New books provide insights into humane butchering
By Audrey Alwell, MOSES
The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Adam Danforth’s two new books: Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat, and Pork and Butchering Beef, both subtitled The Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering. It could just be the people I hang around with (I work at MOSES after all), but it seems that many more of the people I know are doing their own livestock processing. Adam’s new books are sure to provide new insights for all of us about butchering and its impact on the quality of meat.
My husband and I raise and process our own chickens. We each have specific duties. My smaller hands fit better inside a bird’s body cavity. So I get the task of cleaning out the birds while the task of killing them falls to my husband—it’s the most logical division of labor, really. Okay, I can be squeamish about blood.
So when I saw the subtitle “Photographic Guide” on Adam’s books, I was a little hesitant to flip them open. When I did, though, I found beautiful photographs of animals on the farm, Adam working through various stages of the butchering process, and cuts of meat on incredibly clean butcher block—barely any blood at all. In fact, the photographs seem more like those you’d find in a gourmet cookbook.
Both books treat the subject of butchering with such care, and provide such detailed reasons for doing things in one way versus another, that they are fascinating to read.
Temple Grandin, well-known author and authority on humane livestock handling, has written the foreword for the beef book. Her reminder that “every time we kill an animal it is our responsibility to provide a humane and painless death,” is echoed in the thoughtfulness of Adam’s writing in both books. Joel Salatin, farmer, author, and a frequent voice of the sustainable food movement, has written the foreword for the poultry, rabbit, lamb, etc., book. Joel calls the book “a recipe for self-reliance,” and “another indication that the burgeoning local food tsunami continues to gain strength.”
Adam’s books do make you feel like you can raise and process your own livestock, and do it thoughtfully and skillfully.
“Everything you need to know in order to successfully—and respectfully—slaughter the most common species found on a farm is contained in these pages,” Adam writes in the introduction to each book. He’s not exaggerating. He covers everything step by step from getting the animals ready for slaughter to packaging the meat so that it keeps well in the freezer. Throughout, he includes insights about the best tools for each step and explains the whys and hows of food safety.
He also delves into the science behind his recommendations, explaining the physical and chemical changes that happen to meat during processing, and how those factors influence the texture and flavor of the final product. He uses textbook-like diagrams of muscles to illustrate his points. His explanation of rigor mortis, cold shortening and thaw shortening definitely will change the way we process chickens at home. In fact, the timing is perfect—we’ll be culling two roosters over the weekend.
The publishing date for these books coincides with the MOSES Organic Farming Conference where Adam will present a workshop titled “Deliciousness: The Science of Meat Flavor.” He’ll explain the factors that affect meat, including processing, handling and cooking.
Audrey Alwell is the Communications Director for MOSES, and Managing Editor of the Organic Broadcaster.
January | February 2014