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Podcast 260 – Homestead Butchering Q&A

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Credit: Mike Ewing

In this podcast, Paul interviews Brandon Sheard the Farmstead Meatsmith on homestead butchering, taking his questions from those posted by Permies.com readers in this thread. The interview is conducted over Skype, leading to some audio problems at Brandon's end unfortunately.

Paul starts by thanking Brandon for allowing him to publish Brandon's videos on his YouTube channel and mentions Brandon's ongoing Kickstarter to fund a butcher shop/classroom/film studio and slaughter truck. Paul points out that this thread also contains a link to Brandon's Kickstarter plus all his videos and some cool pics

Here is a list of the questions that were asked and answered in the podcast. It serves as a good summary of what the podcast covers.

Question From Chad Ellis:
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.

Questions from Justin Koenig:
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.

Question from Kerry Rogers:
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? 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?

Question from Cory Berkey:
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?

Question from Dave Hartman:
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?

Questions from Jacob Wustner:
Has Brandon ever experimented with using only honey in the curing processes and eliminated the use of cane sugar?

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.

Questions from Steven Bublitz:
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?

How do you suggest a person start learning about meatsmithing? Do you have book or other resource recommendations?

Have you had any regulatory pressures from the "department of making you sad"? How did you circumvent or resolve those issues?

Where do you get your knives and what do you do to maintain them yourself? How'd you learn that skill?

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?

Towards the end of the podcast Brandon mentions of CarterCutlery.com, which sells a DVD on sharpening that he highly recommends.

Paul wrapped up by mentioning that he and Brandon have discussed Brandon going to Montana to do a workshop. If this happens, it is likely to sell out fast, so move quickly when the announcement comes. Brandon commented that any workshop will be a very hands-on since he thinks that is the only way to learn this skill. People should sign up for Paul's daily-ish email if they want to know when the workshop will be.

You can discuss this podcast on this thread at Permies.

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