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The Ultimate Guide to Using the Whole Carcass

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: April 15, 2021
The Ultimate Guide to Using the Whole Carcass

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We’re not used to cooking the whole animal these days. Even if you wanted to buy many of the undesirable parts of an animal, you’d struggle to find them in most grocery stores. Those of us who raise and hunt our own animals frequently pass the carcass off to professional butchers, who may make use of the least appealing bits for us, sending the rest back in neatly package bundles.

But in a SHTF situation, when your butcher is not around and the grocery store is not open, you may turn to hunting, trapping, fishing and butchering your own animals for the first time.

What do you do with the hide, bones, organs, fat, even the blood of the animal? You can use each to help extend your survival in a SHTF situation. Here are the smartest ways to use the whole animal when your survival is on the line.

1. Blood

When dispatching (the polite word for killing as quickly and painlessly as possible), the first thing you’ll generate is blood. You can collect that blood in a bucket, normally just to keep from making a mess. But, blood is obviously rich in nutrients, and has some other interesting advantages you can leverage for your survival.

As Bait

Dressing an animal in the field near your traps is a well-known trick to generate more animal activity around your traps or hunting grounds, particularly more predator activity. Pouring some blood into the water where you’re fishing will help you catch predator fish as well.

fishing lake

Beef blood is often made into a gel and used to bait catfish, simply by refrigerating the blood in a pan. I’ve heard salt and sugar can also toughen the blood, but you’d hardly want to use either precious resource to catch fish in a survival situation. My suggestion is to use cornstarch instead.


You can also incorporate your animal’s nutrients back into your garden soil by making bloodmeal. Arguably, it’s the best fertilizer you can make, especially at home, bringing a ton of nitrogen into your soil. You need to dry the blood as quickly as possible, while also applying as little heat as possible.

Those in humid conditions may find this to be a challenge. A solar drier is an excellent way to make blood meal that doesn’t require any electricity. Once dried, you have to scrape off and grind up the blood meal into a powder before you apply it to your soil.

2. Edible Organs

After you’ve cut all of the meat off your carcass you’ll have a handful of edible organs: heart, liver, kidney, tongue, lungs and more.

Eat them

You can, of course, eat the organs by themselves. However, most people find this unpalatable and, being unfamiliar with cooking with them, you’ll probably find it hard to make them into appetizing dishes. You could learn to cook with them. I suggest you start with “Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, with Guts” by Cosentino and Turkell if you want to.

Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, with Guts

The authors even walk you through how to cook the heads and brains of some animals, and all kinds of unusual parts of lamb, duck, beef, and pork. If you know a butcher, or could build a relationship with one, learning to cook with organ meats can even save you a pretty penny before SHTF.

For instructions on how to cook the organs of the game animals, I’d recommend Hank Shaw’s books, especially “Buck, Buck Moose” “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail.” In each book, Shaw details butchering, cooking with the conventional parts of the animal, and dealing with the other edible bits.

Broth or sausage
You can make organ meat more palatable by using it with other meat. When making broth, especially bone broth, tossing in a few organs can add nutrients without adding too much odd flavor. Sausage is another great trick because the meats used are mixed up finely, no single bite tastes like liver. Hank Shaw’s “Buck, Buck, Moose” goes over sausage production.

Feed to your animals

If you have chickens, pigs, dogs, or cats, you’ll find that they will happily eat most organs you offer them. I’d cook the organs to prevent the spread of disease or parasites, which is a problem you don’t want to have in a survival situation, but if you’re sure of the health of your meat you can offer them raw.

3. Fat

Suet is the word for the unprocessed fat taken directly from an animal’s carcass. Leaf suet, the fat surrounding the kidneys, is the highest quality because it is the purest, with the least muscle and connective tissue in it.

lard render white

Cook with it

While processing fat makes it easier to work with, it will not be the end of the world if you use fat directly from the animal in your cooking, so long as it is fresh. Rendering the fat into tallow will make it last longer because there is no meat or connective tissues, which spoil faster. But if SHTF and you have fresh fat, just cook with it.

