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Something that a lot of people have to deal with when they first start out homesteading is getting over being squeamish. I have never really had a hard time with this one because I grew up around a lot of people that were hunting and fishing.
Being too squeamish is hazardous during SHTF.
It is important to get over being too sensitive before SHTF or a long emergency. A lot of people talk big but will faint or get weird over minor things. During SHTF there will be plenty of big tough looking guys that break down at the first hint of blood or carnage. Don’t be that person.
There will be a lot of gross things to deal with if times get tough. Those that cannot deal with it are not going to do well and people may not be as apt to help them either. It can be really annoying if someone acts like they are too sensitive or delicate when everyone’s survival or life is on the line.
SHTF reality is hard and brutal and it will not necessarily wait for you to get used to the idea of having to butcher and do other things. Sorry to be harsh but during an SHTF situation in order to survive you need to be able to adapt quickly. There is little time for getting used to things at your own pace. You need to try to make yourself less squeamish now.
Our Butchering Experience
Matt and I have been butchering some of our animals for over a decade. I wanted to write this article to offer some advice for those that are new to this or having a hard time. I am going to be pretty blunt at times because I think that is best when discussing matters like this.
Our first planned butchering experience was hogs. I have to say that both of us did catch and gut fish when we were younger. I grew up around people that hunted deer too so when I was a kid I would help out a little with butchering. Both Matt and I grew up knowing that in order for us to eat meat, something had to lose its life and someone had to do the killing and butchering.
These are big animals and you have to do this with a lot of care. The first time Matt and I had to butcher a large animal was when a steer that we had been raising managed to jump off the side of the mountain and impale himself on the top of a fence stake. We had never seen such a thing and it was Sunday so no butcher was to be found.
The Killing Part
It never really bothered me to see an animal butchered the way it does some people because of how I was raised. It was just part of life. In modern times it seems like people get really upset over butchering even if they are avid meat eaters. While I know it takes some time when learning how to do anything new, people need to realize just how sheltered modern life has made them.
In the past, everyone saw these things happen. Modern life has led to the privilege of outsourcing the killing and processing to others and not just the neighborhood butcher, but a meatpacking house that is far removed from their vision. It has made us more sensitive to butchering because it just doesn’t happen around us.
Butchering or assisting with it can make you less squeamish to any gross situation
Blood, guts, poop, all of that are part of butchering. If you get used to butchering than other things that can happen will be easier for you to handle. This means instead of vomiting or panicking, you can respond in a way that could save someone’s life, including your own.
There is a stigma around being able to butcher
As a woman I have ran into people that look at those that can butcher as something wild and strange. It can make you feel like a barbarian. While plenty will eat grass-fed meat at a fancy restaurant, how many will actually sit down and eat that same meal with the person that raised, killed, and butchered it without feeling a bit of distaste? The answer would surprise you and it is part of what is wrong with our food system and society today.
Guess who is butchering your meat for you? A lot of workers don’t get much if they get hurt. A lot of meat packing workers are immigrants that are not always treated the best too. I worked in a fish packing factory in the office for a year. It was clear that management saw them as easily replaced.
Many grazing animals and fowl are raised however mass agricultural sees fit and sometimes this is not actually within bounds of the law.
Butchering gets easier the more you do it
The emotions that some feel when they butcher are pretty deep the first few times but it gets to where it doesn’t bother you that much. It doesn’t get to me at all anymore because I see it as a natural thing that has been going on for a very long time.
Some people feel like they should care or get emotional regardless.
Over the last 12 years, I have found that some people feel like they have an obligation to react in an overly emotional way when it comes to butchering.
It is almost like they feel that they will be stigmatized if they take a more rational and worldly approach to the situation. Sadly they are correct when it comes to a lot of people in society today.
People react different ways to butchering, especially the first time, and that is ok. You are not obligated to react a certain way. Deal with it emotionally in the way that is healthiest for you. If you need to cry the first few times, then do it. If you don’t and just sort it out in your head, that is ok as well.
Start out with a chicken or something small if possible or just offer to help someone out with butchering for the experience
A rabbit or chicken is a good way to get started butchering. Fish are another option. It is a bit different for some people to butcher something furry though. With so many deer hunters around, you may be able to help butcher a few out if you know someone that hunts a lot. The first animal I seen butchered out was a fish and then a deer.
