Butchering Beef – A Book Review

In BEEF, Book Reviews, BUTCHERY, Livestock & Pasture, Pasture & Livestock, Reference by James1 Comment

Butchering Beef: The Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering by Adam Danforth is a book I’d been looking forward to reading since I learned of its existence – which hasn’t been that long, only a few months now. One of the big attractions of the farming life for me is to be able to grow my own food. And considering I am a human a large part of my diet comes from animal meat and fat. Sorry vegans I prefer feeding my body what nature has designed it to consume to function optimally. So along with growing my own vegetables this means raising my own meat and knowing how to harvest it in the most humane way possible, and of course process the meat with as little waste and efficiency as I can. In addition I am interested in the direct marketing of the animals I’ll be raising so if I’m standing at a farmer’s market selling meat from animals I raised I should be able to explain to my customers what part of the animal particular cuts of meat came from and be able to explain the processing of the animal. This book focuses on beef, and Danforth has another book (soon to be reviewed) that focuses on smaller animals such as pigs, sheep, and chickens. The book is loaded with information and beautiful photography giving step by step directions for the entire process from slaughter to wrapping of the individual steaks. It’s a fantastic reference guide for any farmer or anyone who simply wants to understand more about the meat they’re eating and how it’s processed.

What’s in the Book?

The book is organized into 8 chapters. Chapter 1 From Muscle to Meat gives a detailed walk through with illustrations covering muscle structure, collagen, fats, proper storage, aging, and more. Chapter 2 Food Safety breaks down the various types of pathogens and bacteria commonly found in or around meat, how to avoid contamination, and proper cleaning and hygienic practices when butchering. Chapter 3 Tools and Equipment gives the reader a detailed explanation of the tools needed and why they’re needed. It covers knives, tabletop equipment, clothing, and other optional equipment. Chapter 4 Butchering Methods covers topics like knife grip, bone sawing, honing rod usage, trimming, boning, tenderization, portioning, and making knots (with butcher twine). Chapter 5 Pre-Slaughter Conditions & General Slaughter Techniques details everything from the day before the slaughter to stunning options, exsanguination, hoisting, skinning, evisceration, edible offal, carcass cooling, cleanup and disposal, and tools and space. Chapter 6 Slaughtering Cattle goes into the specific detail of how to slaughter. It starts with set up, then goes on to cover the stun, bleeding, skinning, hanging, and removal of offal, all with great attention to detail. Chapter 7 Beef Butchering goes into great detail with beautiful photography how to break down a side of beef starting with the primals and going into subprimals. Chapter 8 Packaging and Freezing covers freezing options and best practices along with packaging and best practices.


It’s hard to choose highlights in this book, but I think the photography and step by step primal and subprimal breakdowns sections in chapter 7 are really what make this such a fantastic reference book.
1510759_230007247184716_1734524591_n 7537_230007203851387_1847482170_n One of the things I’m going to start with as a novice is use the first photo on the left to make a template to study until I am able to identify all the primals and subprimals with no effort. When the time comes to make the cuts I will have had at least a preview to how it’s done, and can again break the book out as a reference to use during the process.
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Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer

Adam Danforth has done a fantastic job in creating a comprehensive guide to Beef butchering. There is no substitute for doing, but before one can do or should do it’s certainly wise to take a look at the blueprints. This book lays every step out in an a very accessible way, and the supplemental details about muscle structure, tools, cleaning, etc. round the book out to make a complete reference guide that should last a lifetime.

Buy the book via Amazon by clicking HERE (It’s an affiliate link so I get a little kickback if you buy. Thanks!)