Render into tallow or lard

If you have more fat than you can use right away, rendering it will help preserve it and make it suitable for a variety of other uses. Whether it is called tallow or lard after rendering depends on the animal it came from.

lard render canned

How to render fat:

  • Step One: Cut away all of the muscle and connective tissue you can. This will be easier when the fat is cool.
  • Step Two: Break and remove the thin transparent membrane that covers the fat wherever you find it.
  • Step Three: Slowly heat the fat in a pan, being very careful not to burn it. The wet method, or using a double-boiler to melt the fat, makes it easier to avoid burns.
  • Step Four: Remove any chunks of meat that rise to the top.
  • Step Five: When completely liquid, strain.
  • Step Six: Place in a container of your choice and allow to cool and re-solidify.
  • Step Seven: To store, try to keep cool and in a sealed, light-proof container.

Now that you have rendered fat you can cook with it, using it in place of butter and oil in any recipes you’re familiar with.

You’ll get a different texture of course, but it’ll be edible enough for a survival situation. And, if you fancy learning about cooking with lard or tallow, I suggest picking up “Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes” by Jennifer McLagan.

Or, you could use the rendered fat to make all sorts of useful things that you’ll need if you don’t have electricity. The two most useful items for preppers are doubtlessly candles and soaps, but you can also use render fat to treat leather, metal and string, sometimes imbuing lubrication or weather-proof qualities depending on the type of fat (the best is apparently bear grease, but I haven’t tried it).

4. Sinew

Sinew are the tendons or connective tissues that hold muscle and bone together. The best sinew is on the legs and back of animals (it’s often the equivalent of your Achille’s tendon). You can throw some sinew into a pot when making stock, but it adds little and you’d miss out on its best use: as cordage.

Making cord out of sinew is a simple, primitive process you can easily accomplish after SHTF.

  • Step One: Remove sinew from the carcass.
  • Step Two: Remove all muscle from it.
  • Step Three: Allow it to dry. Hang or lay it out in a dry, sunny spot.
  • Step Four: Once dry, beat it with a stone, or more sophisticated tool if you have it. It will part into small cords.
  • Step Five: Use cords as is, or braid many together for extra strength or length.

5. Hide/Skin

You can use an animal’s skin and fur in many ways, essentially in any way that you would use cloth. To do so, you have to tan the hide. You can use chemical mixtures to accomplish this, but you may find yourself without them if SHTF. In that case, you can use the natural method: tanning hides with brains.

Every animal has enough brain to tan its hide, but you may find you run out of brain solution when you’re less practiced. All the more reason to practice (or stock up on tanning chemicals.)

mountain skin cow animal

Tanning the natural way is very labor intensive.

  • Step One: Remove the hide from the carcass, of course. Then scrape off all of the fat, muscle and membrane you can using a sharp knife. You can also make “fleshing beams” from wood or ones.
  • Step Two: If you wish to remove the hairs, you need to soak the pelt in an acid environment. You can make one from urine, wood ash or ground seashells (to make slaked lime), or modern chemicals. If you don’t have any of that, and don’t want to deal with urine, you can soak it in plain water, but removing the hair will be much harder.
  • Step Three: After soaking, usually for at least a day (unless you’re using modern chemicals, they’re faster), you need to scrape off the fur. Any hair you don’t remove will become tough and ruin that bit of the hide.
  • Step Four: Scrape some more. Be sure to remove the first layer of skin under where the fur was, and the thin mucous membrane from the other side of the pelt.
  • Step Five: Allow the pelt to dry for a bit. To speed this up, you can wring it out but do it gently.
  • Step Six: Combine the animal’s brain and about an equal amount of water in a stew pot. Heat it and stir or mash until the brain is liquid.
  • Step Seven: Either soak the hide in the brain solution or, if you didn’t remove the hair, apply the brain solution to the flesh side of the pelt. Massage the pelt to work in the brain juices and their natural emulsifier. If you didn’t remove the hair, apply the brain solution a few times.
  • Step Eight: Stretch the pelt, preferably by tying it against a wooden frame. Try to apply the tension as evenly as possible, and get the pelt as large as possible. You can also stretch the pelt by hand if you have the time or don’t have a suitable frame, but it likely will not turn out as nicely.
  • Step Nine: Allow to dry, or put the pelt in a smoker, or just apply smoke, which helps the hide last longer.

Use the tail

Many animal tails, especially rabbit and deer tails, have traditional uses. You can make a fishing lure out of pieces of tail, use the tail to pollinate plants, or, of course, as adornment on clothing.

6. Bone

The bones of animals have precious nutrients, and while you can’t eat them as-is, you can extract those nutrients.

