Tag Archives: custom exempt slaughter

Slaughter Trucks

I’ve been seeing posts in my social media streams about ‘slaughter trucks’. I have to say, nope. The pictures that are being passed as slaughter trucks are simply not slaughter trucks. They do no killing. In our case theses trucks haul our cattle between our summer and winter ranches. Like a cattle bus. They are also called “bullracks, cattle pots, pot bellies or cattleracks” in the industry.

So called "slaughter truck"

So called “slaughter truck”

Yes, these trucks can take cattle to feedlots where the cattle will be fed until they are ‘finished‘ and then slaughtered for our consumption. But no, these are not ‘slaughter trucks’. If a label must be applied to a slaughter truck I would call the truck that comes out to the ranch to do custom exempt slaughter, a “slaughter truck”.

A true slaughter or abattoir truck. It performs a wonderful service to farmers and ranchers like myself.

A true slaughter or abattoir truck. It performs a wonderful service to farmers and ranchers like myself.

The good news is this misinformation has inspired a lovely movement from the agricultural community. Instead of getting mad and defensive, we started a toy drive. We started sharing more about what these trucks actually do. We opened our barn doors. Great job industry! 

I’ve attached a video of cattle being loaded into one of these trucks. As you can see it is not scary for them at all.

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Adult 4-H: The Hog Slaughter Appointment

WARNING! This might be considered by some to be gross, inappropriate, or tragic, but I think it is extremely important share the how’s, what’s and why’s of our food. If you have any questions about anything you see please ask – I love to share about the ranch.

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As I shared with you before, our hogs have been slaughtered. That was the whole reason we bought the hogs, to eat them. They were not pets. We never planned on keeping them. They would not have existed at all if they did not perform this function. I chose this particular breed of hog because it is a critically endangered heritage hog. I wanted to use this blog to hopefully encourage other producers and ranchers to investigate the red wattle, tamworth, or hereford hog, to raise! And since I know that happened, I feel really happy about this whole project!

I now see people use the term slaughter and harvest interchangeably. While I attended Chico State, our professor, Dr. Dave Daley, urged us to use the word harvest. And at the time that made sense to me. For me when I think of the word harvest, I think of harvesting a crop, and that usually brings up a very pretty picture in my head, like a beautiful field of golden wheat. But when I asked Dr. Grandin about what word she uses, she said slaughter. I see that point too – slaughtering an animal is not often pretty, there is blood and smells. It’s not an idyllic act. By using the term “harvest” I feel like we are disrespecting both the animal whose life we are taking and our consumer by trying to gloss over something that more people should be able to see and participate in, the raising and slaughtering of our own food.

Now that the slaughter is over I’ve had some time to reflect on my time with the hogs. I deeply enjoyed them, that is true. Did I love them like a pet? No. I enjoyed having a job on the Ranch that was completely mine. I liked cooking food for them and watching as my rations changed how they grew, it was almost like one giant science experiment for me, with bacon as a reward.

We had the hogs slaughtered on the Ranch. It’s called custom exempt slaughter. Animals that are slaughtered this way are not for the public’s consumption. This meat will be strictly for my friends and families enjoyment. I prefer this method of slaughter because the animals never have to leave their home. In the hog’s case, one second they were asleep in the sun, and the next they were gone.

Jake bring the dead hog to the truck to be processed.

Jake bringing the dead hog to the truck to be processed.

Our Butcher, Dave, uses a small caliber rifle to shoot the hog directly in the head. One shot and the hog is immediately dead. Dave then swiftly slits the hog’s throat to bleed it out. One thing I think a lot of people do not realize (because we are very disconnected from death) is when a healthy living being is shot and killed the muscles still have energy. This makes the body thrash and move, again this is something that the movies, TV and video games never show. For people that have never seen death, this often comes as a shock, but again, this is what really happens.

Being placed on the rack.

Being placed on the rack.

After the hog is bled out, he is brought over to the truck and lifted on to a stand. These hogs weighed close to 300 pounds when they were slaughtered, so Dave has a hydraulic lift that enables him to lift these hogs quickly and easily. The hogs will be washed off to help removed the mud, dirt and blood from their coats.

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Getting washed off.

Getting washed off.

After they are cleaned off the feet are removed and the skinning process can begin. They start on the belly of the hog. They work their way down the sides and around the legs, being very careful not to let the outside of the side touch the carcass. By not allowing the outside of the skin to touch the carcass, they are mitigating potential cross-contamination (aka poo on the meat).

The start of the skinning.

The start of the skinning.

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Almost halfway.

Almost halfway.

The gamble.

Attaching the gamble.

