Thanks for checking us out as we continue to build our skills on our journey towards self-sufficiency in food processing! We have always processed our wild game, deer, ducks, geese, rabbits and squirrel as well handling all our own fish filleting. My wife and daughter are normally the ones who cut fish, ranging from tuna fish to white perch and everything in between. On farm butchering is a relatively new skill for us, but we are having fun learning. Our goal is to have as much fun as possible while provide practical information and maybe some bloopers for those interested in wild game processing, fish filleting, and on-farm butchering. We’ll share our experiences, failures, tips, and tricks, as well as recommendations for tools and equipment that have helped us in our journey.
Wild Game Processing
Self-sufficiency, economics and recreation. The three main reasons we pay attention to how we go about wild game processing. We don’t kill anything we are not going to eat with the exception of groundhogs and mice. With that said it is very important to us to be proficient and respectful at processing our harvest.
Wild Game Processing for Self-Sufficiency
We want to reduce our dependence on commercial sources of food. In order to effectively do that we need to be able to break down a deer, clean waterfowl, skin squirrels and rabbits. Do we consider dropping a deer off at a butcher as a commercial enterprise, yes. Do we do it, yes absolutely. We have not yet mastered the Jalapeno Cheese Snack Sticks from Mark’s Meats yet. But give it time. The Plandemic hit us all in the face like a 2X4 with how fragile our food chain really is. Which is precisely why wild game processing is a skill that we are happy to possess.
Economics and Wild Game Processing
The debate on cost between wild game vs store bought meat does lean towards the grocery store. If our goal was to buy cheap, antibiotic dense, growth hormone laden and nutrient deficient meat, then yes the grocery store is probably cheaper. We are going to harvest wild game each season regardless so for certain things it is far cheaper to process ourselves. Venison burger is a great example. Cut off the backstraps and grind up the rest. We will use pork fat collected from our hogs.
Processing Your Own Harvest is Fun?
Some folks won’t agree, but we love doing our own wild game processing. There is just something about closing the loop. Don’t get me wrong, looking at a pile of 20 early season geese might allow some negative thoughts to creep in. We do love working on different methods, recipes and ways of preserving our wild game harvests.
Wild Game Processing Articles
If you don’t do it, who is going to do your fish fileting? Great question coming from a guy who’s wife and youngest daughter won’t let him cut fish. I am banished to trimming bloodlines. But seriously, this is a necessary skill to have for self sufficiency. This was certainly true around us during WuFlu shutdowns. I believe the verbiage was we were allowed (laughable they were allowing us our freedom) to “fish for sustenance.” Ok, now back on track. Basically, you only need a couple things to be good at fish fileting. The right equipment, fish (lol), practice / patience and perhaps a way to deal with “these damn flies.”
Important Note: You need to care for your catch while on the boat. We bleed all our fish right after they are caught. Sometimes that means cutting the gills or with tuna cutting behind the pectoral fin. Then get them on ice.
Fish Filleting Equipment
Fillet Knives: You have tapered, high flex, regular flex, 6 inch, 9 inch, boning, electric and on and on. Boils down to what fish you are cutting, flexibility, and sharpness. Actually, fish filleting really comes down to having a sharp knife. Sometimes you may choose a combination of knives. When we cut tuna, we use a stiff knife and flexibles. Stiff gets the loins off then flex takes the skin while another smaller flexible knife cuts the bloodline. With Sea Bass and White Perch we usually use electric knives and small flexible knives.
Fish Filleting Cutting Board: I love wood cutting boards, but with fish we are all plastic. High-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) to be more specific. Sometimes we will just use old plastic folding tables. When using those, we don’t put down a cutting board. That is their sole use and gets bleached after use. Just remember, always keep your cutting board wet when you are in fish filleting mode.
Fish Filleting Table: Being Sasquatch Tall, I like a high stainless steel table to work off. Otherwise my back starts aching from bending over. Lots of times marinas will have these when they don’t have a cutting business on site. At home, these are portable and some have sinks. FB Marketplace is a great place to find used tables like these.
Fish Filleting Articles
On Farm Butchering
How hard can the transition from processing wild game into on farm butchering? Well, not too hard skill wise, but the volume requires an entire different approach where efficiency really matters. This is especially true when you are going to be selling these animals. It is always important to us that we honor the animals and use every bit of meat possible.
On Farm Butchering Tools and Equipment
Before we dive into the different animals and their specific butchering processes, let’s discuss a couple essential tools and equipment needed for on farm butchering.
Sharp Knives: Anytime we are skinning or cutting meat maybe the most important equipment is our knives. Knife quality may be less important than sharpness but investing in high-quality knives is not a bad idea. Probably a good idea to have a breaking knife, boning knives, butcher knife and a honing rod.
Meat Saw: A handheld or electric meat saw will be needed at times to help break down larger animals as well as making specific cuts of meat easier.
Chicken Plucker: I don’t know about you, but with minimum batches of 25 chickens I am not hand plucking birds. These devices add so much efficiency to butcher day. Plus they are easy to operate.
Scalders: Commercially produced or DIY you are going to need scalders for birds and pigs when it comes to on farm butchering. Commercial vs DIY is based on the volume of butchering. Chickens for us are probably commercially produced. Hogs will lean towards DIY scalders since we’ll skin if we are not butchering roasting pigs. Scalders also allow for shrink bags around chickens.
Meat Grinder: An electric meat grinder is essential. In order to make sausage you need ground pork. Using electric grinders is definitely helpful if you are making hamburger with multiple grinds.
Sausage Stuffer: Sausage and snack sticks are a must with pork. It’s almost as important as bacon, yea yeah… I said almost. A powered sausage stuffer is a must, manually operated takes forever.
Scales: Getting accurate weights is not a bad idea. Will let you track feed to meat numbers. Plus measuring out ground meat or fat is needed to get your mixtures right. Then of course weighting out portions for storage requires a meat scale.
Freezer Paper & Labels: Wrapping in freezer paper can help reduce the dreaded freezer burn. Labels are important so we know what cuts and how long they have been in storage.
Vacuum Sealer: One of the best ways to store cut meat or processed meat products is to suck all the air out and seal with a vacuum sealer. The combination of freezer paper and a vacuum sealer on portioned meat cuts helps hold the meat quality while in the freezer.
Chickens like ducks, geese and turkey are some of the easiest animals when it comes to farm butchering. You can do relatively decent size batches in one or two days. It’s a simple process. Dispatch, scald, pluck, eviscerate, piece out or keep whole, cool and store. Great post on How to Butcher Chickens [https://melissaknorris.com/podcast/how-to-butcher-chickens-part-2-of-raising-meat-chickens/]
On farm butchering of pigs requires more time and effort. First, you need to quickly dispatch the pig with a .22 caliber rifle. Then it needs to be scalded and scraped or skinned. Eviscerate the pig and split the carcass in half. Separate out the primal cuts and then breakdown further from there.
Rabbit butchering is pretty simple. First, humanely dispatch the rabbit by using a killing cone. Next, hang the rabbit by its hind legs, and remove the head and hide. Remove the organs and breakdown into individual cuts.
Turkey butchering is similar to chicken butchering but requires some bigger muscles due to the larger size. Make sure your killing cone is large enough to handle turkey. Scald the bird the same as a chicken and depending on the size of the bird and your plucker… drop it in the plucker. Otherwise, get to hand plucking. Eviscerating is slightly easier due to the larger cavity. Breakdown into smaller cuts.