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how to kill and butcher a goat

 
michael Egan
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Any advice on how to kill and butcher a goat? Specifically, how to kill in a way that is respectful and inflicts a minimal amount of pain and suffering.
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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Pm sent.
 
R Ranson
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This is a subject that I feel very passionate about, finding an end for the animal that is respectful and calm. It is also one that is very difficult to talk about in public. A lot of people have their own experiences and opinions, and if I've learned anything, there is no one way that is best for everyone.

What I share here is my own experience and thoughts on the matter. I'm the kind of person who is extremely soft hearted about animals. I feel that we should treat them with respect, and if we are entrusted with their care, it's important to provide them with an environment that allows them to live a life true to their nature. I also eat meat. It's difficult to reconcile these two things in the society where I live, as meat eating is estranged from animal welfare issues, but that's something for another day. To ensure the animal has a good life, I got some land and raised my own livestock. It troubled me when I took the animal to the slaughterhouse that the animal was stressed at the end and that we would get back as little as 40 percent (by weight) of what we took. How can 60% waste be acceptable when I'm attempting to honour and be grateful to the animal? So I learned how to process (such a polite phrase, process meat) the animal at home, where I could ensure there was a calm end and that at least 90% of the animal would end up in my belly with the other 10% being used for non-food purposes.

That's my point of view, and I respect that others have different opinions.


The End
That's what I call it, killing, slaughtering, whatever you want to use. I am not yet at a place where I can end an animals life, so I hire someone to do it for me. I've tried shooting, knife, halal, and used people from different walks of life from students to hunters to other farmers. Each method has it's own advantages and disadvantages. These are the two endings that I found acceptable.

My preference is to kill the animal Halal style. This is a religious style of killing the animal, traditionally used by Muslims. I'm not Muslim, but I have friends who are so I ask them to help me with this part. The animal is first taken away from the flock, so that the other animals cannot hear, see or smell the event. When done properly (according to my friends), the animal is calmed. You sit with the animal and calm it down, this can take a minute, this can take two hours, but you don't do anything until the animal is calm. The practical advantage of this is that the animal dies without all those stress chemicals pulsing through it's system. I find that the smell of the raw meat is a lot sweeter than any other way of slaughtering an animal, it also seems to make the meat far more tender than it should be. The first animal we did this way was an elderly goat that was the most angry, foul creature you ever met - she attacked a child which wins the animal an automatic trip to the freezer. The meat from this goat was as tender as a four month old lamb and I attribute that to it being calm at the end. The actual end is suppose to be one quick stroke with an excessively sharp knife. The animal is usually gone before it can take a second breath, and the only faster way I've seen is shooting.

Second choice for me is shooting the animal. This needs to be done right, so the person with the gun needs to know how the skull is shaped so they can shoot in the right spot. Each kind of animal, and males and females have different skulls, so someone use to shooting goats would need to learn different method to kill a pig. When done well, the consciousness of the animal is gone in less than a second. We don't have a gun and aren't allowed to use one on our property, so the animal has to travel to it's final destination which causes them stress.

It's important to learn what your local laws are about home processing animals. Some places you cannot kill an animal without special licence or training, other places you can only butcher your own animal on your own property for your own use. Know your local laws. Also know your neighbours. Some neighbours say they are find with you processing your own meat, but if they see it done, they call the cops on you. It may be better to ensure that your location is out of sight of your neighbours.


Butchering
The cutting up of the carcass is an interesting experience. The first time I did it, with that mean old goat, I cried buckets. Here is something that was alive and is no longer alive. It's the closest thing I've ever had to a spiritual moment - I felt incredibly honoured that this life would nourish me and my family.

Before you can do much, it's good to skin and take the guts out. I do this right away after ending the animal, hanging it from a gambrel. If you would like, I could dig up some resources on this, but I don't much like talking about this part as it's sad.

You can butcher, that is cut up the meat right away after ending the animal, but I prefer to let it go through rigour first. Depending on the size of the goat and the temperature, it takes about twenty four hours, sometimes as much as two days. I feel this gives the meat time to relax. I don't have refrigeration large enough, so I only butcher when the outside high is less than 10 degrees C. I wrap the carcass in clean cotton cloth (not plastic!) and put it in the garage until rigour is finished. (edit to add: note, this is how I do it. It's best to do your own research on keeping the meat a safe temperature during this time.)