Realize there is going to be gross smells
A lot of us are pampered when it comes to smells. Matt and I both admit that butchering can sometimes make even us a little gaggy for a second if the smell is particularly bad. This is the worst if an intestine gets punctured while gutting. You just have to take a second and proceed. It passes.
Take your time the first few times
Getting in a rush can end badly. For starters, it means you are more likely to make a mistake and that can lead to injury. You also need some time to co e to terms with what you are actually doing. Some people like to take a moment beforehand. Some people have a drink and reflect, give thanks, etc. Sometimes prayer comes into play if that is important to someone.
Use the right tool for the killing part
Using too small of a gun can lead to more suffering. Some animals have very thick skulls, particularly horned animals and large pigs.
Have a sharp knife at the ready
After something is shot and has stopped flopping around someone needs to slit the throat so that the heart pumps out as much of the blood as possible. Some people save blood for sausage or fertilizing.
I would rather butcher an 800 lb hog than 20 chickens. No question.
Birds take longer and are grosser to butcher and clean. A hog or cow is heavier but there is one set of guts and you get a lot of meat for your time. Chickens have to have their throats slit, allowed to hang and bleed, scalded and plucked, gutted, and then cleaned thoroughly. Feet and head have to be lopped off as well. Chickens smell worse than other animals too.
Remember that a lot of tasks like butchering are entirely outsourced and that during a SHTF situation, this may not be possible.
Teach kid’s where meat comes from and what it takes
Your child is not going to be traumatized for life if they learn the facts of life. If they do overreact then oh well, they will get over it, especially if you don’t coddle them too much. Overreaction is equated with attention in the mindset of youth today. It is not their fault in many cases, it is just the society they have come of age in.
Kids used to participate in butchering all the time.
Tradition In Butchering
In many societies, a butchering day is a time of celebration and thanks. There is going to be good meat for the table and for a time to come. Here are a few examples of days like this.
Hog Killing Time In the South
Since Matt and I raised a lot of hogs we are well versed in the festive spirit the announcement of a hog killing can lead to.
The one time we got a bit of help, which was the first time we had butchered a hog, it turned into a lot of old men telling us what to do and drinking beer. This all happened in the shell of the house we were building. Yep, we had to hang two hogs in my house shell overnight to keep the coyotes away.
The next few days involved a lot of salting and curing the meat. It took a few days to “work up” a hog like that. We had a lot of good meat for the year and were able to trade some meat for other things we needed.
Holidays and Butchering
A lot of holidays involve butchering. There was a time when people had to raise and kill their own turkeys or get them from a local farmer. Lamb was butchered to celebrate Easter, and Christmas in the old world often involved the Christmas goose.
Some land is not suitable for anything but grazing
I understand there are a lot of horrors associated with factory farming. At the same time, I think a lot of aspects of the debate over eating meat get overlooked. For example, there is plenty of land that it would be impossible to do anything with but graze it.
You cannot build houses everywhere and big crops like corn, wheat, etc, lead to massive erosion on slopes. Sure you can terrace a place but that involves a lot of work and money and has a very big impact on the landscape. Terraces have to be done right and maintained.
Cattle, goats, and sheep may carve trails onto the sides of a mountain but unless they are allowed to severely overgraze a mountainside, they do far less environmental damage than years of crops would.
Proper management in agriculture involves choosing what is realistic for a piece of land and what is not while maintaining an acceptable level of protection for the environment.
Splitting up butchering tasks based on ability and comfort level can be helpful
Ok so you are not quite ready to do the shooting or slit a throat but maybe the other person is fine with doing that. The way you split up butchering tasks is up to those involved. This can speed up the process too.
Take a good shower and relax when you can.
How long it takes to get to a stopping point for the day depends on what you are butchering. With hogs by noon you are tired and done for the day. Butchering chickens or other fowl may be an all-day thing depending on how many you have to do.
Regardless, cleaning yourself up and taking a few to relax after you reach a good stopping point will make you feel better.
Understand the accomplishment and appreciation that comes from putting your own meat on the table.
You can read a lot about farming, homesteading, prepping, etc but nothing is quite like the feeling of setting down to a meal that was raised on your own place and butchered and prepared by you and your family. This is what I think of as a full circle meal because at this point we sit down to a main meat course that was born, raised, and butchered right here on our pice of property.
I sometimes look over at Matt and consider how many times what we are doing has played out across the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sheep are part of our culture and part of the reason for the beautiful balds that people flock to.