At dusk last night, a coyote family was yipping in a big pack, deep in the woods. Our dogs ran over there barking, and then have continued to bark all night long. Little Blue is still way over there from the sound of his echo as he let’s those coyotes know they are not welcome in these parts. because of the barking, I’ve been up since 2am catching up this blog to my wordpress site.And it’s finally done!
First- check out the progress on our “farmer barn!” Andrew and his dad are rocking it!!
I’ve had a bunch of vegans join my Tumblr, so i want to be clear. I am on your side. I am vegan except if I raised it myself. I am providing an alternative to factory farm meat as a small-scale Compassionate Carnivore farmer. Please respect me and I respect you.
The pig and calf harvest went perfectly smooth and peacefully on Thursday. That morning, we were extremely anxious waiting to hear the ETA from our on-farm slaughterer. I felt all jittery and nervous, sad, ethically challenged, already mourning the change about to come, but finding comfort in their absolute lack of knowledge of what was to come. Three of our biggest pigs were brought into a fresh grassy paddock in the morning, they were elated to turn the roots over and lay in the shade on the cool grass. The evening before, I hung out with the calves, rubbing their chins as they used my back to rub their big heads.They were starting to grow horns and get a bit rowdy and bull-ish (riding and humping each other), so we knew it was time before they might become dangerous with their hormones and heft.
Mike arrived right after I finished chores at 3:45, and with three shots, the three pigs were instantly dead. Immediate and unknown death is what I think we all hope for. Mike’s wife Jen, his youngest son, and nephew Steve were there to help. We’re so grateful for his skills and for their friendship. He used a hoist to skin and gut the pigs as they transformed into pork. We chatted about labeling regulations, how to deal with the various inspectors, the co-ops and whether he could get his braunschweiger into that market, his latest awards for the jerky he specializes in. I collected the enormous livers, hearts and skinned heads. The sun was hot, but there was a slight breeze and occasional clouds drifting across the sky.
Then we headed over to the calves. My father-in-law helped brace me, I clutched his arm as we watched. I didn’t know if the calf harvest would be any different, but with two perfectly aimed shots, the two biggest calves were instantly down. After a few minutes, the electrical impulses left the bodies and they lay still on the grass. From days-old babies coming home in the back of the Subaru, to nearly 300 pound young cattle. They grew so much in just 3 months! I collected the livers, hearts, tongues and kidneys. Jen told Mike to cut out the skirt steaks for us, I didn’t know this but skirt steak is the diaphragm; the muscle that pushes air in and out of the lungs. I marveled at the deep red color; this is not like the veal meat color I’d seen. She told me I should probably remove the fascia and silver skin covering the thin strip of muscle and then google a recipe. I don’t think they are really used to cooking unusual cuts. I found a recipe on the Art of Manliness website – a balsamic and garlic marinated grilled skirt steak served with a warm greek-inspired pasta salad. Andrew had to go pick up our organic grain order before dark, and I prepared the meal. This would be our first taste of pastured veal, and I have really been anticipating it from the beginning of this experiment.
After cleaning off the fascia and silver skin as best I could, there was maybe a pound of meat, and interestingly, it really smelled like BEEF. I was elated! There was this little bit of worry in the back of my mind that veal would be like rabbit, and thankfully that’s not how it was looking! I drizzled a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the strips, with some salt, fresh pepper and chopped garlic, then massaged it all together and let it sit for an hour as I went to the garden to collect herbs and couple veggies for the pasta.
Andrew arrived back home, my father-in-law came over from his camper, and I heated the cast iron skillet to medium high. Once it was hot, I laid the strips carefully on the oiled surface and let them sear. When there was a nice crisp on the bottom, I flipped them over and turned down the heat, to let them slowly finish cooking. The smell was heavenly, and we dished up the pasta and waited. I divvyed up the strips between the three of us. Skirt steak from a calf is pretty small, not like a big steak. But as we tucked into our plates, a communal sigh rose from the table, our eyes rolling back into our heads with the pleasure of a perfect bite. This pastured veal skirt steak was beefy, it was tender, it was succulent, it was DIVINE! And this was just the diaphragm!
I looked at both of them and said that this felt like my second “Duck Egg Moment-” meaning, pastured veal is seriously something I want to grow the market for. It only makes sense as Wisconsin is the dairy state, and these bull calves are the by-product of dairy production. If we can give them a happy life outdoors, on pasture, and then they can provide amazing meat? Sounds like a no-brainer.
There is more harvesting coming up. We have a group of 75 broiler chickens to process towards the end of the month when they are about 11 weeks old. A side note- people get all weird about veal because it’s a “baby” cow, but I want to point out that almost all the chicken meat in the store came from even more of a “baby” than the 3 month old calves we harvested. The majority of chickens are harvested when just 6 weeks old. That’s not even 2 months old. Don’t even get me started on how most meat is raised.
Later today we are planning to harvest our own calf ourselves, as we can’t afford to have Mike process our own meat (his skills are worth every penny for the meat we sell to others). I enjoy butchery, but am a bit nervous to be doing the kill/gut/skin ourselves. Andrew is a very good shot though, so after seeing how Mike did it, I feel confident we can do this humanely.
What a pleasure and joy the calves have been to raise, and now that I know just how delicious they are, I am getting the business plans rolling for next year.
Harvesting our own Veal – Cutlet