This might be an icky topic for some people, so heed this warning going forward: Graphic imagery of reality ahead!
Before we begin on the grisly details, let us savour a couple of succulent pictures which illustrate what it’s all about (sorry if we haven’t met the Instagram presentation standard with these hastily-taken foodie pics):
Oooo yeah. Tender, juicy, homestead-raised carnivorous deliciousness.
Made even more homely by Char’s delicious baking:
Okay, now that I’ve buttered you up with the final product, let’s start from the beginning, before meat became meal.
I’d like to begin this process with a video of the kill shot. Why? Because I want to make clear from the outset just how pain-free and peaceful a homekill death is. It’s also the moment where life ceases to become life, and instead becomes food. As an ex-vegetarian, this moment was especially profound for me. It was a final confirmation that I was all right with death for the sake of culinary pleasure.
I had killed hares to protect saplings before (thereby encouraging more life through a growing ecosystem), and I had euthanised sheep that were in a bad way. I had even slaughtered a sheep and skinned/gutted it for butchering. But this was the first time I was present for the slaughter of an animal I would be personally eating. I knew the animal. I had fed the animal. And now it would be feeding me. It would have not existed at all without that destiny. And here, free-ranging on open pasture, one has to believe that the cow’s life was net positive (unless one is an anti-natalist, which I have admittedly been at various times).
Well, without further prattle, what follows is the video of that death. A shot to the head from a distance, without it even knowing. It is peaceful, and in a way, beautiful. The steer was completely unaware of its imminent demise, never had to suffer the anxiety of shuffling through an abattoir, never had to suffer the frailty of old-age, and was – simply put – there one moment, and gone the next. We should be so lucky.
You can see that the body slumps instantly. The brain is destroyed. The butcher follows up the shot with severing the spinal cord to reduce muscle spasms. He then cuts the jugular to drain the blood from the carcass.
The other cows in the paddock were curious. They investigated the carcass, but never seemed distraught. They weren’t scared, obviously, as they continued unabated to hang around and watch the whole process. Our biggest cow (a pet named Little One) chased the carcass as it was being dragged behind the truck. “Hey, where you goin’?”
The professional swapped out his rifle for his skinning knife and took to his task like an artist. It was a pleasure to watch, as strange as that sounds.
With a couple of carefully-placed slices, the head came clean off.
And in mere moments the steer was skinned and de-knuckled, no longer resembling its former self. The butcher took the skin, too, to sell to leather-workers. The hooves and head went into the offal pit – but not first without taking the tongue and cheeks.
At this point, the butcher hoisted the carcass onto a crane-winch, so he could open the abdomen and cut the guts free.
We took the liver for Mica (our cat), which she has been thoroughly enjoying.
He used a reciprocating saw to divide the carcass in two.
In a mere half hour the steer had transformed into what we’re all familiar with seeing hanging in a butcher’s chiller. Astounding work.
We’re in the process of rebuilding our stockyards, so the poor guy had to drag the heavy load of grass-filled guts around an old fence, so they could be plopped into the offal pit.
When the butcher hung the carcass in his trailer, we thoroughly thanked him for his prowess and educating process, and he handed us an order form for the selection of cuts we wanted.
We chose blade steak, cross cut blade, eye fillet, porterhouse, rump, scotch fillet, wiener schnitzel, bolar roast, corned beef, and topside roast. The remainder of the beast was made into mince, hamburger patties, biersticks, and a variety of sausages with different seasonings.
Ten days later, we got all this! Vacuum-packed and labelled!
It smelt good. So good, in fact, that I had no choice but to become one with it.
One and a half year’s supply of meat, at almost half the cost. We had to buy a big freezer just to fit it all – and only a little more than half of it fit; we had another small chest freezer for the rest, and even our fridge’s small freezer space was vacated to make room. It only just fit.
So that’s what a homekill is like. No longer are we disconnected from the meat process – we saw almost every step. Next we’ll have to try the process ourselves, but maybe on a smaller animal, to become more than just observers. A special thanks to the professional himself – friendly, informative, efficient, and damn does that meat taste good! (The cow’s, not the professional’s…) So if you’re in the area and looking to get a homekill done, look up Hillside Homekills – highly recommended.
I don’t know how I expected to feel seeing the process. I can’t say I was without reservation, having grown up so detached from the natural course of life and death. But the more I am exposed to death (and there’s a lot to be exposed to on a farm), the more I feel at peace with it. Especially a good death – a death without suffering.
I know I’m at risk of sounding preachy here, but I think our modern society, despite all its perks, has done us a great psychological disservice by putting distance between our own hands and the blades from which we benefit, and by denying us exposure to the relationship between life and death… to reality.