Once the skin is about halfway off, he put the hog’s back legs in a gamble.

Cutting the sternum.

Cutting the sternum.

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Removing the skin from around the legs.

Removing the skin from around the legs.

Then he cuts the sternum with a saw to remove the internal organs. As he raises the hog with the lift, the organs almost remove themselves, Dave then is careful to clean out the cavity.

Dave giving us a lesson about organs.

Dave giving us a lesson about organs.

The liver.

The liver.

The heart and ventricles .

The heart and ventricles .

One of the many, many reasons I adore Dave is he is a wonderful teacher. We had all three adult 4-H members and two of their husbands out to watch this and Dave took the time to explain everything and give us some lesson. He pointed out what organ was what, and how they all connected in the hog.

Dave slaughtered the hogs two at a time. The hogs were not upset by what was going on, they continued to sleep as this was going on mere yards away from them.

Dave slaughtered the hogs two at a time. The hogs were not upset by what was going on, they continued to sleep as this was going on mere yards away from them.

Dave made an excellent point about the difference between animals and humans when it comes to death. If a human saw his friend get slaughtered and skinned like the hogs, the human would freak out, run, you know, have the flight or flight reaction. Whereas when the hogs watched their companions getting slaughtered they went and took a nap. Many people anthropomorphize animals, and it’s no wonder. Often people’s only interaction with farm animals as children are talking pigs, bunnies, mice and roosters, with human emotions and actions. In real life animals are not like that, they are animals not people.

I thought this was genius, what a great way to make the work easier and faster!

I thought this was genius, what a great way to make the work easier and faster!

After the organs are removed, Dave continues skinning the hog. He uses his lift to quickly and easily remove the reminder of the hide.

This is the barrel for waste, the organs that we don’t eat, skin and the feet. It will be take to the rendering plant and recycled

This is the barrel for waste, the organs that we don’t eat, skin and the feet. It will be taken to the rendering plant and recycled

The hogs done. They will now be taken back to the Locker where they will be cut, wrapped and cured.

The hogs done. They will now be taken back to the Locker where they will be cut, wrapped and cured.

Dividing the organs. I was surprised how big pig livers are.

Dividing the organs. I was surprised how big pig livers are.

I was very proud of my Adult 4-H members for taking the tongue, livers and hearts home to eat. We really tried to waste nothing on these hogs.

Raising these hogs and teaching other women about hogs and the Ranch was a very fulfilling project. I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I know many people learned from my blog. I’m touched how many people followed along and supported me when the drama hit. I’m excited to know at least one other person is now going to start raising Red Wattle hogs, so my plan for exposing this breed came to fruition. Most of all, I’m over the moon about finally getting to try this caliber of pork! Also a big THANK YOU Amy Sipes for posting a picture of a red wattle chop all those years ago, without that picture my parents would have never allowed me to start raising hogs again. I owe you lady!

Again a huge, big, old thank you to Chico Locker and Sausage for allowing us to learn! And being so amazing transparent and proud of what you do! We love you so much! You are such a gem in our community!

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Adult 4-H; It’s Over

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Yep. Today was the day. I’m working on a post the will detail the whole custom exempt slaughtering process, but since it won’t be done until tomorrow, I wanted to update those of you that have been following this process. After six months of caring for these pigs, today they fulfilled their purpose.
I handled way better than I thought I would. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t upset. Dave is quick and efficient and the pigs really had no idea what happened. They knew no fear, one second they were just being normal, happy pigs and the next they were gone.

As you can see we all handled it well. We learned a ton today! Dave is an amazing teacher. I am one of those people that find comfort in knowing where my food comes from. I also enjoy being self-sufficient, being able to raise my own food (meat and vegetables) means a lot to me. Being able to share  my knowledge with other people is just the icing on the cake. Thank you for coming with me on this journey.

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The “Appointment”

I’ve made the “appointment”. The pigs are going to be slaughtered March 8. I’ll admit I’m already a whisper sad about it.
I grew up raising my own food animals. I did 4-H and FFA. Every year I watch as our commercial calves are loaded into trucks to become food. I watch the custom exempt slaughter of our personal freezer beef. Heck I even worked in a slaughterhouse. I’m not new to this lifestyle, but for some reason I am already bummed out about the pigs.
Maybe because this was my project, my idea, my money, and my time. It was the first time a bright idea of mine worked out successfully (ask me about goats sometime). Since October, I have spent every day with these pigs making sure they were the happiest pigs they could be. In December I started making their food. I’ve cooked for these pigs more than I’ve cooked for myself.

