Restoring Husbandry to Prosperity We believe the current state of meat fabrication in America is an intolerable blasphemy against the universe, not to mention what it does to our planet and our bodies. We believe the answer is local empowerment through instructional media that pertains to the miracle by which animals are transformed into simple food; that is, the best tasting food that rightly hallows its origin. Our aim is to restore this peasant art to it's proper home: your kitchen.
We want to create more of this media. To do so, we need to square away our basic infrastructure. This is not so much an expansion of our business as it is growing into the services we are already providing. We have been butchering without a shop, teaching without a classroom and filming without a studio.
We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to complete our butcher shop and slaughter truck which, if successful, will get us proper licensing, enhance our local services, multiply our class offerings and enable more instructional media.
Consider contributing to our project by helping us build our shop and truck. If you can't do that, please spread the word. In this case, the greater the quantity, the higher the quality. Kickstarter has the unique ability to make the little that is given in love be more valuable than much that is loaned in greed.
Because permies.com provides such a wealth of wisdom, we want to extend to every permie who backs our campaign the Meat Cooking Principle reward regardless of the contribution level. Choose the reward you want and then at the end of the campaign, 33 principles will be sent to you.
I have added two video projects to the campaign. With the funding, we will be able to create two series:
Homestead Harvest: Poultry
First, we want to reward the universe by creating a free video series on processing poultry called Homestead Harvest: Poultry. We will harvest chickens, ducks and turkeys. The first video will cover the traditional slaughter and the second will be on peasant cookery and preservation. This series will be available for free online.
Secondly, we will create a beef series of three videos covering slaughter, butchery and cookery/curing. Homestead Harvest: Beef will be available for free only to our Kickstarter backers.
You will find in our rewards column that we have added several rewards pertaining to these winsomely instructional videos. If you contribute at certain levels, you may find yourself getting top billing or actually being a cast member.
We are also offering The Butcher’s Salt in the expanded form as a PDF and the chance for you to select the topic for one of the next five chapters.
Feel free to get in touch with us to learn more about what we do and why we are taking this step.
I am right now wet curing a ham that I had unceremoniously stuck in the deep freeze last winter, overwhelmed with processing an entire hog. This particular hog was very well raised, but not well slaughtered. The farmers couldn't find anyone to do the slaughter for weeks/months, and then found an Amish dude who didn't seem to do a good job hanging the animal and bleeding it out properly. When working with the rest of the animal I found lots of big vessels full of blood--very messy. Anyway, I have the ham submerged in a brine with salt and honey, and the liquid has become super bloody. I have the whole thing in my fridge since it's summer time. (Typically I do this in a cooler in our garage, because it is fall or winter.)
Here is the question: should I take the time (and material) to make a new gallon or so of brine, and dump the bloody brine down the drain? Is the blood going to affect the flavor? After brining for 8 days or so we will slow smoke the ham in our ceramic grill dome. A previous wet cured ham was amazingly awesome, and I'd like this one to be as well. I didn't have the blood issue with the other ham--I think that was a different hog. (We've done a couple of dry cured hams and those were great as well, although the investment of time was much greater. We found that many relatives had no clue how to use prosciutto--they just thought it was unreasonably salty ham. . . )
If the smoking in the ceramic dome you mentioned also involves cooking the ham, then I wouldn't worry about dumping the brine. If, however, the smoking is cold and you plan to hang the ham to dry age for several months or years and then eat it raw, then I would dump the brine and make a new one. The presence of blood significantly compromises preservation. The cool thing about the brine is that it has pulled out most the blood that was left in there due to sloppy slaughter methods.
That being said, even if I were just cooking the ham during smoking, I would probably refresh the brine. There is a chance (a small one) that you may taste the blood. If you plan on simmering the ham before glazing and baking it, then refreshing the brine will do wonders for the remaining ham stock.
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
We will be hot smoking the ham, but for the sake of flavor, I think I'll dump out the bloody brine and make up another one. I actually have a whole lot of honey to try to go through because I bought 5 gallons of local honey a couple of years ago, and we're moving from Wisconsin to Portland.
I may be taking some of this ham to Alaska with me! (long story. . . )
In the videos there were shots that showed hams hanging in the home. It also talked about the butcher shop having to buy refrigerators. I would like to hear about the non-refridgerated shelf life of the products that were made in the videos. Especially things like bacon and ham. Will you please ask him about that?
