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Published on February 22nd, 2011 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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The Gourmet Butcher: How to Butcher a Cow, Pig, or Lamb

Update: Entries have been slow to come on the giveaway, so I’m going to move the date back to Friday, March 4, at midnight. Head down to the bottom of the post to see how you can enter…

Please note: I received two free copies of The Gourmet Butcher DVD set: one for reviewing, and one for giving away. Take a look below to find out how you can enter our drawing.

Local foodies often tend to talk a lot about produce, and that makes sense: it’s often cheaper to buy fruits and veggies locally, and almost anyone can handle the processing tasks. But meat? Sure, many people do buy beef, pork, and chicken locally from farms that use more sustainable and humane practices… but you’re often looking at purchasing a carcass or a portion of one (i.e.  a side or quarter of beef) in those situations. No doubt you’re getting quality meat, and a wide variety of potential cuts… but how do you get from that massive hunk of meat to steaks, roasts, and chops?

Sure, you could take it to a butcher shop… but that’s adding cost (and, apparently, buying this way isn’t that much cheaper than the grocery store norm). Or, you could do it yourself… really. The newly-released The Gourmet Butcher… from Farm to Table DVD set walks you through the process of butchering that side of beef, hog carcass, or lamb carcass into portions ready for cooking.

Want to be a DIY Carnivore?

Butcher Cole Ward (aka The Gourmet Butcher) has been doing this for over four decades, and takes a viewer through the process of cutting bulk-size portions of meat into meal-size portions. I readily admit I knew nothing about cutting up carcasses, so it was fascinating to watch him turn a hind quarter of beef, for instance, into flank steaks, roasts, and other steak cuts. It became very clear that you’d want to be very committed to the idea of butchering — it requires time and relatively specialized equipment — but if that’s the case, you could definitely do it.

There’s no doubt that you’d want to have your DVD player in front of you as you did this, and be ready to pause and back up… perhaps the only complaint I had about the lessons was the lack of additional graphics that might help a novice butcher visualize what s/he is doing. But in going through the process, Ward patiently points out tips and tricks, and describes what to look for vividly. Take a look at this preview of his work with a beef hindquarter.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFl-AVRBgsk[/youtube]

While the butchering lessons certainly take up the majority of the two DVDs, Ward does literally take you to the table with your freshly-cut meat: there are a number of recipes provided for each butchering section. The Pig in a Flanket looks positively decadent… but it, like other recipes, involves fairly minimal preparation and cooking for a meal that will impress your dinner guests.

Of course, one thing you may learn from these lessons is that you’re willing to spend the extra money to take that carcass or portion to the butcher shop… but, if you’re a meat-eater, these lessons are great companions to other lessons and stories out there about the sources of your food. I don’t know that I’ll be cutting up any carcasses soon… but it was really interesting to see how it’s done.

Interested? Enter our drawing for a free copy of The Gourmet Butcher

That’s right… we’ve got a copy of this video series to give away… and it’s easy to enter:

  1. Head over to our community site.
  2. Leave a quick tip, question, or other piece of content about about buying, preparing or cooking local meats… anything works (including tips and questions about wild game and fish you catch).
  3. Make sure to tag your content with gourmetbutcher (after posting, you’ll find the place to tag your item on the lower right-hand side of the page) And while you’re there, subscribe to the community’s Twitter feed to keep up with user contributions: @susblogreviews

We’ll draw from all contributions made by midnight on Tuesday, March 1st (a week away). Once I get in touch with the winner, I’ll update this post…

Know of other good teaching resources for handling and processing fresh local meats? Let us know about them…

Trying to get your little ones started off eating right? Check out our selection of organic baby food from brands like Happy Bellies, Earth’s Best, and PediaSmart.



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



5 Responses to The Gourmet Butcher: How to Butcher a Cow, Pig, or Lamb

  1. Bobby says:

    MEAT!

    FIRE!

    GOOD!

  2. Uggh. Sigh. Bobby’s comment says it all perfectly.

  3. Obviously, knew you wouldn’t care for this, Justin… and I respect that.

  4. Kate says:

    This is interesting.

    We buy a grass-fed mixed quarter every 3-4 months from a sustainable farm who is Animal Welfare certified. http://www.pricefamilyfarm.com/ While there is some appeal to the DIY aspect, I can’t imagine it being worth more than the 57 cents a pound I pay to have it processed for me now. But, I’m lazy! LOL! I wonder how much cheaper it would be. You still would have to pay for slaughter and dry aging. hmmmm….

    Plus, you would have to butcher a whole side yourself if you wanted steaks and roasts. One comes from the front, one comes from the back. And at $4.50 lb for everything (gr beef to strip steak), that is a lot cheaper than conventional meat at the grocery store and MUCH cheaper than grass-fed at the grocer.

    Perhaps I’m not dedicated enough!

  5. I’ve got this DVD. It’s great. But we got something even better. My wife, our older son and I spent eighteen months apprenticing with Cole Ward, cutting up pigs for him when ever he called to say he had one. You see, we raise pastured pigs au natural in the mountains of Vermont. Getting processing of our meat is our highest expense, eating up about 1/3rd of our gross income. So we’re building our own USDA/State inspected on-farm butcher shop, thus the reason we spent time working with Cole to learn the old time commercial meat cutting skills. He’s a great teacher, full of humor and knowledge. This DVD is the chance for a lot more people to share in gaining this knowledge. I’m glad someone finally made video footage of Cole in action to preserve this knowledge for future generations.

    See my review of the videos here:

    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/2011/03/cole-ward-dvd.html

    Cheers

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
    in the mountains of Vermont
    Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa

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