To create this guide, ProAgri visited a butchery where the butcher guided us through the process of slaughtering and butchering beef step by step. We thank Van der Merwe Broers Butchery for sharing the information and making their facilities available to us. This guide will help you to minimise meat wastage and produce the same quality beef cuts that you would buy off the shelves of any shop.
Before you start the process, you need to make sure that you have the correct equipment. Firstly, you need to have a cool storage space where you can hang the carcass and cut the portions. Secondly, you need to have high quality knives and sharpeners. Blunt knives can spoil a good cut.
As soon as the animal is killed, the throat has to be slit in order for all the blood to be drained from the body. If the blood is not drained, it can cause the meat to take on a bad smell and colour. After the blood is drained, the skin and intestines should be removed. Cattle are large animals and are usually cut into quarters for easier handling.
The carcass is cut in the length down the spine from the tip of the neck down to the tail. These two halves are then cut across the spine after the seventh rib from the front to the back of the carcass. After these two cuts are done, you should have two forequarters and two hindquarters.
Photo 1: Forequarter
Photo 2: Hindquarter
The first step in butchering the forequarter is to remove the front leg, also known as the shin. Once this is done, the shin can be cut into smaller pieces. This is usually used for stew.
The next part to be removed is the hump that is on top of the shoulders. This meat is mainly used for mince, stew, or goulash if it is cut into strips.
The next part to be removed from the carcass is the neck. This is done by cutting through the meat with a sharp knife and then using a hacksaw to cut through the thick bones. Ensure that the hacksaw is clean. This saw should be used for meat only and not for cutting any wood or metal.
Once the neck, hump and shin have been removed, the forequarter should now look like this:
This should now be cut into two halves down the middle of the ribs to separate the chuck from the brisket. On the photo below, the chuck is to the left of the cut (attached to the spine) and the brisket is to the right (attached to the bottom half). Once again you will need a hacksaw to cut through the ribs.
The front part of the chuck is known as the prime rib shown in the photo below.
The chuck is normally cut into smaller pieces and used as stewing beef, or it can be thinly sliced and used as braai meat.
After the chuck has been processed, all that is left of the forequarter should be the brisket. In the picture below the whole brisket is shown.
This can be cut in two halves separating the brisket from the short rib along the line drawn in the picture. The next picture shows the short rib and the brisket after they have been separated. This meat is also usually used in soups, stews, curries and other types of cooked meals.
Next time we shall look at how to butcher the hindquarters to get the most out of a beef carcass.