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About This Much…

12.01.11

Interesting question came up this week on Twitter in response to my writing about the economics around butchering your own beef. The question was, how is somebody with limited space supposed to go about butchering and storing an animal?? Fantastic question. And I get it. I show pictures of quarters hanging in my cellar [convenient, but unnecessary], butchering in my garage [did elk and beef in my kitchen this fall], etc. What it boils down to is butchering an animal doesn’t have to take much space, and can be tackled by the downtown condo dweller with the gumption to do it. Here’s an example.

In this rubbermaid bin is a side of pork I cut last night. Started at 7pm, was done by 9ish [hey, that's not much time commitment, is it?]. It was all cut on a counter space the size of a dining room table. That entire side of pig, albeit not the hugest of pigs, resides in the bin you see right there. Doesn’t even fill it. Having lived in an apartment condo a few years ago, I’m rather kicking myself for not knowing this before, because I’m quite sure I could have dealt with a side of pig with a standard fridge freezer and some planning. For example: rather than freeze the fat, simply render it the next day and toss it in the fridge. Rather than do large bone-in cuts, de-bone it. Plan to make a batch of sausage the day after butchering, which would relieve the freezer of a 5 lb bag of trim. Partake in our new family tradition of doing a pig head roast the day of [most pigs come sans-head anyway if that grosses you out]. And if all that failed, I could have easily found a friend to split it with, in which case I’d have had loads of room for a 1/4 pig. Our next door neighbours had a small apartment sized deep freeze, solving their storage constraint.

Turns out this pig was raised by a friend of a friend of a friend, who happened to have too many pigs for their winter barn. Figured I’d grab a side to do some charcuterie experimenting with. This pig side cost me $80, and it wasn’t the first opportunity I’ve had at an extremely inexpensive pig. $80/roughly 60 lbs = about $1.33/lb. I challenge you to compare that to Walmart’s pricing. Not suggesting cheap is king, just that if cheap’s your barrier to local food – or space – there are solutions.

9 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    Kevin,

    I am so ready to do this with pork, beef, and hopefully even deer or other game soon. If you’ve done this already, forgive my asking and point me to the link, but a video with instructions would do wonders for my, and others, confidence when attempting at home butchering. I’m not asking for a full length 2 hour movie, just something that shows where the best cuts come from, and how to break a side down into component parts. For example, how to harvest the tenderloins, the backstraps, ribs, chops, roasts, etc. would be awesome, especially given your attention to detail.

    Barry

  2. Kevin says:

    Barry,
    The following are the best I’ve got. I want to do more thorough ones, but I’m going to have to remember to line up a camera operator those days this coming year, as I can’t do both. I’ve tried, doesn’t work. These should help though, at least somewhat.

    Pork: http://www.kevinkossowan.com/?p=2611
    Game: http://www.kevinkossowan.com/?p=2851

    If you have questions, let me know,
    Kevin

  3. I’m so glad you made this blog entry to show people you DON”T have to be a butcher to cut meat. I once got a hind quarter of venison with an hour’s notice. I love venison! I deboned it & wrapped it in my apartment kitchen with the help of a folding card table covered in garbage bags. Not a pretty sight but I successfully cut it up, removed the bones & put some quality meat in my freezer. Made some killer broth from those bones too . . . I figure if you can cut up a chicken or turkey, you can cut up anything with the right knife & a little elbow grease.

  4. Kevin says:

    Sharon – I couldn’t have said it better, thank you for validating how I feel about it. ;)

  5. Adam says:

    I’m with Sharon! We’ve been dealing with fowl and fish, and may jump into pigs this next year. Although I wish I had a root cellar you have inspired me to simply be more proactive about putting up shelf stable things we are currently filling our freezer with, so as to have more room for meat!

    That and I am contemplating hunting for deer for the first time ever.

  6. I love this post – this is exactly what I meant regarding the demystification of “it is too expensive to eat and buy local food”. I had no idea how little space so much meat took until you told me and now look what I have in my freezer. AND I was SHOCKED to see how SMALL your root cellar and curing room is. TEENY TINY. Yet, what you have done with that space is mind boggling. More inquiring minds need to know!
    :)
    V

  7. Bruce king says:

    Kevin – you’ve noticed. Pork is actually cheaper in the winter; I see this with my weaned-pig prices. In the spring, the high season, I’m getting $150 a pig. That same pig will sell in december for $80 — the price you just paid.

    It’s worth asking hte farmer about the market. Particularly smaller farmers, there will often be a seasonal difference in price that is worth waiting for.

    Bruce / ebeyfarm.blogspot.com

  8. Ben Wilson says:

    Hey Kevin,

    Great post. I’ve been interested in processing 1/4 of beef or pork for a long time, and especially after meeting you! If you ever need a camera in your kitchen or garage to capture your magic, I’m your man!

    Ben

  9. Ruth says:

    This post is so true. Whilemy hubby and I do live in a house it isn’t much bigger than the apartment we lived in for the five years prior. The kitchen is about 8X14ft. counters on each side. We set up a a folding table and butchered five deer in there this year (some fore us and some for others, it helps to have two people to buy tags!) While it may not have been the best setup we definatly managed to make it work. It is so gratifying to not have to pay a butcher $50-$100 just to cut up a deer and we got exactly the cuts that we wanted. With the savings we bought a grinder and made sausage, so good! Now we just have to find a place to store the grinder!

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