When it comes to cutting up the meat, just about everything they write for lamb or mutton can be applied to goats. The cuts are basically the same, but don't be too rigid about getting them right. Everything at this stage is edible, so if you make a mess of it, just cut it into chunks or grind it up. Unfortunately there is no dotted line showing you where to cut.

An important tip is to cut the meat into small sizes. Don't freeze the whole leg, but rather cut it into roasts - bone in roast, bone out roast, whatever. Since there is two of us, I try for chunks about 1 to 3 pounds. A whole leg is daunting to fetch from the freezer, thaw and deal with. A boneless roast can be used so many ways - I can slice off a few bits for stir fry one night, roast the remainder the next, grind the leftover roast for shepherds pie. Bone in can be used the same way, but the bones may be used for broth making.

My tools: Cleaver, Bone Saw, large kitchen knife, at least three hunting knives, sometimes a boning knife, towels that don't mind getting mucky, butcher paper and freezer tape (lots of these last two).

Most important thing to know is that the knives need to be sharp. It's far too much effort to work with dull knives and quite dangerous too. I choose hunting knives with a high carbon content over kitchen knives for this task. The hunting knives are cheaper for the quality and they hold an edge much better. Having a steel and knowing how to use it will be a huge advantage. If you don't know how to use a steel, either learn or don't bother getting one, stick to what you know for sharpening your knives.

For the bone saw, when butchering a goat or sheep, I use a smaller saw, a hacksaw that I got from the home improvement store. I use a carbon blade designed to cut metal. It is considerably lighter than a proper bone saw and the smaller set teeth make it less likely to jump in my hand. When processing anything larger than an adult sheep, I use the proper bonesaw.

There is lots of sources that say that wrapping the meat in paper, or other breathable material make it last longer. Apparently it ages instead of rotts like it would if wrapped in plastic. I don't know the science behind this, but I'm happy following tradition of wrapping with butcher paper. I find that the meat wrapped in paper freezes well, whereas the plastic wrapped meat comes of the freezer with a weird texture.

Resources:

Although about pork, I always watch This video before butchering an animal.

Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game Paperback by John J. Mettler - Good for skinning and gutting, a few interesting recipes if I remember right. May be good for some people, but not a book I use often.

Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork by Ryan Farr is high on my list. This book has beautiful step by step instructions with excellent photos of each step for cutting up the meat.

My number one book for this sort of thing is In the Charcuterie by Boetticher and Miller. Delicious recipes including curing the meat, and beautiful instructions on how to butcher the carcass. There is a lot of nose to tail cooking in this one, which jives with my values of using the whole animal.

 
michael Egan
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Location: central illinois
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R. Ranson, thank you so much for your long account. You addressed issues that are very important to me. I was vegetarian for years in the 70s, then started eating meat because of health reasons: I was doing hard physical labor and couldn't keep my weight up. My physical/metabolic limitations continue (although I'm in very good health) and now at 64 I'm moving to our farm and want to stop buying store bought meat and take responsibility for killing the animals I eat by raising, killing and butchering and also some hunting. I am not excited about this but rather see it as an ethical challenge to understand and participate in the life and death cycle that sustains me in my current form. I believe my attention to the process also has further implications in our overall interaction with the world which includes buying tools, clothes, fuel, equipment from corporate dominated production and supply chains that are built on slave and exploited labor across the world. The same goes for my tax dollars which fund global dominance but the food aspect is most personal and I believe I can and should step up and do much more.

Thank you again for your insight and for having made the effort to kill and eat with respect. I will work on following your example.
 
R Ranson
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I'm glad the post is helpful. Having slept on it, I was worried that what I wrote was too forthright.

It sounds like an exciting life change for you. And a big one. This forum seems a very good place to find support in your endeavours. The people here are very encouraging and respectful of different ways of living, including diet.

A lot of people I know, both in person and online, have a great deal of trouble understanding that I can both care about animal welfare and raise my own livestock for food. Be prepared for this kind of reaction.

