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Wordless Wednesday: The Master

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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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Blog Update

Hi. Thanks for visiting my blog. Because of the recent drama my last Wordless Wednesday post caused I wanted to give you all an update. However it takes me forever to write, because I suck at it, so you get this for now. I’m working on a longer post that will explain how this whole thing ended. Also Jenny Dewey has very graciously agreed to be a guest blogger. I’m very excited about it. Jenny is the daughter of Dave, the processor who slaughtered (I used it! ha), our beef. She has a pretty unique perspective and access to things most of us never get to see – plus she is a pretty amazing photographer.

In the meantime Andy Vance is going to interview Skype me (hello – bucket list!) (and I’m skyping! I feel like the future!). He posted an article about the blog too – http://goo.gl/H7p9n .

I’ve calmed down a lot and learned a lot from this whole thing. So I’m glad it happened. Thank you again to everyone who support me, commented, retweeted and e-mailed me. You all rock!

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Wordless Wednesday: A Beef Harvest

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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I got some feedback from the California Beef Industry that apparently my blog is offensive. To be honest I’m pretty upset about it.  Jake Dewey from Chico Locker and Sausage called me this morning to say a representative from the California Beef Council called Chico Locker to make sure they knew about it. I’m upset because the CBC couldn’t contact me directly.  I’ve known many of the people that are on that council for years.  I’m upset because I caused Chico Locker drama.  I’m upset my own industry can’t talk to me.  I’m upset they feel like we must hide a major part of our industry.

My intent with this photo essay is to share my life on a commercial cattle ranch. I feel like most of us are so far removed from our ag roots, and that makes me sad. I hope to offer a glimpse of what less than 2% of our population does for a living.  Ag is not pretty.  It is not easy. Agriculture – is dirty, hot, cold, bloody, messy, hard – I have no wish to sugar coat it for my readers.  I want to you to know what it is really like, I want to provide transparency. And I’m heartbroken my OWN industry doesn’t want me to.

That being said, this slaughter is CUSTOM EXEMPT. That means it will not be in the retail market place. This beef is for my family’s consumption and no one else’s.  The reason we choose to slaughter our beef in this fashion is that I think it is better for my animals. It’s less stressful for them.  We don’t have to take them anywhere, they can stay in the environment they are used to.  Again the health, safety and welfare of my animals in the most important thing to us – and the California Beef Council should recognize that on ranch customer harvest plays a part of that. If you look farther back in this blog you will find a prior posting (https://megraeb.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/inside-gasp-cargill/) that shows how beef that goes into the retail market is processed.

I received an e-mail from the California Beef Council after I twittered them the following:

“MegRaeB: hey did you guys have a problem with my blog yesterday? I just got a call from the Locker that you guys contacted them.”

This is the response:

Hi Megan,  I want to apologize how this has spiraled. I didn’t mean to ruffle feathers with anyone. I was forwarded your blog by another organization that saw your twitter message directing your followers to your blog about slaughter. I would like to make the point clear that we are not trying to sensor personal blogs, Twitter or Facebook messages. If that’s the way it came across, I apologize. My concern is that pictures like the ones posted would turn people away from eating beef, or meat in general. Yes, consumers are too far removed from agriculture and our practices and it’s our duty to try and connect the consumer to modern production. However, I do think there may be a better way to convey to consumers how on-farm slaughter occurs, and a better explanation of custom slaughter versus federally inspected slaughter facilities, etc. It’s also important to get the message out to the consumer that as an industry, our collective goal is to produce wholesome, safe beef using the best science and technology available. Research has shown that consumers are concerned about food safety, more than animal handling and environmental issues. The pictures are not only graphic to a consumer, but they also don’t explain the science-based practices and regulations that the industry follows – and the millions of dollars we spend each year to produce safe beef – All of these messages have proven to resonate very well with consumers. Again, I want to apologize if it looks like we have an issue with the post. I’m just concerned about the message consumers will get from the pictures. As an industry representative, I have to be prepared for any possible feedback from consumers, media or other beef producers that might read the blog. I do want to applaud your outreach efforts, I believe we need more producers like yourself doing that. Instead of taking your blog down, why don’t you add a line about “This is how we do in on-farm, to learn about federally-inspected facilities, visit explorebeef.org.”   Please call me if you want to talk about this. I don’t have your phone number. Shannon  Shannon Kelley Public Relations Coordinator

You can tell they didn’t read my blog before they e-mailed me. Bums me out. Like I said before I’ve already posted links to retail harvest, I’ve addressed the science and technology that they industry uses. You can see that sort of information of the website they recommend going to – explorebeef.org. I’m very active on both my facebook and twitter explaining modern beef practices. But how often does a consumer get to see a custom exempt harvest?  Never.  You know what? I’m not sorry I posted these pictures and I’m not changing anything. Shannon – next time we do a custom exempt harvest why don’t you come watch, come talk to me, I would love to explain to you that consumers want transparency, they don’t like it when we hide things from them. And there are many stories in agriculture – not just the shinny, pretty, edited ones on explorebeef.org.

Oh and P.S. I already had explorebeef.org linked to blog. Again might want to read a blog before you attack it. Thanks!

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Being bled out.

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Attaching her to the kill truck so he can process her.

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The skinning process.

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Removing the legs so he can hang her.

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Opening the chest so he can remove the guts.

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Notice how the carcass never touches the ground?

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The guts coming out.

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Liver flukes, a common parasite in natural and organic beef.

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Guts removed, skinning almost done.

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Sawing the beef into halves.

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Now it will be loaded into his refrigerated truck. It will be transfered into the locker where it will hang for a couple of weeks. It will then be cut, packaged and frozen.

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The skinned skull, people want them for projects and landscaping.

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UPDATE: because several people did ask for more information I’m updating this blog by adding some videos. Again if you think you are going to be upset – don’t watch.

http://youtu.be/wzIE_t8JPsg

http://youtu.be/OtIPD_6WeOc

http://youtu.be/Kl1uOnX-l5k

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