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Preventing butcher shop thievery.

Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5222
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
  I seldom speak to anyone who has taken sheep or cattle to the abattoir who doesn't complain of receiving less than all of the meat. Many have also claimed to get back five-year-old mutton when they brought in a young lamb. I've met one employee who said they participated in this sort of thing but he says it was years ago and was unwilling to reveal further information since it was a relative.

     Is this practice common within the butchering business or is it unique to small markets where unsophisticated clients bring their animals to the only available guy?

    Is there some way to mark the meat in a manner that would deter this?

    Does anyone have other ideas about what is being done or might be done to avoid being ripped off. Obviously the whole get a good butcher thing would work, but it may be necessary to work with a less than honest butcher. How would you keep them honest?

    I was thinking that the animal could be simply quartered but that defeats some of the purpose of taking them in.

            Thank you: Dale Hodgins, someone with a very suspicious nature.

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Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
Part of the job is to dispatch the animal.  This makes marking the meat with a food dye impossible.  The next best thing is to observe the process.  If you can stomach the process, there is less need for a butcher in the first place.  The last line of defense is DNA testing of your meat when received.  It won't get your meat back and the locale will have 1 less butcher.

There was a scandal some years ago just south of here.  A big game ranch had a big money guest hunter from the big city stay for a few days.  They chained a big deer to a tree, the hunter shot at it a few times, then the ranch had the meat cut and wrapped while serving the hunter his favorite bourbon.  When the city hunter got home, he found a cooler full of ground beef.  Turns out the big money guest was an attorney. 

Look to the butcher with a good reputation and years of experience.  As with all things, ask around, do your homework.

Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 6944
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
We noticed a distinct improvement in both the amount and quality of our meat when we were in the UK and started dropping off our lambs at a local friendly sheep-farmer rather than the abattoir. 

These days I can butcher my own poultry (though killiing ducks seems to a lot harder than chickens!) but am no-where near ready to tackle a sheep.  When we start with sheep again, I think I'm going to search out a local hunter to shoot them for me and work on the assumption that if faced with a whole sheep I'll figure out how to 'do something' with it... 

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Jay Hatfield

Joined: Nov 09, 2011
Posts: 11
I butcher all my own meat, always have. Its not for everybody though. But it does eliminate any thievery.

I don't know about where you are but up here if I can't do the butchering. I use a amish or mininite shop. They are so clean in the slaughter house you can eat off the floor. You can look around to see if there is one in your area. Hope that helps.

One of the real Hatfield's on here, and a direct descendant of Devil Ance Hatfield.
Brice Moss

Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
Jay Hatfield wrote:
. I use a amish or mininite shop.

Thats brilliant in a lot of ways Amish shops get a religious exemption on some of the requirements most commercial butchers have to follow too.

Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Some places you can find a butcher who will come out to your place and do the basics..kill and gut if you have somewhere to hang the carcass Front end loaders can be used for this. Then you have to do the cutting up and so forth but since it's often the killing part that people find difficult that works for them. The butcher here charges $10- $25 + mileage for this. He has no facilities at the shop for killing animals. I have heard of butchers who make some sort of a living with a mobile butcher shop as anyone can butcher their own animals (so far) so they can hire someone to do it for them. Government regulations which were appropriate for industrial operations were not scaled down to make sense for small local guys so lots and lots have been forced out of business.

I've never had problems with small local butchers; they were usually very careful as they don't want to lose customers. The bigger ones that we had to start using when government regs forced the small guys out of business, I almost always saw loss. Not sure if it was always intentional, or simply that they didn't keep track of what belonged to who. OTOH, some people scream that the animal weighed x so they should get x back in meat, as they don't understand there is a good deal of loss with such things as heads, entrails, feet, hide etc. I have heard of people hanging around when they take an animal in and then inking the carcass when it is hung to age, then coming back and helping cut/wrap when the time comes; some butcher shops won't allow this because of insurance concerns but it might be an option to explore. It's not amusing to get back a whole lot of ground beef and no steaks and get told that someone put everything into ground beef because they thought you were going to make sausages.
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5222
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
Pam as I recall you mentioned yellow point on Vancouver Island in a previous posting. Around there everyone agrees that Mr. Schwab was the hardest working guy and most honest butcher around. I recycled his house 16 years ago when the new bridge was built over the Nanaimo River and it was expropriated. My family lived in it for 14 years. So I know there are good butchers out there, we just need to find ways to keep the others honest.
Fred Morgan

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 975
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
Burra Maluca wrote:We noticed a distinct improvement in both the amount and quality of our meat when we were in the UK and started dropping off our lambs at a local friendly sheep-farmer rather than the abattoir. 

These days I can butcher my own poultry (though killiing ducks seems to a lot harder than chickens!) but am no-where near ready to tackle a sheep.  When we start with sheep again, I think I'm going to search out a local hunter to shoot them for me and work on the assumption that if faced with a whole sheep I'll figure out how to 'do something' with it... 

Doing in a sheep is pretty easy - and so is butchering one. Easier than a deer. We do them all the time.

One thing we do with chickens, since we don't eat the skins, is skin them, so in that way, no feathers to deal with.

