want to home butcher.. the animal.. they are a living breathing thinking feeling member of your farm family.. if you think for one moment! that they don’t feel fear or panic at being loaded into a truck, hauled to a place that smells like death and blood.. They do.. bottom line they do.. I have taken my lambs to the butcher, and then sat in my truck and bawled like a baby because I truly felt I betrayed them on their last day..
It has bothered me so much that I have not eaten certain animals meat afterwards for weeks or even months.. but you know what does not bother me.. having an animal on the farm that is calm, steady and has no idea what its happen, it’s just hanging out and doing its thing, here one moment and gone the next..
Yes there is nerves going, there is movement, there is blood and there is death, but I also know that its been done right, that the animal did not know stress before. I know that it was respected right up to that moment and I know that the meat being process and that goes into my freezer, cook pot and canner is that animal.. something I will be honest that I felt didn’t happen all the time at the butcher, at times, I felt that I might not have gotten my meat back, I mean, how do you really know!
And now lets get to the third reason to start learning to do this, if the above two didn’t get you to the point that you are at least willing to consider it.. money..
Home butchering saves you money.. yes, you need to trade time for it, yes you need to learn new skills and yes you do need at least basic equipment.. but overall, it will save you at a min hundreds and if you run a small mixed farm like myself.. it will save you thousands.
I did a rough based on my girlfriends prices paid out this year for things, on what my butcher costs would have been if I had sent my own out, just for my own use back, same as what we did.. (NO re-sale at all) and EVEN after I take out preserving costs, I still saved us from needing to spend approx. 3800 in butcher costs this year..
I will track it closer this year for you.. but yes.. you read that right.. being able to do it myself, meant we did not need to spend almost 4,000 dollars this year to send our critters out..
and I would take a hard guess at another 500 to 1500 in savings by using all the extra’s that you would not get back or have access to in my closed loop homestead system.. I would need to do a lot of digging to try to find organic costs on blood meal, bone meal, feather meal and so much more.. cost of hides and so forth.
If you have never butchered before, start small.. start with fowl.. work your way up to rabbit, once you can do a rabbit, you can move that same system over to lamb or goat kid, from there you can move it over to full size sheep or goats, and from there you can move it over to pork or beef..
Get a good step by step book, order in a how to self-butcher a deer video (its perfect for sheep-goat) and if you are lucky enough to be blessed with it, having someone show you and work beside you, going step by step as you go.. learn how to check everything over..
You will be a better livestock owner if you self-butcher and you learn your meat and organs, it will give you the edge on if you need to improve this or that.. where they to fat, were they lean, did they have worms and so much more.. you will also have a huge leg up on if you need to do an autopsy for any reason.. you already know what a good one in all ways looks like.. you will be quick to see what didn’t look right!
Stay up to date on the laws, in 2016 I took a day course and one of the things we came home with was a great poster that shows what must be used in our province in terms of firearms, bullet caliber and much more in regards to how we put down our livestock both for humane life ending and for home butchering.
IF you raise a hundred chickens and normally send them.. send 95 this year and see if you can learn to do 5 on the farm.. its will be worth it!
Such a great post! Main reason for raising our own was to learn the process from beginning to end and to know where our food came from. We started with chickens almost 4 years ago. Loved it! Processed them all myself. I could not see the advantage of putting them in a box and drive to the butcher for 15-20 backyard birds (roosters mainly) that I needed to process. I also processed myself the 50 meat birds we got each year. Last year we started with ducks. It was a learning curve for sure, but I think I am almost perfecting the process 🙂 This year we are getting some geese and guineas… I want to try to raise rabbit too, but my spouse doesn’t see himself trying it (as yet hehe). We have goats and one sheep too. I cannot process them yet – that’s a bigger learning curve lol we take it one step at a time, this New Year was kidding season 🙂 got 3 healthy kids from 2 goats and I have one more goat due this coming Friday. It’s a life journey packed with lots of experiences and lessons to be learned. We also got into Alpacas for their fleece (I love to knit and crochet) – we see how that goes too. Pigs are next on the list… I told my spouse we are doing this to feed ourselves better and feel like we eat like kings. It won’t get us filthy rich, but, hopefully, it will sustain us into our retirement years and help us live a long(er) healthier life!
Hi Laura, thank you so much for this great reply, glad you liked the post and I just love that you talking about starting with the smaller fowl and working your way up.. Good for you in regards to doing the 50 birds, that’s a goodly amount of work.. if you are looking at wanting to do the kids and lambs, may I make a recommend, do one at a younger age, the smaller size will make it easier to learn on.. I did that with pigs, I never butchered pigs and I raised a litter and I started with a suckling pig, then a went double, then small standard, then big standard and then big pigs.. it made a huge difference to start smaller and work my way up.. As I had done deer, the lamb and kid didn’t matter in the same way.. but I did find it really helped with the pigs.
It won’t make you rich in money but the ability to know how your animals were raised, feed and treated and to know an control your meat and food sources.. priceless. I agree very much, the work to keep the animals go along way as well to that longer healthier life..
Congrats on your new babies by the way!
What a great post! It is not something a lot of people want to read or hear about, but so true and valuable. Thank you for being so open and honest about this aspect of farming.
Thank you, I will admit that a few years ago, I might not have been as willing to write about it as openly but I have gotten to the point that I feel if those of us that are doing it small scale and humanely don’t speak up and have a voice that it will just be the big guys talking.. we need to keep the right to self-butcher for small farmers..