I don't have a question, but in the spirit of things to show my support, I thought I'd post a letter I sent out to my friends and family a few days ago that is right in line with our subject matter here. I was writing most of what my Uncle Paul said while we were on the phone, and to stay as true to form as possible, pretty much stuck to his diction and wording like glue...
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
From the advice told to me by Uncle Paul Treadway.
His Daddy, Homer and him, raised hogs every year, and killed 3 every winter. Some of his Hams left over in his meathouse were 3 or 4 years old before He'd finally take 'em and sell 'em to the grocery store.
Anyway, he'd save all his dishwater after his dishes were done pour it in the slop bucket then throw it to the hogs everyday with the table scraps and their feed. *I can think of MANY a reason why a farmer would do that, but the first thing I think of is chemical free, highly effective, parasite control. Common sense like that is sorely missed*
He said to hang the hog using a chain(I thought of a chainfall), and to skin it and work it, that doing it this way makes it easy-where one man can do it if need be- use a sharp knife and keep it sharpened constantly, to cut the thinnest layer possible, the finest thinnest layer you can, taking just the little bit of thin top layer to get the hair, so then no boiling* or scraping would be needed at all. He said that makes it easy where one man can work it, if need be. *and it keeps the meat you're working that much cooler I thought, giving it even more chance of not spoiling, yet another bonus*
Cut it all up, after killin' and cleanin', shoulder's, hams, bacon and so on. Leave it Covered in salt for 9 days, brush the salt off, smoke for 11 days, HEAVY THICK smoke, steady and constant, "to keep it good, in this hotter climate." If you don't go the extra measures, he says, it's all a bust and it will ALL ruin, every bit of it... he added strongly, "Weather's not the same as it was and what they know from back then, was good for then, not now."
He said get a heavy plastic to cover the walls and ceiling, cover any holes, (don't let it touch your meat anywhere at all) to keep all the smoke in and workin' best. He was talking about just using heavy plastic on the outside, and smoking it there, and I told him you built a smokehouse.
He said Apple was the best, or Hickory, or Peach, or whatever flavor you prefer. We both said we thought Apple was our personal favorites. *I've got this big apple tree over here, been waitin' to cut it down for the smokehouse.*
I asked if there's was anything else he could say about hogs, and he said "yep, make sure ya kill it before you smoke it." :/
Contact me if interested in the process of rehoming my entire flock of "Smart Chickens".
Yes, I was curious about the curing part. Much of the old timers around here( near Memphis, TN) say you couldn't do it they way they did because it doesn't get as cold or stay cold long enough. So, how does the traditional way work with warmer weather? They also told me to be sure and put enough salt around everything especially the joints. Does that sound about right? I have one more question regarding boars taint, I was under the impression that if you butcher a boar that has been away long enough from sows in heat, that he will not have that problem, but everyone around here says you gotta castrate them but if you don't to be sure to cut the balls first right after the kill. Ask Brandon if cutting the testicles first will or does help to eliminate the taint. Thanks.
For a trans-atlantic passage I buy a whole quarter of cured and smoked. It hangs in the galley and any crew-member can grab a knife and slice his snack for the night watch. A whole cured quarter is consumed during the 3-4 weeks of passage time - and it is hugely appreciated.... and doubly so from a trusted source and locally sourced meatsmith. I wish for that perfect scenario of locality and quality in meat in every atlantic crossing that I make
For the podcast-- I just bought a side of a steer from an individual I know here in Texas. I'm comfortable that it was a well raised, only-chem-free-pasture-fed animal. The farmer had it custom processed at a small processor that does that kind of work, and I stayed up til 3am the night before, googling to try to learn how to complete the very vaguely worded cutting form, never having done this sort of thing. About 6 weeks later, the farmer brought many boxes of frozen packages to my house. So far I'm happy with the meat. It tastes "clean" compared to "grass-fed" grocery store beef.
I'd like to hear Brandon's thoughts about this kind of processor. I met the farmer, but not the processor. Did they likely do anything unseemly there ? Should I have met them? I don't even know how the meat was aged. Did they add chemistry? Also, Joel Salatin makes it sound like ordinary folk cannot get meat processed, but there seem to be plenty places like this around here. Are the not available in other states? The only actual complaints I have are 1) they don't make sausage; and 2) I didn't get as much bones, organs, or tallow as I expected.