I had one individual inform me in a very loud and public way, that my murdering my 'pets' for food was the cruelest thing in the world... she yells this kind of talk at me, in a public place, for quite some time. All the while she is munching down on a beef and bacon hamburger from a fast food joint well known for it's abusive attitude towards animals. My response was regrettable. I couldn't stop laughing at her ranting about the horror of raising meat for slaughter in a small farm setting with fast food burger juices dripping down her chin. She was perfectly serious and meant every word of it. That made me laugh harder. That wasn't the worst of it, I tore a strip off her (figuratively) for not walking her talk. I'm not tolerant of fools and hypocrites that cite rhetoric as if it is fact. Unfortunately, this is not the correct response to that situation. I can't help it, it gets my goat when people bludgeon me over the head with their opinions on how to eat - especially when these opinions are both hypocritical and illogical.

This sort of experience makes it difficult to talk about meat processing in public setting. Like I said earlier, I'm very passionate and feel it's important to share our experiences of creating our own food - be it murdering a carrot or cutting up a roast, it's all vital. But sometimes, I'm a bit... honest? blatant? forthright? insensitive? which rubs people the wrong way. I really don't know what I'm suppose to do with this topic. Do we discus meat processing in public, or hide because we might get jumped on by a person with strong opinions on how others should eat?

As you are coming from a Vegetarian background, perhaps the book The Ethical Butcher by Reed would interest you. Reed, a former militant vegan, talks about his transition to omnivore - how his decisions were based on his concerns for labour injustice and environmental damage. He talks about ways that one can source meat ethically. I found it very interesting to see meat eating from this point of view.

If you have any further questions, let me know. It sounds like we have very similar values, and I am very glad to share what I learned from my experiences.

 
Devin Lavign
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There are quite a few goat butchering videos on youtube if you want to watch different techniques on how to go about the process.

There pretty much videos for all animal butchering available. So if your unsure of the process you can do some research.

However nothing beats hands on one to one instruction. If you can find someone local to invite you to their next butchering, or come to your place to help instruct you, you would gain a lot more confidence and understanding in one go than watching videos for months.
 
michael Egan
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ok thanks Devin. I do have friends and neighbors that have killed and butchered so I will look to them. R. Ranson, I can just say that for me, I think we should be talking more about our involvement in the life and death process: giving, enhancing life and taking life. Much of my perspective has grown out of what I've taken from native american attitudes and practices toward killing animals which they generally view as a spiritual act to be done with humility, gratitude and respect, including-- as you pointed out-- using as much of the animal's body as possible. Wendell Berry talks about killing animals also and I think advocates a similar approach as the one we have discussed, along with Joel Salatin and others along with billions of people on the planet who live a land-based life and don't have the option of buying fancy foods that are certified organic. At the same time, I don't feel comfortable debating the topic and think that if someone is adamant about not killing animals I'm not that inclined to argue my point of view: it's very personal and my main advice to anyone who broaches the subject of taking life is to pay attention and do what you think is right and ethical. I know from the 70s that when we try and maintain the posture that we will not kill and because we "own" that turf we are somehow more evolved, that position is ultimately untenable and most who attempted to occupy it eventually gave it up, often resulting in giving up many other ideals that supported counterculture principles, in other words, many just gave up on the counterculture movement and re-entered mainstream culture in the 80s (as we would say at the time "So and so got a 'straight job' or 'sold out'". At this point I think given the condition of our planet and our collective human activity it becomes more and more important that we avoid giving up and "selling out" and one important buffer to that is to talk about and think about what we're doing. Bottom line for me now is that if I'm eating meat I should be more involved in the killing and butchering of the animals I'm eating so I know what my impact is and so I'm not hiring out the unpleasant stuff. It's a weakness of our American culture: we hire out way too much.
 
Rhys Firth
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Having lived on a homestead block with dairy goats, for those un-needed young kids which come as a byproduct of getting the does in milk but for which there is not room nor grazing to rear up, I always found it disrespectful to simply kill and dump the bodies in the offal pit.

4 day old kid is a very tender, delicious delicate meat, and are small enough to insert your vegetables (potato, kumera, pumpkin) in the emptied stomach cavity and after rubbing the whole carcase with herbed butter, wrapped in tinfoil and baked whole.
 
R Ranson
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Michael, I really like what you wrote.

This is probably a symptom of the crossroads I'm at in my life, yet I find it strange that raising your own meat for your own consumption has become counterculture. It use to be the most commonplace thing.

