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OK – you’ve bought The Gourmet Butcher DVD, and you’re ready to start cutting. Now what?
Well, guess you'll need some meat. As in, a half-beef, whole lamb, or whole hog.
If someone is going to try to cut their first carcass, I advise them to get references from as many people as they can regarding the source of the meat. Far too many people I know have bought meat they weren't happy with because they didn't get references beforehand.
Think about it. If you were planning to do business with somebody — say, a plumber, or carpenter or insurance broker — wouldn’t you check them out first? I know I do. And this is a product that actually goes into your body. So do your homework — get online, or ask around. I guarantee you’ll find that all meat, and meat purveyors, are not identical.
As for where the meat was raised, not a big deal. Personally, I don’t think city versus country makes a lot of difference. It's much more important to know the reputation of your source.
What to ask for ? A product that was raised humanely (why? read my post on dark cutters), with no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and (if beef) preferably grass-fed and finished.
As far as size goes, it depends on the animal you’re going to cut. If it’s a pig, a good size is around 200 lbs. For lamb, I like 40 to 60 lbs. Beef I like to see at about 500 to 550 lbs. That's a beef hindquarter above.
To transport and keep the meat cool depends on the time of year. If it’s fall or winter and the termperature is below 60 degrees F. – and if you’re transporting the carcass a short distance (no more than a one-hour trip) - paper wrapped is fine. Cheese cloth and bubble wrap is better.
If the temperature is under 45 degrees F. you have a lot more time. Keep in mind that many places will deliver for a small fee, and delivery may be included in the cost of the animal. Verify first — ask.
Storage space? If you’re serious about doing this, I would advise that you get a small to medium chest freezer and rotate the meat for the first few days to insure proper freezing.
What cuts to focus on? This goes back to time of year. Is it grilling season? Or are you freezing your butt off in the dead of winter and feel like a nice hot beef stew?
This is definitely a choice I can't make for you. But I'm here for advice. Just ask.