I guess the main thing I want to know is: What typically goes on in these small comercial operations, and how should I research and/or vet the processor next time?
Thanks a lot! Looking forward to learning more about meat! Best wishes on the Kickstarter and your ongoing mission.
I want to thank Brandon very much for his videos and information. I have seen his videos many times, read his articles, and love the way he gets information across. I am a backer for the kickstarter and hope to convince family as well. As for questions for the podcast. I am very interested in more in depth details on the curing process. Especially when it's warmer weather. Also, what would be the best route to start a similar business to what Brandon and his family have done? I have self taught myself how to kill and butcher my own pigs. My last pig had the best bleeding thanks to his videos. I'm about to do my last large black. I would love to purchase the kickstarter that flys him out so I could learn from him but it would be 2 years til I'm at that point in life. Would he do consulting on how to start you own meatsmith? Thank you very much for all you do to help people eat good and be connected to their food.
Hello, I have really small pot bellied pigs that weigh around 60 lbs at about a year old. Brandon, Have you ever processed such small pigs? Can you describe in what ways would you get the best cuts on this type of Hog. I understand there will be no bacon cuts. I have wondered if just cooking the whole hog pit style would be the best option?? I will be raising many of these per year and would like to try some traditional curing but is this possible with such small pigs? I raise these small type hogs because they are very easy on my small permstead and they forage on grasses and dandelions. I would love to hear any suggestions you may have. Thank you for all you do. Are you interested in doing any workshops in central Montana ?
2 questions. First, has Brandon ever experimented with using only honey in the curing processes and eliminated the use of cane sugar?
Second. For using brine or salt for washing his cutting boards and other wooden surfaces, does he soak the wood in brine, just use it as a rinse, or does he use a straight up salt-scrub when washing these items? I am really interested in this idea of promoting the good bacteria on your butcher tools, so any more info on that would be awesome.
Learn permaculture beekeeping from your home! You can find it here at :
-What was the process through which you learned this amazing skill and became able to execute it (no pun intended) with such beauty and grace?
-What are 2 or 3 things that you've learned through experience, instead of through study, about butchering?
-How do you suggest a person start learning about meatsmithing? Do you have book or other resource recommendations? I'm specifically curious about this aspects of meatsmithery that would be normal for a person 3 generations ago, but are mostly lost now, e.g., eating offal on slaughter day/seasonality of slaughtering.
(clarification for Paul on what I'm trying to get at: our culture is very separated from seasonality. For vegetables it's obvious---plants don't grow in the winter, certain vegetable store more easily through winter. With meat, it's a harder thing to pin down. An animal can stay alive and be slaughtered at any time of the year, but that doesn't mean it's the healthiest time or most economical time to slaughter it. How do we relearn that?)
-How do you suggest a person start actively meatsmithing? What are the first steps?
-Have you had any regulatory pressures from the "department of making you sad"? How did you circumvent or resolve those issues?
-(this one's a comment to Paul, I like the question by Kerry about how to "vet" a processor. I was going to ask a similar question, so I second that one.)
-Where do you get your knives and what do you do to maintain them yourself? How'd you learn that skill?
-What other skills are tangential to meatsmithery? It seems obvious that knife sharpening and cooking are. Are there others? What were your favorite to learn of the related skills?
-Other than the meatsmithing you do for others, roughly, how much meat do you plan for your family in a year, and do you raise it all yourself? If you buy meat for personal consumption, how do you choose who to buy from? I assume you're not eating WalMart steaks.
-Does your meatsmithing go beyond hogs? Do you also butcher chickens, cattle, wild game, etc.? Do you have plans to make informational videos on that, too? (fyi, I'd be willing to shell out a little bit of dough for videos as high of quality as "Anatomy of Thrift")
-On the more metaphysical side of things, have you ever had difficulty in killing an animal? Did you have a period of adjustment to taking an animal's life, or did you naturally "understand" the relationship between death/life/animal/human?
Paul, I'd of course love to have answers to all of these, but I'll trust your judgment in picking the most enlightening if you only can use a couple!
