Some people cringe when they hear the word “butcher.” Perhaps they’ve watched too many slasher movies.
But the task of butchering is a very important one. And unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, this activity is carried out on your behalf every day.
It’s very possible you’ve never had to engage in butchering during your entire life. On the other hand, knowing how to do it could save your life one day.
And at the very least, it could help you get the most out of an animal kill if you’re forced to feed yourself and your family in the wilderness.
A great aid in butchering is understanding the anatomy of the mammal you’ve killed. Every animal is different, but there are some common features.
With a cow, for example, there are a wide variety of areas that are edible, and each tastes different.
There is the round portion, sirloin, bottom sirloin, short loin, flank, ribs, chuck, brisket, plate and shanks. All from one animal.
Realizing that animal muscles come in groups and where the internal organs are located will help in your dismemberment.
Gutting, quartering and butchering
Gutting the carcass is usually the first step in butchering an animal. Carefully pull out the internal organs after opening up the belly.
A knife with a gut hook is appropriate for this activity. Edible organs include the heart, kidneys and liver.
After gutting comes quartering. Here you need a knife with more flexibility, as you want to cut close to the bone, around the tissues and joints.
Butchering involves cutting meat away from the bone. With ribs, cut meat from the bone and freeze it, rather than freezing meat with the bones.
With the shoulders, a saw is recommended for cutting through bone instead of cutting meat away from the bone.
In an interview with Popular Mechanics, butcher Joshua Applestone recommended that people use a five-inch stiff boning knife until their skills increase.
Then graduate to a seven-inch boning knife, followed by the more flexible 12-inch butcher knife.
He recommends knives with plastic handles for beginners, and suggests that they hold the knife as tightly as possible.
Place a wet rag under the cutting board to keep it steady while you’re butchering.
Applestone also suggests wiping your hands on towels frequently during the butchering process. This will reduce the chances of your hand accidentally sliding down to the blade.
Also, pay close attention to where your opposite hand is while you’re cutting.
And if you do cut yourself, rinse off the area on your hand immediately with water and treat the cut with an antibiotic salve.
Knives should be professionally sharpened whenever they seem to be struggling with cutting. When not in use, boning and butcher knives should be kept in a childproof drawer.
You may never have to engage in butchering. But like many things, it’s better to know how to do something you’ll never need than not knowing how to do something you will need.