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Freshly slaughtered hog

If you have not grown up learning how to slaughter and butcher your own meat the prospect of it might be overwhelming. When we made the choice as a family to be as in command of our own food chain as we possibly could, meat production to its full extent seemed a far reaching goal. My husband and I both grew up in homes that practiced home butchering; however, you know how much children pay attention. The largest hurdle to processing your own meat is the mental hurdle. To process meat on a small scale, you do not need expensive butchers equipment. You need a healthy animal, some knowledge of slaughtering and butchering practices, the means to kill the animal and hang it, sharp knives, a clean place to work, and the humility to know that you will screw it up and get better at it next time.  

When we started farming and eating our own animals we struggled with finding meat processing companies that we felt sure were processing our meat in a way that we wanted. Sometimes the meat would come back with a funny taste, or it would be tough when the animal we sent was young. So we finally braved the process ourselves. Raising an animal from birth to slaughter will ensure you have command of your food quality. It is difficult to get the assurance of food quality from any other source. We are a very small production farm, so our animals are cared for on an individual basis; they each have a name and are well fed. There is no greater respect for the food on your plate to be had when you have cared for that food well before it goes into your freezer. Removal from the life death cycle has corrupted our food chain in a physical and spiritual manner. The effects of this disruption are being felt by our generation and our children’s.

Because most of us have spent our adult lives acquiring meat in the grocery store, the basic knowledge of how to process our food puts us in an infant like state; dependent on other adults for our food. The knowledge is still out there; we just have to seek it ourselves. Of all the modern inventions in the last 50 years, the internet has to be one of the most valuable to small farmers. From more efficient and painless ways to slaughter chickens to how to butcher groundhogs. I have found detailed instruction and videos online. Researching self-sufficient practices is time very well spent. There are also numerous books out there with excellent instruction; my personal favorite are the Foxfire books.

Basic Tools for Home Butchering

While you do not need fancy tools you do need some basic tools to get you started. If you are slaughtering any animal larger than a chicken you will likely need a firearm. While Kosher and Halal practices are also excellent forms of slaughtering, for the novice a rifle will make the process less traumatic. Be aware that you will need to be skilled with your firearm and take all the necessary safety and legal precautions to own and operate one. Firearm safety is a continual and important practice on any farm. I am not a firearm expert, so can only give some suggestions to consider. Having the assistance of a more experienced farmer is always preferable when you are getting started. Experienced local farmers are often a forgotten resource.

A small rifle with less recoil is going to be the best money spent. Larger and more high powered rifles should only be used for hunting. A larger gun can be potentially dangerous when slaughtering an animal close up and can damage your meat. If you are unfamiliar with firearms I would highly recommend getting instruction from an expert and doing a hearty amount of research before attempting to slaughter your animal.

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