Monday, April 12, 2010

Cows Part 3: Packing

Saturday was a busy day that began painfully early. But before I get into that, I'm going to jump back to slaughtering the cows two weeks ago. Here is a picture of the hoist used to raise a cow while it's hide is being removed.  It was built because my father-in-law's tractor couldn't raise a cow high enough. The system worked well. Getting power to the hoists was a little annoying and that will be changed in the future.
Another thing I got a picture of this weekend is a butcher's saw. It is a essentially a cross-cut saw, but on steroids. The saw's main job is splitting the cow while it is hung on the hoists. The tool box the saw is sitting on is filled with the knives that are brought to the slaughter.
The cows are quartered on the hoist and put into the back of a pick up truck. The meat is driven to the butcher's workshop. A hoist raises the meat and it is placed on a hook that runs on a rail system. The rail goes to this scale. That tractor in the back was just completely rebuilt and painted. The butcher is very proud of it.
After a side is weighed, the meat rides on the rail to this cold storage room. Our meat aged in this room for two weeks. Also in this picture: in the back by the racks are two pigs, the slightly darker meat in the middle is four lambs, on the right is the butcher's girlfriend's cow (she runs a farm), and kind of centered is some of our beef. Just out of the picture is a really big meat grinder.
Which brings us back to 5:15 Saturday morning. That's when I had to get up. The meat packing started a 6:00. On the way out, I took some before shots of the freezers.
The only thing more impressive than the knife skills used to remove the hide and quarter the cows are the knife skills used to break down the large quarters of beef into the typical cuts we are familiar with. It is really impressive. Most of the work was done with two knifes and a band saw. We started at 6 and were finished before 1. That's two cows, broken down, and wrapped in freezer paper in under 7 hours. I wish I had more pictures, but between the decision making during my half of cow (How do you want this cut?) and the wrapping when it wasn't my side of beef, and the occasional "you're really taking pictures?" look, here's what I got:

The large piece on the right will be cut in chuck roasts. The piece on the left gets cut into a really old-school London broil with a round bone in it. I vaguely remember seeing a cut like that in a diner in the late 70's.

If I had written this on Saturday, I could have told you what you were looking at. Behind the beef is a larger stuffer. It holds a full lug filled with ground beef. I guess about 80 pounds. The switch is activated with your leg. You can kind of see it on the boxy part of the stuffer just below and to the right of the meat. The meat is pushed though the tube on the left into small bags.

This picture shows off the butcher's knife skills. If you saw how quickly he removed that piece of meat, you'd be impressed. I believe the missing piece was cut into sirloin steaks, but don't hold me to that. The joints and bones are very white. They seem whiter than the bones in a supermarket meat case.

During the processing, the butcher would occasionally take a quick bit of the meat. I was the only one in the group that joined him. My father-in-law almost hurled. It was funny. He and the butcher go way back and constantly harass each other and tell the same 5 stories every year. A little comic relief makes the morning go by faster.
After the meat was wrapped and brought to my in-law's house, the packages were vacuum sealed.  I didn't notice, but someone that wasn't me mispelled brisket (bottom of the first picture). Needless to say, I will be giving them shit about it in the near future. In the lower picture, the white tubes with red on the bottom are packages of ground beef.
 The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow. I'm going to grill a steak.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderfully full freezer.

    I wonder if the bones stay so white because they age less?

    This process reminded me of a story:
    I worked for a Vet back in the day, and he said when he was a poor veterinary student they all got to unofficially take some of the remains of a cow they'd been practicing on home that had been put down.
    He was excited to get it, but unfortunately forgot to let it age a day or two and said it was very gel-like and tough.