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Using the whole beast

Every year around winter-time we have one of our home-raised steers butchered at our property by a mobile a butcher.  We fill the freezer with meat, bones and tallow, and we sometimes even keep the hide for tanning.  It is very important to us that, as far as possible, we use the whole beast.  If this is something that you would to do too, here are a list of posts that you may find useful.

eight acres: tips for home butchering and using all the beast
Butcher day is Cheryl's favourite

Butchering tips and tricks

Home butcher vs meatworks
The pros and cons of using a home butcher compared to sending a steer to an abattoir.  We did send our first steer to be processed, but all the rest have been done at home.  The main problem for us was finding a good butcher, but loading the animal on the truck and preparing all the paperwork was a real pain.  Its much easier for us to have them butchered at home (and I think its better for the animal too) if you can find someone who will do it.

When you've decided to go for a home butcher, here's a post about what to expect, what to have organised and what to ask before your butcher turns up.  Our first time was a bit of a disaster because we didn't know what to do, its certainly got easier since then!

eight acres: tips for home butchering and using all the beast

Still not convinced?  In this post on Farmstyle I added up the value of all the cuts of meat we got from our homekill and worked out what they would have cost from the butcher.  Compared to the price of raising the steer and paying the home butcher, the meat was about half price.  Is it worth it?  It definitely works out better for us!

Getting the best from homekill meat
Even better than just being prepared for the basics, you can actually plan to make sure you get the best possible meat, both by the way you raise the animal, how its killed and how you handle and store the meat.  Learn more in this post.

eight acres: tips for home butchering and using all the beast

Cooking and eating all that meat
When the butcher is finished you'll be left with 200-300 kg of beef, but much of it will be cuts that you're not familiar with.  As well as the tasty steaks and sausages that are easy to fry, and roasts to be roasted, you will also have a huge amount of delicious casserole meat and stock bones.  I recommend that you buy a slow cooker (even a very cheap one will do the job) as it makes it easy to use up all this meat, I tell you all about my slow cooker in Real food in a slow cooker.

I also wrote more about eating meat in Should you eat animal products?.  Its a bit late now if you just had a steer butchered, but you might be interested to see that current research shows that meat is not bad for your health and when raised for home butchering, its not terrible for the environment either.

More recipes for cooking all your beef can be found in Arabella Forge's Frugavore: How to Grow Organic, Buy Local, Waste Nothing, and Eat Well (affiliate link) - my review here, and Jennifer McGruther's The Nourished Kitchen (affiliate link), also see her blog Nourished Kitchen) and my review here

The other tricky new cut of meat you will find is organ meats.  Personally I'm not a huge fan, but Emma explains why you should eat organ meats and I did make a nice beef liver pate.  Unfortunately the rest usually goes to the dogs.  They also get the larger bones.

eight acres: tips for home butchering and using all the beast
a beef rolled roast in my slow cooker

Beef tallow is useful too
If you remember on the first butcher day, ask your butcher for the kidney fat, and you should get a nice big slab of pure white fat.  I also ask him to set aside any particularly large chunks from the rest of the carcass.  We cut these up and put them in the freezer to be rendered, as described in this post - Rendering tallow in a slow cooker.  Tallow then keeps at room temperature in jars in our pantry, and we use it to make soap, with recipes in this post - Making tallow soap (with other soap recipes here).

eight acres: tips for home butchering and using all the beast

Don't waste the hide
Sometimes the butcher will take the hide, but our first butcher wouldn't take it, so we decided to try tanning it.  We found it very difficult to find out much about tanning, so I recorded our method in these posts - Tanning a hide (with updates here and here).  We ended up with a usable rug from the first attempt, and an even better rug the second time.  We haven't tried it again because our current butcher will buy the hide from us, so as least it isn't wasted, but its good to know that we can tan a hide if we ever need to again.

eight acres: tips for home butchering and using all the beast
OK this looks gross, but the finished rug was worth it

What's left?
We usually have to dig a hole to dispose of the feet, head and a bit of fatty meat that's not good for tallow or for sausages.  This has become a very fertile corner of our yard!  I prefer burying the waste to burning it as the nutrients stay in the soil (and it doesn't stink).