Music to... umm.... permaculture by: www.detroitpleasuresociety.com
In discussions with a few individuals that are part of a permaculture group that I host on Facebook, called 'I Fucking Love Permaculture', I have had a terrible time trying to convince people that it can be safe to preserve meats without a pressure cooker so long as there is a good fat layer to seal them in so long as the the meat in question is of high quality and well cooked. Specifically this is relating to Rilette's, a canned pork. Would this same method work for chicken and why or why not? I would like to hear a little bit of the "why's" and "why-not's" so as to better arm myself for the discussion should it arise again.
Also in curing ham, prosciutto, and bacon without the use of nitrates. It is my understanding that much like in the realm of a polyculture, a food forest, or the like that the concepts are the same. It is better to encourage all life and let it find a balance than it is to try and sterilize everything and then derive no benefits in flavor or nutrition from beneficial microbes of which we have little understanding anyway. Since a lot of the butchery that is discussed in the videos is about pork, what can you tell us about chicken that would be drastically different than what conventional wisdom or modern "science" has led us to believe? I ask because in the realm of permaculture, and especially so in urban permaculture, chickens are one of our favorite animals for all of their uses.
New Frontier Permaculture
Could you talk about working with fresh vs previously frozen meat? I have heard freezing meat kills potentially harmful mycotoxins. However, I've also heard freezing kills bacteria necessary for proper curing.
Further, you and your videos have taught us that curing is a fantastically convenient and especially delicious method of meat preservation. Are there other ways to preserve large quantities of meat without the use of refrigeration/freezing?
Another question for the podcast, about different Curing formulae: Brandon, can you briefly run down the meat cures generally available, and what you think of each? Taking bacon for example: The organic grocery store stuff has nitrites, and is medium salty. When we used to live near a Whole Foods Market, their bacon was "uncured" and less salty. The bacon I bought on Joe Salatin's farm when we visited was incredibly salty, like a "Virginia ham", which is also too salty for me. What would the traditional curing option(s) be? And how salty would they taste? When you talk about "brine", I think of this extra saltiness, but I haven't had traditional, artisinal cured meat like you do, so I don't know. I know you said in Anatomy of Thrift part 3 to change the ham water if it tastes too salty, but....I havent had this opportunity yet. What if bacon is too salty?
Related: My grandmother told the story of when they switched from "salt cure" to "sugar cure", probably around the 1930s-40s. What was she talking about? I believe the "sugar cure" was a product they bought at the farm supply store.
This might be out of the scope of this podcast focus, but I would like to hear more from You and Brandon about the small-scale permie style raising of pigs with minimal to no imports into the system, at least keeping it within the Bioregion. Similarly, I would like to hear the potentially different advice about a pasture based methodology of raising pork versus a silvipasture/forest based scenario of raising the pigs.
I'm moving to a land trust with mostly forest but a bit of meadow and am just dying to incorporate pigs into our permaculture homestead learning and education in the next couple years. One of the questions I have is of course, how much land can you sustainably raise a pig on without imports with the right amount of grown crops (obviously fruit and nut trees would be helpful, but that will take a while, so in addition i'm thinking of the more immediate annual perennial fodder crops where you can rotate/paddock shift them through.
I haven't seen Pigs in a Day yet but have heard the podcast on it. Any other recommended resources would be great. thanks guys and I'm really looking forward to it.
Hope the kickstarter is succesful Brandon. I was completely floored by the beauty, integrity, and honor depicted in Anatomy of Thrift and it (you) continues to be one of my primary inspirations for good food, living true connections, community, love of animals in life and death, and of course raising raising, harvesting, curing/preparing/cooking pigs. i'll be supporting you, just trying to figure out how much!
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
Josh, in case Walter doesn't pop up here to recommend himself, there is a WEALTH of information about raising pigs permaculture style at his Sugar Mountain Farm website. I recommend spending some time there. You can ask a question on any post, past or present, and Walter is likely to answer your question (you'll see that the dates on the comments are sometimes much more recent than the original post).
Great videos! My questions are about aging meat. How long do you age beef and game? I live in NC, so hanging meat outside, in a garage or barn isn't going to happen. What temperature are safe? What meats/poultry can you age?