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Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Taking this OT, but the abattoir thing drives me nuts.
With very few exceptions, meat for sale MUST be processed in an abattoir here, but sometimes sending stock to an abattoir's just not feasable.
I know people with an organic property in the 'middle of nowhere' and in order to get animals killed in an abattoir, they'd need to hire a truck specially, as it's dairy country, and send the animals hundreds of miles, then truck the meat back again. There's no way their going to send their beautiful animals on a miserable death-trip.
But it's a bit of a catch-22, as there's all sorts of laws here regarding 'home kill' and the meat can pretty much only be eaten by the family, on the property it comes from if you're not breaking the law.
So a local guy shoots them, the home-kill butcher processes the carcasses and it goes in the freezers for, um, 'immediate-family-only-on-farm-only' eating
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1888
Location: PNW Oregon
Any of your self-butchers out there want to take some pictures and post basic step by step on a particular animal? This would be sweet!


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Isn't it bizarre, when you think it's perfectly legal for people to hunt and dress the meat in the middle of the bush on the ground and then truck it however many miles before it ever sees a refrigerator? And NEVER sees an inspector, or the least sniff of stainless steel? I'm not suggesting that animals would be better handled being butchered among the salal and woodland duff but there is a point of ludicrousness which has been crossed here.

I worked for an outfitter once who always saved the meat because usually the hunters only wanted the horns or heads or whatever;or perhaps couldn't take it across the border. He froze it and brought it out to camps where it was used to feed the trail riding campers. Fabulous elk meat. such a disappointment when it ran out and we were back to beef. But..totally illegal because it hadn't been "inspected". Come to think of it..no fridge or running water out in those camps either..water came from the river and the fridge was a totally non tech evaporative deal, no electricity for 100 miles and no propane either. Nobody ever got sick.

Because people have stainless steel tables doesn't mean they are clean, or the people working on them are clean. Inspectors can't possibly even start to keep up inspecting every carcass that comes through in industrial production lines. Also, some people have reported that inspectors phoned ahead to warn of an upcoming inspection! Now it seems that in the States, small producers have to be able to track every chicken although the BIG guys don't, one tag can cover a day's batch of chickens. Yet which is more likely to have a sick chicken? Easy to prove; look at what happened with avian flu; it started with a massive number of chickens packed together and spread in those same conditions.

It's those huge mechanized processing abbatoirs that send salmonella and such into the public. By forcing people to use the big abbatoirs they are actually increasing the likelihood of a problem. Also, the workers are so rushed that accidents happen frequently; most people who have worked in such places have horror stories. It's an inhumane system for animals and people but it makes lots of money for a few big companies.
Walter Jeffries

Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 972
We take pigs to butcher weekly. We've worked with a number of butchers. Three of them have been very honest. Three have been iffy. Three have been outright thieves. The problem is there are too few butchers, they're too far apart and they have a monopoly. One of the thieving butchers stole an average of $114 PER PIG from us in meat. Not per week, not per year, but PER PIG. When confronted he just shrugged. Problem was he was the best of the three bad ones. We put up with it for a long time. Finally a new butcher opened up. They were seven hours round trip for us. We tried them. They do a much better job cutting and we get all of our meat back, all our meat back. It's worth the extra drive.

So how do I know I'm missing meat? Because I cut meat. In fact, I spent 18 months apprenticing to know how to cut. Why? Because we're opening our own on-farm USDA/State inspected butcher shop (soon!) so that we can have control over this issue.

So, take to a butcher. Reassemble your animal. Learn the cuts. If you find a good butcher then cherish them. Go out of your way to make it work because they're few and far between. Good, honest butchers do exist.


Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
Nicolai Barca

Joined: Dec 16, 2011
Posts: 13
Jami McBride wrote:Any of your self-butchers out there want to take some pictures and post basic step by step on a particular animal? This would be sweet!

If you can stomach it, I made a couple videos- both are in the field and one shows how to gut an animal and is done again on a wild boar. It came out quite good and the method can be done on medium or small size animal. Wouldn't be so easy on cattle.

The second video shows how to remove meat from a pig on the ground, in the backcountry without hanging or gutting. Problem is you cannot get a rack of ribs with this method and removing the tenderloins is a bit tricky for most and is not shown in the video. Wild pigs are a dime a dozen out here so if a little bit was wasted, that's why. Try not to fret.

There are youtube videos made by williescountrymeats which show a great deal on how to butcher your animal. Anybody can learn from these although he often uses a band saw. If you think you need a saw, consider your home sawzaw.
Cowpooling. How to butcher an entire cow, after slaughter:

How to field dress a wild hog. Lots of good info in here and applicable to many animals.

How to debone a pork leg (and other info):
Jared Mevissen

Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 6
I wonder if anyone has ever tried to sell the animal to the buyer then the buyer/seller butcher the animal together on the sellers property would it make it legal then or what? Or even if the buyer had to to the butchering but the seller provided a how to video or something and all the tools/space necessary .

I am sure it would probably never work because theirs to many squeamish people out there but its an interesting thought to consider, I personally kill and butcher everything I raise/hunt I will never ever pay someone else to do the work I can do myself I have never read how to do it it, I just do it I may not be able to make the pretty, cuts the butcher makes but meat is meat tastes just as good if not better than store bought so I must be doing something right. I also do a lot of ground stuff, but do do steaks and stuff to.

I second the skinning the chickens plucking is a waste of time and energy. I found one of the best way to dispatch chickens is a 20 gauge or 410 to the head, negates the need to chase them around and greatly lessons the possibility of getting blood on your clothes, I used to use a pellet gun but that's a bit more challenging and usually I just don't feel like taking the time.

subject: Preventing butcher shop thievery.