As preppers, making sure that there is plenty of food on hand is always on our minds. One way to be sure that you get enough meat is to go hunting. Hunting should be done when in season and with the proper permits. Processing your kill is part of hunting, whether you pay to have it done or you do it yourself. When SHTF, you will definitely need to know how to do the processing yourself.
Most animals that you will butcher have a fat layer, as well as layers of silverskin that protect the muscles. You will want to remove the silverskin the best you can, as it is tough and does not leave a good flavor. The fats depend on the type of animal, but I always try to remove as much as possible.
As with any home butchering, you will need the same equipment for about every animal:
- A method to hang the animal
- A very sharp skinning knife
- A knife sharpener- whichever type you prefer
- Loppers to make small joint cuts
- Plenty of clean water for washing
- Pans and/or buckets to hold meat cuts
- Assorted knives for cutting meat
- Storage containers or items such as freezer bags
- A hacksaw for the larger bones
When processing your deer, start by removing the front legs. Remove the leg below the knee by cutting it off; there isn’t any meat in this part. Now grab the shank and pull it slightly away from the body. Start slicing with your knife to remove the foreleg. The meat from the front legs and shoulder can be used as roast or deer steaks. The shank is full of connective tissue and can be used in grind.
Then remove the neck meat, brisket and flank; these are good for scrap to grind or cube up for stew meat. Next, cut out the loin and back straps. These are some of the most tender and best cuts of meat on the deer.
Make two long cuts from the rump to the base of the neck, being sure to get all of the meat that you can. There will be two long back straps to cut and an inner loin that you will want to be sure to get.
The hind legs should be removed and the shank used for stew meat. The top round and bottom round will have silverskin between the layers of the meat. These cuts should be separated. Cut them off the bone. These are also excellent cuts of meat for roast. The ribs can provide a rack of ribs or spare ribs, or you can scrape the meat from the ribs and use that for grind also. You can use ground deer meat in place of any burger.
When processing elk, it is about the same as a deer. The difference is mostly size and the amount of meat you get, being the elk is more. The cuts of meat from the elk are the same, with the exception of meat from the breast and plate.
The breast is included in the brisket, which is a meat that is flavorful but needs slow cooking. The plate is below the ribs and behind the brisket. This cut of meat is fatty and has cartilage, so it is a more coarse cut of meat and needs to be cut against the grain. Otherwise, you will process the elk the same as the venison.
After your rabbit has been culled, skinned and gutted, then you will want to remove the silverskin covering the meat. You can do this all at once, or you can do separate cuts of meat. Removing the silverskin is a delicate process, as you want to be careful not to cut the meat.
To remove the forefeet, find the joints and snip them off as they are small and it will cut easily with the shears. Next, cut around the shoulder until you remove the forelegs. There is meat in the forelegs, you will more than likely leave the bone in.
Loosen the hind legs so that you can lay the rabbit open for easier butchering. Remove the flap of meat from the sides of the belly, this can be used for bacon.
Next, go to the hind legs. The hind legs are the biggest meat section on a rabbit. Start on the underside of the hind leg and slice along the pelvic bone to the ball and socket joint. Firmly grip an end and bend the leg backward to pop the joint out of place. Finish cutting around until the leg is removed.
There is not much meat on the ribs, so you can throw them into the stockpot for use. The ribs are an obvious cut, snip them along the bone just where the loin meat starts. Now the meat rabbit is bred for a long saddle, so there will be plenty of meat in the loin. You will want to cut the loin into serving sizes.
The hip will be worked with the pelvis cut. The rump has some cuts of meat that can be used for stew. The pelvis is good for throwing in the stock pot too.
With the sheer size of a bear you will want to butcher it by quartering it up. The bear should be cut in half down the backbone. Then take the half and cut it behind the ribs to have a forequarter and a hindquarter. You will want to remove as much fat as you can before you start processing your bear.
Take the foreleg of the carcass and pull it away from the ribs to locate the joint that connects it to the chest. Cut the joint and remove the leg. Do this on both sides. The neck meat has lots of bones, so it’s difficult to get the meat. Your best option is to use it for grinds.