I have lots of other words, but they wander into the world of controversy. So I'll just say this: I feel inspired when other people think about their dietary choices and take action to make these choices coherent with their values. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey with us.

If you feel comfortable, please let us know how it goes with you and your goat. Any questions, just shout.


Rhys, toss away a perfectly good goat kid? Emotional response aside, even at four days old, that's perfect for harvesting all sorts of delicacies, including the ever important cheese making rennet. Even a capitalist point of view would see this as extremely wasteful. Stuffed with vegetables, that sounds delicious.
 
michael Egan
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thank you R. Ranson. I will post what's going on with animals probably next Spring when I get them. We're moving to the farm in two weeks and will be mostly building infrastructure the rest of this year. Since I have more experience/skill building I have a pretty good idea of how to proceed with the early projects: saw milling, bridge building, sheds, some land shaping, etc. The first bridge should be close enough to finished in August so I'll likely upload it on youtube then link to it in the homestead forum: it's a 40' trussed bridge with some different aspects that do-it-yourselfers might find useful.
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first truss of 40' bridge
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Excellent views on the use of animals R. Ranson and Michael Egan. Wonderful write ups as well.

In my culture the killing of any animal is indeed a spiritual act, the animal's spirit is very important to us, it must be respected and this leads to the necessity of a quick and peaceful kill, the asking of forgiveness, the recognition of the sacrifice of one life for the life of others, the offering of prayers on the behalf of the animal, along with the use of every part. On our homestead, we have one place set aside for the acts of making meat from the animals, it is away from those who live so they are not upset by the act of making meat. Since this is not by hunting, it is important to be certain the animal knows just how cherished it is and how honored we are that it will give its life so that we will live. The end is swift and painless, every part is used from nose to tail in some way that makes the death meaningful.

I prefer to butcher each muscle, bones are for soups or stock before they are put back into the soil to nurture the plants we grow.

Like both of you, we do not speak of our ways to others, not even if asked would I share that, it is something that is sacred, and must be experienced not simply conveyed as conversation.

The acts involved in making meat should be humbling, all life, animal, vegetable, doesn't matter which, everything breathes, everything is alive and all life is sacred.
When we make a life cease, it should only be to protect another life, either by preventing another death or to nourish another life.
There is no other reason to make a life cease.
 
Rhys Firth
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R Ranson wrote:
Rhys, toss away a perfectly good goat kid? Emotional response aside, even at four days old, that's perfect for harvesting all sorts of delicacies, including the ever important cheese making rennet. Even a capitalist point of view would see this as extremely wasteful. Stuffed with vegetables, that sounds delicious.


For us, it was practical with a herd of only 15 does to harvest and make use of the kids. For a commercial farm with 600+ goats, there just isn't the time available to deal with them over the short kidding period and the supply is too small and the carcases too small for a processor like Alliance Meats or the likes to take them like they do bobby calves. As farms get larger, economics rule and the soul goes out of them.

These days mum has a farm of 740 acres instead of 64 acres, but all the does in the expanded herd still have names, as do all the cows which produce the milk for the calves she rears.



Bussey calves may be a good fit to permaculture, She looked at a cow and figured, a cow has 4 teats, it only has one calf... so she buys in unwanted bobby calves from neighbouring dairy farms, fosters them on to cows depending on their production rates, from two to four calves per cow. Once they have accepted the calves, they just roam free without needing to be milked and the calves bottle fed. Natural milk the natural way feeding calves to grow naturally. Not commercial style with pens full of calves being fed reconstituted mil replacer powder concocted from dried whey leftovers from cheese making plus vege fats and oils and vitamin powders all bagged up dry.
 
michael Egan
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Location: central illinois
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thank you Bryant. I think everyone who eats meat should at least kill and butcher animals enough to come to some kind of deeper awareness of how they are depending on other animals to sustain them. Vegetarians who eat dairy should also kill and butcher male calves/kids of the milk and cheese producers.

Food is only one component of our life support system which we "hire out". Because it is so personal and intimate I believe it is essential that we participate in our food system much more and also increase our involvement in other components: transportation, health care, local and regional infrastructure, etc.

Native Americans apparently had a highly functioning web of tribes that were all deeply embedded in their local web of life. We must turn our attention back to them/you and seek to learn and re-shape our networks and learning processes in their/your direction if we are to survive and thrive.
 
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