Calf Moose Butchering Day 2010


For the last 20 years, I’ve butchered moose more years than not, always at my dad’s place with him involved. This was the first time I’d butcher a moose at our home, and to add to the fun, I was joined by good company: Allan from Button Soup, Kristeva of Howling Duck Ranch, and long-time-friend and sommelier-in-training Erin. Butchering is indeed a job where many hands make light(er) the work, and I’m grateful to have had them.

I’ve been keen to post some video on butchering game meats. It’s no instructional video, instead offering a brief look at how we tackled it this year. I laughed a bit inside while editing as this is not normally how we break down a moose – particularly bull moose. What normally happens is that the major muscle groups are removed largely while the carcass is hanging – perhaps more practical with a large bull, but not so here.

Our butcher-day-lunch? Ruffed grouse, elk loin, calf moose tenderloin, mule deer tenderloin, garden slaw, and mashed potatoes with leeks washed down with apple and saskatoon wine. About as seasonal and regional as it gets.

13 Responses

  1. Mel says:

    Great video. As I was watching it, a question popped into my head – what do you do with the hide?

  2. Mel – the hide is left in the bush and is consumed by its carnivores, as is the gut pile [normally consumed within a couple of days] and hooves [the whole lower leg portion being shockingly void of meat, presumably for winter survival reason]. We take the head home as evidence of age in this case [to prove it's a calf]. I used to feel badly about leaving any part of the animal behind, until I saw the bush’s creatures feast on the remains and what little is left after they have. I feel that they make far better use of those parts than I ever would.

  3. Cool video Kevin. That backstrap is a thing of beauty. What do you call the long, cylindrical muscle still attached to the top round? I’ve been calling it the mock tender, but I’m not sure if I’ve got it right. I’ve also found that, at least with the eastern whitetails I butcher, the mock tender is rather tasteless and spongy – good for stew meat and the grind, but not as a featured roast.

  4. Kevin says:

    BB – I call it the eye of round. I believe it’s the equivalent to our hamstring. Your assessment of its quality is correct – not top notch cut, necessarily. I’m planning on dry curing mine into a bresaola-esque item.

  5. Nice video Kevin. I had a great time. Count me in for butchering day 2011!



  6. [...] then antelope, then pork, then moose, then pork, now beef. I’m at the point now that when finished cleaning down after butchering [...]

  7. Incredible. Many questions (as always)
    1. how many days can you have the skinned animal in the bush before you bring it in and break it down meat safety wise?
    2. why weren’t you wearing something to keep the blood off of your coats, etc… I didn’t see you get any on yourselves, but you were pretty close to the meat, weren’t you worried about any contamination or about getting your clothes wrecked?
    3. was that sinew you were cutting off the backstrap?
    4. do you package in brown wrap… and when you throw everything into the deep freeze at once, how long does it all take to freeze… as the temperature would rise unless it is almost frozen from being out in the cold?
    I am naive, I know. But, I am interested. It is clear you read a lot and were taught a lot about butchering animals. How much does one cost when you go on a trip, considering the licence and all of your expenses?
    Last question.
    I promise.
    LOVED the video!
    I will help, too! If only taking video and wrapping. I can help.

  8. Valerie:
    1. Highly temperature dependent. In September if you get a hot streak and it’s in the high 20’s, zero days. You need to find a solution to chill it off, asap. In November, the temps are really good for keeping meat – low single digits above zero with decent humidity is great. In those conditions, you can hang it for weeks, much like beef.
    2. I just bought a Slow Food apron for that purpose. Got tired of washing my jacket. There’s not much blood, if any involved at this stage. Re: contamination, all the exterior dried bit is removed, so really, anything that touches us is largely trimmed off anyway. I grew up handling meat this way, and never a food safety issue has arisen.
    3. Yes. Silverskin. Sinew. Roughly the same deal in my books.
    4. We do plastic, then paper. My theory: the plastic is optimal at omitting air – key for storage. The multiple layers of butcher paper protect it further.
    5. It’s usually frozen by the next day. Going back to the fact that it can be cold for many days/weeks, freeze time is not critical, so long as it’s as soon as practical. You do want to avoid overloading a freezer, but a calf moose = 100 lbs of lean meat, which fills about a quarter of a standard sized deep freeze.

    My wildlife certificate [hunting license] was $38 or so. My calf moose tag was $38 or so. All-in, my cost on this animal was $76. But that’s a highly skewed number because my dad and friend do all the scouting, driving, and have the place to do it. But hunting can and is done on the cheap locally, so it’d cost your cost of gas + $76 + one rifle shell.

    You’ll be on the list of helpers I contact next time. :)

  9. I am totally shocked at how cheap it is… but, if you had to take days off work, etc… it could add up. However, you are in the perfect position. Excellent value. Thanks for taking the time to answer everything so thoroughly. It is so interesting!

  10. [...] cured charcuterie should probably be up there. It wins in that I put in my draw in June, hunted and butchered it in November, and dry cured it until Christmas. That’s a half-year process. The building of [...]

  11. [...] made me feel tremendously wealthy – wealth having arrived at my door in many forms over this past year. No manual labor for me for at least a few days. I [...]

  12. [...] Calf moose loin with highbush cranberry paste, shaggy parasol powder, morel powder, local leek-potato-chevre purée, paired with 2009 Saskatoon wine [...]

  13. [...] lean cuts for steaks – beef rib steaks from my front quarter, pork chops, and all kinds of game cuts fit for the grill. Aw, [...]

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