The brisket is flavorful and cut from the chest. The chuck and shoulder can be used for roasts, or stew meats. Leave the trimmings for ground bear. The upper ribs can be cut into steaks or roasts by removing the bone, and the short ribs can be left as – well- short ribs.
The hindquarter is where you will cut your loins from. To do this, you will first need to remove the belly meat, which is the plate and the flank. These cuts can be used as bacon, if there is enough fat trimmings and if not, you can use it for stews or grinding.
The loin is easy to cut out, as you follow the lines down the backbone and cut it out. It can be left whole, or cut into steaks or roasts. The sirloin is behind that and can be cut into strips for meals or kabobs, or can be left as a roast.
Now the rump is the top of the hip, while the round is more the thigh area. These two cuts of meat are separated by a definite natural seam between them. They can be portioned into desired servings for your family for a roast. Remove the hind leg by pulling it away from the body, and cutting until you come to the joint. Then saw the joint in half.
The shank of all of the legs are flavorful and can be used as soup bones, to flavor soups or stews. You can also remove the bone and grind the bits of meat. I have never butchered a bear, but my brother went on a hunt and brought back some burger. It was very tasty!
The hog should be halved to make butchering easier. Cut with a saw down the center of the backbone. Be sure to split the breast bone too. From there you can quarter the hog, or butcher it halved.
The cheeks of the hog are where the jowl meat comes from. The jowl has several uses, from being enjoyed as bacon to flavoring beans. The loin is located along the back and you will want to carefully remove it, follow the loin to the rump of the pig to be sure to get it all.
Starting at the front, the legs produce the blade and arm shoulder. From these cuts come shoulder steaks and roasts.
Under the loin is where you will find the ribs. The ribs can be cut into smaller portions, or left whole as a rack of ribs. Rib chops can be cut here from leaving a piece of rib bone in it.
The belly is where you get your bacon meat from. The leg is the hip of the hog and you can cut pork chops and roasts. The ham is below the leg of the pig and you can cut out some spare ribs from the end of that cut. The whole ham also comes from this cut, and you can choose to leave it bone-in or boneless.
Be sure to use all of the bits of meat to grind into sausage.
The hock is the knuckle part of the leg. It tastes good smoked and can be used for flavoring soup beans.
Now, some think that a tree jumping squirrel doesn’t provide enough meat to mess with, but I disagree, especially if you take your bag limit. There are a lot of different meals you can make with squirrel.
After you skin, gut, and wash your squirrel, you will want to cut it up into different sections. The sections that you get from a squirrel are the front quarter, saddle (back strap), belly, and hind quarter.
Start with the meatier parts of the squirrel and remove the legs. Remove the hind leg by bending it backwards and breaking the hip joint. Now cut any remaining tissue and you have two meaty little drumettes.
Next, remove the front legs. This is done by cutting down the outside of the rib cage, around the shoulder and toward the neck. You need to break the collarbone, as this is where the front leg is attached. Then it should come right off.
The saddle is meaty and can be done in one or two sections, depending on the size of your squirrel. Cut down the back bone and feel where the meat lessens at the ribs. This is where you get the back strap.
The belly has a couple of little meaty flaps, that can be removed. Cut them off the end of the ribs and towards the hip section. The ribs provide some meat. I find it difficult to debone the ribs, so I usually boil them on the bone for stock.
I have never butchered or eaten an opossum, but after looking into this and talking to my uncle I am slightly intrigued. To process your opossum, you can hang it or leave it laid.
The rump and loin is where you will find most of your meat. You may want to skip on the liver, in case the animal has consumed something poisonous. If you have a plump opossum, you can probably get some cuts from the front leg and shoulder region.
Cut through the backbone and behind the ribs. Keep the back half for your meat and discard the rest. You can take the meat and slice it in thin strips for jerky or stew. They say that if the meat is thick, it will be tough.
I always try to use all parts of the animal, or as much of it as possible. When I have parts that I can’t use, I make sure to discard them properly. I use some of the bones and scraps of meat as treats for my dogs.
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