Feature Artilcle: Butcher Shop

Do-It-Yourself Butcher Shop

BY DURWOOD HOLLIS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Oct 17, 2018

With all the modern meat cutting tool readily available, home big game butchering has never been easier

When the echo of the final shot fades into the distance and hunting shifts from pursuit to possession, getting the harvested meat into your freezer can be a daunting responsibility. Some will opt to use the services of a game butcher in whatever area hunting takes place, but you’ll have to either stay a few extra days until the work is completed, or have the cut wrapped and frozen meat shipped home at an added expense.

Others may take their field dressed, skinned and cooled carcass along with them on the trip home and be faced with finding a local butcher licensed to handle game meat. While game butchers are easily accessed in most hunting areas, in a big city such a business can be difficult to find. Faced with this problem, many are beginning to turn to do-it-yourself (DIY) home butchering.

keepingyouredgedKEEPING YOUR EDGED meat cutting tools in top shape can be done with either a manual or electric sharpener like this Chef’s Choice unit by Edge Craft

Tools of the trade: To become a home butcher you’ll need some equipment, as well a workspace. While almost any knife can work, one specifically designed for the job at hand is the best selection. Most block sets of knives have at least one knife best suited for meat cutting. Typically, this type of edged tool features a six-inch, straight pattern blade, with a large hand-filling handle. A stainless steel blade will be easier to care for, but you’ll still need to keep it sharp.

Since the work will be done at home, an electric powered sharpener like one of the models available from Chef’s Choice by Edge Craft will take all the drudgery out of edge maintenance. Even if you use a manual sharpener, to prevent an injury (a dull knife is an accident waiting to happen) make sure you put it to use frequently. Workspace can be at a premium, especially if your “significant other” isn’t keen on cutting up wild game in the kitchen. Whether you use the kitchen, the garage or an outside venue like a patio, make sure that everything is kept clean and sanitary.

Another invaluable tool is either a manual or electric powered meat grinder. Manual grinders can be found at most hardware stores and those powered by electricity can be purchased at either a specialty meat-cutting outlet, through an online retailer, or either one of the two major outdoor retailers (Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s). While a meat grinder can represent a serious investment, that cost can be shared with a couple of hunting buddies. When purchasing a grinder, look for a tool that features all metal gears and the option of adding a sausage stuffing tube.

Since you’ll need something to hold a large quantity meat, before and after butchering, locate a restaurant supply outlet and purchase two or three large plastic tubs (the kind used to collect dirty dishes at an eatery). These are not expensive and make dealing with raw meat, cut meat and trimmings a lot simpler, as well as being easy to clean.

Lastly, the acquisition of either plastic-coated meat wrapping paper (available at most grocery stores), zip-closure plastic freezer bags, or a vacuum packing machine will be important for refrigerated meat storage. Of the storage mechanisms, vacuum packing cut or ground meat offers the best long-term (up to one year) freezer storage potential. Such machines are readily available in several different configurations and price points at hardware, kitchen supply and outdoor retailers.

usinganelectricUSING AN ELECTRIC meat grinder can speed the job of dealing with small chunks of meat and all the excess trimmings.

How-to: Cutting game meat isn’t difficult, nor does it take special training. How-to videos available online, or for purchase are easily accessed either through the Internet or at many hunting supply outlets. Even with absolutely no experience or instruction you can easily separate the large muscle groups and cut them into chops or roasts, with the smaller portions simply sliced into stew meat or ground into burger.

When I cut up game at my home, the back loins (two large muscle groups that runs along both sides of the spinal column) are usually sliced into one-inch thick chops. The two tenderloins (located inside the visceral cavity near the bottom of the spinal column) are left in one piece, seasoned and packaged for grilling. Both hindquarters have large enough muscle groups that can be easily separated and packaged as roasts. The forequarters, neck, rib meat and trimmings usually end up as ground meat, sausage, stew meat, or used for jerky. From start to finish, including packaging, I usually budget about one hour for a deer-size animal. The first time will probably take you a little longer, but after a while you’ll find yourself an expert at the assignment.

The bottom line: If for some reason you didn’t allow enough time during the hunt period to access local meat cutting facilities (last minute kill, outside of usual business hours, etc.), then when you return home you’ll either have to locate a butcher that can handle game meat (often difficult in an urban area due to USDA regulation), or step into the role of a DIY home game butcher. If you’re up for the job, welcome to club!

gamemeatcanGAME MEAT CAN easily be cut into chops or roast for the broiler and grill PHOTOS BY DURWOOD HOLLIS

TO KEEP YOUR game meat cool during transport select a quality ice chest like this one from Yeti.

Urban Game Butcher: Locating a facility that can deal with wild game in most urban areas can be challenging. All of this is due to USDA regulations that require business that handle both domestic animals and wild game have separate equipment for both. This means added space and equipment for the facility and in an urban area there may not be enough wild game butchering business to warrant such an expense. One processor that can legally cut wild game is Harmony Farms (ww.harmonyfarms.com) located at 2824 Foothill Foothill Blvd., La Cresenta, CA 91214, telephone 818/248-3068. Should you want to use their services, make sure that whatever game you bring to them is free of hide, hair, hooves, offal (guts) and any external debris (dirt). The cost for cutting, wrapping and any other services (sausage making, jerky, etc.) is based upon the weight of the carcass prior to cutting.

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