Happy pig

Happy pig


I realize that is their “job” to be pigs and if they didn’t have a “job” they probably wouldn’t exist. I know I have provided them with the best pig life I could. I know they are happy and healthy. But I am still going to miss them; I think I would have no soul if I didn’t.
Treats!

Treats!


When I would have a bad day at work, or someone poked me with a stick, I would simply go out and hang with the pigs. They are always super excited to see me, even more excited when I bring treats and the most excited when I brush them and give belly rubs. They run and grunt at me when they see me, just like I sing them silly pig songs and talk to them when I am in their pen.
This project has been a success and we haven’t even tried the pork yet. It was wonderful doing adult 4-H and having so many visitors to the Ranch. It was great having something my Dad and I could talk about everyday, where I could ask for his advice. And best of all it was wonderful to bring awareness to this pork. I have a waiting list for next year.
This project reminded me that my place is on the Ranch, not in an office. Over the past three years I have worked in town from 8 to 5. I worked on the Ranch during my weekends and free-time; so I have not noticed how “soft” I have become until recently.
When we first got the pigs I noticed it was hard for me to pick up the 50 pound sacks of grower feed. My arms were sore after I started cooking their food all weekend (it takes my whole weekend to cook enough food for them). I had blisters on my delicate little office hands. I have to make two trips to feed them because two full five gallon buckets were just too much for me.
But after 6 months of taking care of the pigs every day, twice a day (except for like a month at night, when my Parents fed for me because it was too dark by the time I got home) I have upper arm strength again. I can pick up their 75 pound sacks of feed like it is nothing. I now fill their slop buckets as full as I can get them and “pump buckets” on the way to their trough. I have calluses. It feels good and I’m thinking of becoming a bouncer with these guns, lol.
My "man" hands. I've very proud. I missed them.

My “man” hands. I’ve very proud. I missed them.


Since this was a success my Parents have agreed to let me start raising pastured poultry this spring. When I take my vacation next month I am going to build a portable coop and get chicks. I have fond memories of being a small child and slaughtering chickens and turkeys with my Dad (he would always give me the sea glass from the turkey’s gullet). Very exciting stuff is happening for me!
Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.

Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.


Be prepared Dear Readers, even though I will probably be sobbing, I am going to video and take pictures of the whole slaughter process just like I did with my beef all those years ago (Industry groups, if you are concerned about this, please contact me NOW, I don’t want another Beef Council incident).
Thank you to all of you that have kept up with our pig adventures. I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and feedback! I’ve even met new “friends” through this project, it’s just been such a wonderful experience. However I am a little excited that I can start to sleep in and have weekends again after these pigs are gone. It has been a lot of work balancing my town job and my pigs.

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Adult 4-H: Pig Update – So Close!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a pig update. It’s time. The pigs are over 200 pounds a piece now. They are growing like weeds! We have about a month left before “the appointment”.

Remember how little and cute they WERE? Notice the feeder? I put it in there so you could compare.

Remember how little and cute they WERE? Notice the feeder? I put it in there so you could compare.


They spend a lot of time eating, rooting and foraging. I sometimes let them out to find acorns and eat grass. They loved it!
Happy pigs!

Happy pigs!


Wattle hog (what I named the pig that has the wattles) found one of the dog’s bones and took off. He refused to go back into his pen and he refused to give me his bone. I think I know where the term “pig headed” came from.
This is where Wattle Hog found the bone. Notice Nikki looking a little more nervous than usual? That is her bone pile.

This is where Wattle Hog found the bone. Notice Nikki looking a little more nervous than usual? That is her bone pile.


Since I’ve been literally cooking their food, I can use kitchen waste, garden waste and that kinda stuff. I keep my eyes open for pumpkins, old bread, fruit, etc. As I was coming home from getting apples at my favorite apple farm, I spied a sign and two big pallets of FREE bread.
It was pretty awesome bread. I picked through the containers and picked out all the moldy bread to cook and use as pig food.

It was pretty awesome bread. I picked through the containers and picked out all the moldy bread to cook and use as pig food.


My little car will filled with bread. I was quite pleased with myself.

My little car will filled with bread. I was quite pleased with myself.


For some reason these pigs insist on using their bedroom as their bathroom. In all my experience with animals, I have never seen this. All my other pigs would either go outside their bedroom or have a corner of their room dedicated as the bathroom area. Even the horse have a particular corner of their pasture they do their business in. Their lack of hygiene means we have to clean their room often. And it is a nasty, bad, gross, job.
My Mom thought she was being funny taking a picture of me cleaning the pig pen in my PJ's. I have no shame - I work in an office all week where I have to wear dresses and make-up. It's my goal to look as socially unacceptable as I can during the weekend!

