Warning: some graphic content related to butchering beef. We chose not to share the pictures.
I got a call from Rainer, one of our new Horsefly friends:
Rainer: Erich - you mentioned you wanted dog food. Well, we had a steer with a hernia that had to be put down. If you want to come over and butcher it, you'll save a lot of money.
Erich: uh... okay... so what would that entail?
Rainer: I've already gutted and skinned it, and it's hanging from the fork of the tractor. so we would cut it into smaller pieces. They are still heavy, so I need your help.
Erich: uh... okay... And exactly what would I be doing then?
Rainer: You can use our bone saw to cut it into smaller, meal-sized chunks. Bring a cutting board and a sharp knife.
Erich: uh.. okay... and that would be the dog food?
Rainer: Well, you could cook up some of the meat - if it smells like urine, the steer had too much adrenaline in the blood and you should not eat it. It' still okay for the dogs.
Erich: Of course.
So I spent an hour during an early lunch yesterday helping Rainer get the beef cut up into about six manageable sizes, and we hung these in his meat cooler. I then went back with G. and I spent a few hours cutting up one side of ribs and half of the spine into meal sizes. G., who was amazingly comfortable with the whole process, held the freezer bags open for me. (Rainer wasn't around, as he had to leave for a few days, but Gigi dropped by, picked up G. and they went off in the Kubota "mule" to fetch a herd of Icelandic horses.)
The photo is from the Big Bear Ranch web site.
I would have never guessed even a few months ago that this was a line I would ever cross. However, I believe that we must have our eyes open to our food sources, and if we choose to eat meat, we should be comfortable with the realities of it's source. (No, the meat aisle is not a "source".) Our dog food is higher end (they deserve it for protecting us from the bears, don't they?) and we have to buy 100 lbs per month. I'm getting high-grade, organic grass-fed beef for about half of the price we pay for the dog food because I am willing to do some of the work myself. I think it's worth crossing some comfort lines.
Sidenote: there was this odd moment, when I was standing at the table in the doorway of the barn, sawing through the spine, watching a black-cloud storm cross acres of pasture while I stood in sunlight, and everything was in a real-life slow-motion sequence, that, for the first time ever in my life, I felt I should be listening to opera.
A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)