Have you tried homekill butchering?  Any tips?  And questions?


  1. Hi Liz, This will be on our list when we start getting cattle. I love the look of bliss on Cheryl's face. Great post thank you.

    1. Thanks Barb, Cheryl had to wait ALL MORNING to get "her share" of the butchering. The dogs show enormous self-control with all that meat around, must be hard for them! I guess that's another tip, keep an eye on your dog, or you might lose some of the meat!

  2. Only achieved chicken as home kill and that's a whole other learning curve. ;)

    We found a kangaroo carcass, in our gully once a water surge came through, and we buried it in the ground just like you do with the cow remains. I would agree, it does become very fertile. We also bury chickens which die unexpectedly or aren't worth the effort to prepare (size, etc). All things return to the earth eventually.

    1. Well done for butchering the chickens! Its a similar job. We bury our chicken remains too. The dead roo is a source of organic matter that I hadn't thought of before!

  3. We grate kidney fat, dust it with flour and keep air tight. It's called suet here and get used for pastry and puddings such as steak and kidney. It's a common thing to buy here.

  4. I should add, I'm not a small holder, it's common to eat all of an animal here and you can buy any sort of offal in supermarkets and butchers here.

    1. Hi Froogs! Yes, good point, you can use the tallow or suet for cooking as well, I tend to use the chicken fat for cooking instead, as its not as useful for soap. We can buy offal here too, I just don't like it, I have really tried to like it, but its not growing on me at all :( I think most people don't know how to cook it, and if you haven't grown up with it, its really hard to get used to the taste (we are spoiled here with too much cheap muscle meat and we've got lazy). I agree, if you can handle the taste, it is very good value (frugal) and nutritious and worth learning to cook. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Unfortunately we are not allowed to bury carcasses (or part of) here in the UK now. Over the years, at lambing time, we have had the occasional death, which we would bury with improved soil quality in mind, on the smallholding (we would never bury diseased animals of course) Last year we lost a couple of lambs and had to take them to a licensed premises to be disposed of - at a cost !
    I'm with Froogs on the suet as we LOVE dumplings or suet crust on pies. My husband is having kidney, liver and onions tonight from last years lambs, though I don't like offal he is very fond of it. The lungs I dice, cook up and give to the dogs.
    When we reared a couple of beasts we had them killed at the local abattoir and a friend of ours, a retired butcher, butchered with us in our kitchen. It was a major task that took most of the weekend - but what meat!

    1. I had read that somewhere, how strange that you can't bury an animal on your property, I guess its for disease control, but still amazing to me what the government can control! I have never thought to keep the lungs, if we could fit any more into our freezers, that would be a good one for dog food. Great to have a butcher friend to teach you, we actually own three dvds on butchering, I know Pete will try it one day soon, when we have a cold room!

    2. I find it odd that you're not allowed to bury carcasses either. Given the risk of spreading disease is increased, if infected animals have to travel to a facility to be disposed of. But then I know nothing of the topography or how the natural processes work over there. Generally speaking, when you bury something organic, its broken down by nature by so many elements, anything dangerous is rendered obsolete. It's above ground disease tends to travel. Under ground is how disease is neutralized by natural processes.

  6. Absolutely loved this post!! So many helpful tips! And the tallow soap - that's on my "someday" list of things to make. :)

  7. Wow Liz - this brings back memories of growing up on the farm. We also used all the beast.....I had completely forgotten about all the details until you posted this. My job as a kid was to hold the carcass still whilst dad chain-sawed down the spine (hmmmm). I also got to use the vacuum sucker gadget to pack the meat into freezer bags. We always were heartily sick of the sight of meat for a day or two afterwards.

    1. haha, yep, and the smell of rendering fat and tanning the hide also puts me off meat!

  8. Such great info here! I'm super curious about tanning (we'll be starting out with rabbits probably though ;) ) and I love that you bury the bits you can't use and it gives back to the soil, I hadn't really thought about that before. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop! :)


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