My Mom thought she was being funny taking a picture of me cleaning the pig pen in my PJ’s. I have no shame – I work in an office all week where I have to wear dresses and make-up. It’s my goal to look as socially unacceptable as I can during the weekend!


Granted, I did smell like a billy goat/hog after I cleaned their bedroom, but luckily, I have a secret weapon to combat pig stank.
This is the most effective soap at removing pig stank. Of course my Mom's soap is the best, but since you all don't have access to it like I do...

This is the most effective soap at removing pig stank. Of course my Mom’s soap is the best, but since you all don’t have access to it like I do…


Since we are about a month away from slaughtering these guys, I’ve been increasing the amount of almonds they are getting in their food. The extra protein has been making them gain like no one’s business, and hopefully, the nutty flavor with influence the flavor of the meat. I know in Spain they are famous for their nut finished pork. I’m so excited to see if this works!
Pig food, rolled barely, corn, bread, almonds, pumpkins, and kitchen waste all cooked together. The pigs love it.

Pig food, rolled barely, corn, bread, almonds, pumpkins, and kitchen waste all cooked together. The pigs love it.


Since it is February in Northern California and we have been having beautiful, sunny, upper 60′s days, the pigs have made themselves a mud hole.
Mud hole!!!! This is what I mean when I say "happy as pigs in shit"

Mud hole!!!! This is what I mean when I say “happy as pigs in shit”


After a nice mud bath they like to lay in the sun, they really like it when you brush them while they lay in the sun.
This is what happens when you brush them. They lay ON you, and fall asleep.

This is what happens when you brush them. They lay ON you, and fall asleep.


After mud bath sun soak.

After mud bath sun soak.

I figure we have about a month left with these guys. I’ve really enjoyed having pigs on the Ranch again. I’ve learned a lot over these past few months, and have really enjoyed my Dad’s involvement and guidance. I can’t wait to taste this pork! But I am going to admit right now, I am going to miss these guys! Especially Wattle Hog. We’ve become friends (I KNOW better), but I couldn’t help it. He’s such a character! Look forward to one more Pig Post and then another slaughter post (I wonder if the pork council is going to say something to me?).

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Brown Ranch: Pasture to Plate

I noticed in all my research on the Internets there is no comprehensive pasture to plate photo essay for consumers to see. Explorebeef.org paints a very pretty picture but it definitely has some holes in the process. I give you Brown Ranch – Pasture to Plate:

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Birth – Usually in June/July.

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They hang out with Mama and the herd until they are processed.

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Calves are processed at around 1 and a half months of age.

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They come home to the winter Ranch around 5 months old.

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They graze all winter and are weaned in the spring at about 10 months old.

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At about twenty two months old, the cattle we kept back from the commercial herd get custom exempt slaughtered here on the Ranch. The commercial cattle are sold when they  are around a year old and weigh 900 pounds. The commercial cattle will become the meat that consumers can buy from Whole Foods, Costco, Raley’s – for example. Those cattle will be processed in a facility very much like Cargill’s.

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Mr. Dewey is amazing to watch.

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A hot carcass.

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It will be taken to his meat locker where it will dry age for 18-21 days.

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After it’s aged the meat cutters will break it down into the cuts most consumers are familiar with.

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This is an art, as far as I’m concerned.

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Steaks, glorious steaks.

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The equipment used to cut and package the meat is amazing.

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Jerky in the dehydrator.

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This is the cow my Parents gave me for my 30th birthday. I made it into jerky and ground beef (and a couple of special Megan steaks).

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It says my name!

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BBQ is my favorite steak cooking method.

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Brown Ranch grass finished beef.

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No Consumers Were Harmed in the Making of This 4-H Meeting

The pictures posted below are of a 4-H meeting, we are between the ages of 13 and 16. The same processor from my previous blog is custom exempt harvesting a heifer for us. Funny story about this particular heifer – when this same group of kids came out that fall to pick up their 4-H steers, this heifer tried to kill us. It was extra funny because the boys literally ran screaming for the fence leaving me all alone to deal with “Margo”. We tease them to this day about their lack of chivalry. However I did go on to run track…. coincidence?

It’s important to note that these young kids were not adversely affected by seeing a custom exempt slaughter. If I recall, my Mom fed us all hamburgers after we watched this.  We all grew up to work in agriculture. One is a large animal veterinarian, one works in swine reproductive medicine and surgery, another is a deputy ag commissioner. And then there is me and we all know how I turned out.

Point is, if kids can handle watching a slaughter in real life, the beef industry should be able to handle a personal blog about a family run ranch.

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Mr. Dewey pointing out liver flukes.

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The organs coming out.

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More liver shots.

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