Unfortunately, I did not have a good slaughter/butcher for the hog I recently purchased at County Fair. A 220lb hog ended up being 176lbs of meat. When I called the butcher, I was informed that they did not get any of the bones/organs/etc from the kill guy (this is what he calls himself). Sad, my pig was raised lovingly by someone we know, I wish we could have continued that respect all the way through. Anyways, it was my first experience buying a whole hog (we usually buy beef), and I live & learn. I am actually fascinated by your video, and must say that I would like to butcher, or at least be part of butchering my next hog. I was raised in Germany, and remember being part of the harvest on my great uncles farm. We children all had a job, and I remember blood sausage fondly (it makes my friends cringe ..).
Kerry Rodgers wrote:... Also, Joel Salatin makes it sound like ordinary folk cannot get meat processed, but there seem to be plenty
places like this around here. Are they not available in other states?
The availability of slaughter & butchering services does varyfrom one area to another. In many areas, there are far fewer facilities
offering slaughter/butchering than there were a decade ago. Most of these places I'm familiar with do not offer a mobile slaughter;
the animal goes to the abbatoir (slaughterhouse), and is usually cut, wrapped & frozen there. Those I've worked with offer humane
handling & quick, clean kills, but usually have a standard way they cut up the meat. Finding a place that offers options - like longer
hanging times for grassfinished beef or other leaner meats, options for pork, etc, is much more difficult.
We're also finding it difficult to locate a place that will wrap the meat in paper for us, instead of plastic. (We try to minimize the plastic
in our lives, and especially prefer it not to be in contact with our food.)
That said, more mobile abbatoirs are becoming available in the region.
I believe Joel Salatin was refering to the availability of USDA slaughtering & butchering so the meat can be sold. This is MUCH harder to
find than services for those who just want to eat their own animals. (Then there are requirements for refridgeration, etc. Salatin tells
of challenges delivering meat in coolers, since they didn't have a refridgerated truck. They got permission to use thermomenters to
insure the meat stayed cool enough, but a regulation or regulatory official could have insisted on a refridgerated truck - at a HUGE
expense, again beyone the means of most small, local farmers.)
If USDA inspected processing is unavailble in the are to the small farmer/producer, this means that the farmer must sell the animal on the hoof, either
to the commodity chain, or directly to consumers. Farmers who can offer cuts of meat instead of a whole animals (or halves, or quarters),
like Salatin does, can usually make a LOT more money on each animal.
It's interesting to note that under European Union laws, if you kill and process your own beef or pork at home, not only can you not sell or barter any part
of the meant, supposedly it can ONLY be consumed by your immediate family. Apparantly, from what I've been told, you can't even share your
home-slaughtered meat with friends who come to dinner. (It seems that you can bring a carcass home to cut and cure it, but it must be electrically stunned
then bled to death at the commercial abbatoir; they seem to think the non-lethal electrocution is somehow kinder than other slaughter methods.)
It reminds me of the 'clean man' who keeps bringing piles of paperwork to the traditional butcher, until he was forced out of business. (We've known of
many a dairy farmer that has happened to, as well.)
Count me in. There is definitely a need for this material. A few years ago I was given a wild hog. I searched for material online but there wasn't much out there and I was lost. The artistry that you bring in the presentation is really the icing on the cake. Love it.
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
In Wisconsin I'm not aware of any mobile slaughter units, but there are multiple small businesses that perform this service. Our trouble a year and a half ago came when our farmer didn't get a spot reserved prior to deer season. Also, the small slaughterhouse/butcher shop wasn't really interested in just doing the slaughter and letting us pick up the whole animal. (We have learned to cut up the animals ourselves, because we use all of it, for our dogs if not for us.) Our most recent hog came from east of Madison instead of the Viroqua region and we had no trouble there. I think Viroqua is due for it's own "Meatsmith!" Job opportunity for someone!
I'm really glad he's doing this! We just got our bull calf back from the butcher's and because I'm a nose-to-tail kind of person and I guess most around here aren't, there is a lot "missing" that I fear was just thrown out with the guts that we could have used (like the shank bones, tail, organ meats, etc.).
I tried to listen to the podcast, tho, and can't find a link to it!
BEEF is a whole new level that I want to get into. There are just details in dealing with 1000-1200 pound animals that are beyond my comfort zone. But after the last adventure in getting our steer to the butcher I think I need to make it my comfort zone.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Willie Smits: Village Based Permaculture Approaches in Indonesia (video)