Hello again outdoors world! Thanks for stopping! For the past 20+ years of my life, I have made restaurants my career. I have worked as a head chef in a few high end restaurants and have gained a high respect for the foods I put in my body. There is nothing that echoes this sentiment more than the wild game I take from the field. From the rabbits, the turkeys, pheasants and deer, it all makes for some very spiritual meals. Now being a chef I have learned how to butcher my own prime cuts of meat, subsequently, from a young age have been processing all my own harvests.
There are many that believe that this is too skilled of an operation for them, or they do not have the space to do it. A simple set of tools and a workspace, heck a kitchen table would be enough, is all it takes. There are many YOUTUBE videos available on the subject and in no time you can be cutting like a pro. And if you still do not buy into it, think about these other reasons.
Who does not want to save money?
When I last had a deer butchered for me, a little over 12 years ago, I paid the butcher I, I think, about $90. I had one butchered for me this year, because I wanted a certain cut I could not do with my knife and saw, and it ran me $165! I can think of some better places to put that kind of money than into meat I already paid dearly for in the form of hunting related costs like gas, bullets, clothing, anti scent soap, etc.. That is money that could be used for new Rapalas in the spring! So keep your money, and butcher your own.
#2 Who Touched Your Meat?
Now get your mind out of the gutter on this one. But seriously, who touched your meat? How well do you know that guy that was hired by the butcher shop to cut up your precious venison?[Tweet “How well do you know the guy at the butcher shop cutting up your venison? via @jimwilles”] When it comes to my food I will admit I am kind of a germophobe. I am very particular about how my food is handled. I feel better just knowing that the sacred flesh, off of the sacred animal that gave its life, is treated as such. I do not know if Jerry back in the butcher shop has some scabs on some unwashed nether region that he was picking at while cutting my roasts. I am not knocking butcher shops, 99% are great and do a good job, I just like to know for sure.
#3 What is in your meat?
[Tweet “Most people out there have a professional cut their deer. via @jimwilles”]Most people out there have a professional cut their deer. If you are one of these “most people”, you have heard this question before, “would you like pork ground with your burger?” My answer is always no. I love my venison and I like the taste. I know it is a lean meat and pork adds needed fat to improve its flavor, I would rather have it untainted. A lot of you like it, but think of it this way, what pork did they put in it? Normally it is not prime cuts of pork. It is usually trim that was of lesser quality. Now, by learning how to grind your own meat, you can use what ever cuts of pork in it as you want. Try uncooked bacon, it is awesome! You know the quality of everything that went into your meat. Never settle for second best on something you put the most into.
#4 No Wait
Who wants to wait to have a big juicy back strap, cooked to medium rare perfection, and slathered with butter, garlic, and onions? When I was younger, before learning how to do it myself, I remember taking quite a few deer to my local butcher. It was always more than a month before I could enjoy a thick cut of round steak. If your learn to do it yourself, you can sit down to one of the freshest, best tasting cuts of delectability you ever had, tonight! Waiting a month or more to chow down is no fun. At my house, the backstraps never get a chance to cool before hitting the cast iron pan. You will never have a better tasting piece of venison, as one where the deer it came from does not even have rigor mortis yet.
Let me explain something, freezing meat is bad! You cause ice crystals to form in the meat. When the meat thaws, so does the ice. This melted ice crystals is what creates the puddle of bloody water in the bottom of the plate you are thawing it on. It is not really bloody water. The water part is moisture that frozen in the meat and melted, causing the meat to be dry. The bloody look to it is proteins and other nutrients essential to the meats flavor, gone with the moisture, leaving you with dry, flavorless meat. Fresh, unfrozen meat never loses that and makes for a much more flavorful meat. Unless otherwise told, butcher shops usually flash freeze all the meat. While I am sure most of it will get frozen right away anyway, for storage reasons, and that is fine for burger or roasts, but at least you can enjoy the prime cuts such as the back straps and tenderloins as the rightfully should. Oh yeah and do not forget the heart and liver from your gut pile!
#6 You Can Use More of the Animal
So you got all of the meat possible off of your animal right? Are you sure? Just checking, you never know, there are some shady people out there. Anyway, let us assume your butcher is legit and you got 100% of your meat. Do you ever ask for your bones back? Well you should! Sound weird? Well not really. The bones and the marrow they hold in them makes for a phenomenal stock or broth. Take your rib and leg bones, roast them off then boil them with carrots, celery, and onion and you have an awesome soup stock you can strain out and freeze. No more looking for beef stock for that venison stew. If you have a deer with a good fat layer covering it’s back, cut off chunks for your birds through the winter. Birds love to eat the fat. It is a high energy food source for them in the dead of winter. You can even cook it down and make suet cakes. When you look at your animal you should see the whole thing rather than just the backstraps. If you cut up your own you have no problems in saving these unthought-of of tidbits.
Now I know a lot of you do not have the means to do your own. Whether it is because you can not physically do it, you do not have a space so you can do it, or your are one of those people that should never, under any circumstances, handle a knife (in which case why are you hunting?), there are many reasons why people pay businesses to do it for them.
I would never look down on a person who chooses not to do their own butchering, but look at all the upsides. In my house, it is a neighborhood affair when I do mine. I could go on for days on why I think it is better to do my own, but for your sake I will not. I just hope that if you have the ability and means, that you give butchering your own game a chance. You may find it worth you while.
Jay Stover from Twitter added a 7th reason: your whole family can join in the process. It could be a learning experience for some of your family members while enjoying quality family time.