One of the main reasons we decided to purchase some acreage and raise animals was to own, fully, eating meat. Both Jeremy and I have a hard time with how anonymous food has become in our culture. It's sad that kids don't know where milk come from. It's even sadder that people think of gathering eggs as gross [I've had a friend say that as I was picking feathers off an egg.] Our culture has lost touch with our food; with one of the most important things in our lives next to air, water and love. Jeremy and I wanted to reverse that trend, if just for us. We wanted to really know our food. And if we were going to keep consuming meat, we wanted to own the life and death of the animal.
This weekend we butchered two of our lambs. This isn't our first butchering. Jeremy in particular, as a hunter, is experienced in the kill and field dressing. Don't worry, I won't go into those details and there aren't any pictures. That step of the process is gross and it's not easy. I can't actually watch the animal die. I feel like I should be able to, but it's really hard to know the animal is dying because of my choice to kill it. That is difficult, but that is part of eating meat. Generally I stand out side the barn while Jeremy does the deed. This time my Dad came to help so I stayed in the house. Wussy, I know.
But I do get involved in the cut and wrap. Below are pictures of the steps after the animal is killed and field dressed. I word of warning, the pictures, while not gross [by my definition] are somewhat graphic.
Step 1: Let 'em hang. These two hung in the garage for 36 hours. That's not very long. If we weren't short on time because we have to go back to work tomorrow, we would have let the meat hang longer. The fat would thicken up, making it easier to remove. And these were some fat sheep.
Step 2: Quarter them. Yep, Jeremy is using a saws-all to quarter up the animal.
Step 3: Cut the meat off the bone and the fat off the meat. This is a long step - trimming and trimming and more trimming. The trick - don't cut yourself.
Step 3 1/2: Grinding. While me, Jeremy and my Dad were trimming, my Mom was grinding the meat up. Since the lambs are so small, it's not worth making steaks or roasts. We saved on leg for Christmas dinner and all the rest went into the grinder. Lamb burger can be used in place of beef ground.
Step 3 3/4: Yet more trimming. We spent about two hours just trimming meat and giving it to my Mom to grind. It makes your back very sore standing over the cutting board for two hours.
Step 4: Packaging. After the meat is all trimmed and ground, it gets put into freezer bags. We have an awesome meat grinder that has an attachment for filling freezer bags.
Step 5: Into the freezer. We got about twenty pounds of ground. It's not that much - like I said, these were small animals. The leg of lamb was about five pounds.
Two-and-half-hours later, we were all finished with cut and wrap. Then came the clean up. Lots of little parts to scrub. Mom and I worked on that, while Jeremy buried the bones and stuff we trimmed off. So, in total it took about three hours from start to cleaned. The best part is that on Christmas night, as we are eating the lamb roast, we will all be extra thankful for the animal that gave us the food, the time it took to process the meat and the family who helped out.