Cook bones for stock

Take a few large bones and put them in a stew pot. Add 16 cups of water, veggies, herbs, salt, and maybe some organs and cook. Vinegar helps extract the most from the bones.

bone broth

After eight to ten hours, you have bone stock. You can always add more water if you make it too thick.

Supplement for animals

Bones are a valuable supplement because they contain calcium. And the animal that needs calcium the most is our farmyard chickens. Now, it can be illegal to feed bone meal to chickens, mostly in Europe, because authorities worry about bone meal from beef spreading disease to chickens.

It’s only a problem because of the scale of our food supply, and some consider that it may not be a problem at all, so long as it’s not more than 5 percent of your chicken’s diet and is provided separately from grit. Either way, there’s no one to stop you if SHTF.

Of course, a dog will also take bones, and chewing them will help keep the dog’s teeth clean, but the bone must be raw. If cooked, it will break into small shards from the pressure of the dog’s chewing and potentially rip up their digestive tract.

Supplement for gardens

You can also use bone meal in the garden. In particular, the heavy feeders, like tomatoes, will appreciate the phosphorous bone meal supplies.

tomato plant

In order to make bone meal, you must dry out the bones, generally by placing them in the oven at high temperatures for a few hours. If a dog or soup pot has cleaned off the bones first, that’s ideal. Otherwise, after the meat and marrow is cooked and loosened you can remove it yourself and then put the bones back in to become brittle.

Once brittle, crush the bones with a mortar and pestle or your food processor (carefully). Now you’ve got bone meal. Remember, only animals that need grit can eat bone meal.

7. Head

We’ve already mentioned a few ways you can use the head, including scooping out the brains for tanning, but there are some other ways.

As food

I know, it may take some getting used to, but you can make head cheese, soup stock, and other dishes out of animal heads. My favorite head cheese recipe comes from “Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal,” by Jennifer McLagan.

How to Cook the Rest of the Animal

It’s my “favorite” in that I’ll make it for my grandfather whose own grandmother used to make it for the family. Be warned: it is not “cheese,” it is like a meat gelatin. Whether you’re adventurous enough to try head cheese or not, McLagan’s book also covers some other often wasted parts of the animal, including cheeks, hocks, combs, and testicles.

As animal treats

Dogs and pigs will eat various parts of the head. Dogs especially love dried ears and combs.

8. Antler, Hooves, and Feathers

These parts of the animal are often used for decorative purposes, but there is some practical use you could try out too.

antler animal bone

  • Carved antler: Antler can be carved into knife handles, fish hooks, buttons, cutlery, instruments and much more.
  • Feathers: Feathers have storied use in pillows and blankets, but may also be used to fletch arrows, or write with ink.
  • Dog treats: It’s always my first instinct to give my dog the unsavory bits of the animal, and antlers and hooves make good chew toys, so long as they are large, fresh, and you take them away before they get too run down. Also, note that some dogs will break their teeth on antlers, so use your own judgment to gauge if this is right for your dog.

9. Inedible Organs

Bladders and intestines, though rarely eaten, have very unique uses as storage containers. Many cultures ate bladder and intestine, usually as a sausage casing as it doesn’t offer much nutrition.

It is quite risky in terms of disease, though. I would never recommend you eat it, at least not without thoroughly cleaning and then boiling it. Yes, if you are practiced, it can be safe. But odds are you’re not, and this is a SHTF situation, not a great time to take a risk.


Bladders and intestines were used as water and air-tight storage for everything, from water to paints. I would recommend you use it for inedible storage.

Urine as scent

If you save the urine from the animal, you can use it as a cover or bait scent when you’re hunting and trapping.

Have you tried any of these uses for the overlooked bits of animals? Would you in a SHTF situation?

Author Bio: Ellysa Chenery can be found writing all over the web. She loves adapting traditional skills for new situations, whether in the wilderness, garden, or homestead. Her favorite smell is carrots fresh from the dirt.

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5 Responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Using the Whole Carcass”

  1. I’m finding all of this very fascinating. Would like to Homestead at some point. I want to get as much information as possible.

  2. This is something that takes years to master. Don’t think your just going to get over it and learn how to once it goes bad. If your not hunting or at least butchering now your not doing yourself any favors.
    I’m also not talking about the fake hunting over feeders using an ATV either. That’s a whole post in itself.
    Feathers and bone can also be used in lure making for fishing. Don’t give your dogs poultry bones as they splinter and get stuck in their throats. Use them elsewhere.

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