Home Slaughtering and Processing of Beef
Maurice A. Alexander
Department of Animal Sciences
William C. Stringer and Harold B. Hedrick
Department of Food Scienc=
A beef animal selected for slaughter should be healthy and in thrifty=20
condition. Keep the animal off feed 24 hours before slaughter, but provide=
access to water.
Don't run or excite the animal prior to slaughter because this may caus=
bleeding and give the carcass a bloody appearance.
The weather, especially expected temperatures the few days following=20
slaughter, is extremely important. Night temperatures should be 32 degrees=
Fahrenheit or lower for the carcass to chill properly without refrigeratio=
The meat will spoil if improperly chilled and stored during warm weathe=
Also, during extremely cold weather, the meat should be protected from fre=
by covering it with a clear cover.
Preparing for slaughter
Wholesale cuts of a beef side in=
reference to the skeleton.
Slaughter should be done in a dry, clean, dust-free area. A well-draine=
grassy area is recommended.
Take precautions during slaughter, chilling and processing to keep the=
carcass and cuts clean and free from contamination. Use clean equipment, k=
hands clean, wear clean clothing and keep work and storage areas clean.
The carcass can be chilled without refrigeration by hanging it in a dry=
clean building. Freedom from odors or contamination is essential.
Most meat spoilage and off-odors and flavors can be attributed to one o=
of the following causes:
- Improper chilling of the carcass. The internal temperature of the ro=
and other thick parts should be lowered to 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit with=
hours after slaughter.
- Adsorption of off-odors. When the carcass is chilled in an area with=
odor (manure, gasoline, paint or musty odor), the carcass will adsorb it=
- Poor sanitation during slaughter, chilling and processing. This=20
contamination with microorganisms causes off-odors, off flavors and=20
- Improper freezing and storage of frozen meat. Packaged meat should b=
quick-frozen and stored at 0 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Home freezers are =
storage of products already frozen, not for quick-freezing large quantit=
meat. Small quantities, preferably less than 25 pounds, can be satisfact=
frozen at home by placing meat in the freezer with at least one inch of =
between each package.
The minimum required items of equipment for home slaughtering are as=20
- Stunning device such as 22 caliber rifle
- Block and tackle chain hoist, or tractor equipped with hydraulic lif=
- Beef spreader (singletree equipped with hooks on both ends and a rin=
the center will do)
- 6-inch boning knife and 8-inch butcher knife
- 10- to 12-inch steel
- 24- to 26-inch hand meat saw
- Enough pans or buckets for edible meat
- Adequate supply of clean, cold water.
How to stun animal
Kill the animal as humanely as possible. If a rifle is used, exercise=20
recommendations for safe use of firearms. The proper place for the bullet =
strike is at the intersection of two imaginary lines extending from the ri=
horn or edge of poll to the left eye and from the left horn or edge of pol=
the right eye.
How to bleed animal
As soon as the animal is down, bleed it without delay. Stand behind the=
animal and with the sharp skinning knife make an incision through the hide=
the middle of the dewlap immediately in front of the breastbone.
Hold the knife so the point is directed toward the rear of the animal, =
the knife under the breastbone toward the rump of the animal and cut towar=
backbone. This will cut the arteries that cross just beneath the point of =
Be careful not to stick too deep into the chest cavity. Cut straight wi=
backbone. Pump the foreleg back and forth a few times to help bleeding.
How to skin animal
Turn the animal on its back and place a short prop (square post) on eit=
side to hold it there. Remove the forefeet and shanks at the knee by locat=
and cutting through the flat joint with a knife. Skin out the hind legs an=
remove the hind feet and shanks by sawing.
Next, split the hide from the opening in front of the brisket down the=
midline of the belly to the bung. Hold the skinning knife at a flat angle.=
Then split the hide at the rear of each hind leg, beginning where the s=
was removed, moving to the udder or scrotum. Don't skin the outside of the=
and front legs until the carcass is hoisted. The intact hide will keep the=
shanks clean during hoisting.
The next part of skinning is known as "siding." Begin the siding by sli=
the knife under the skin that has been cut over the belly. Grasp the outsi=
the loosened hide with one hand and pull it up and outward. Place the knif=
firmly against the hide with the cutting edge turned slightly toward the=20
Use long, smooth strokes of the knife to remove the hide down over the =
This is one of the most difficult tasks in skinning.
Opening the carcass
After siding is done, cut through the center of the brisket with a knif=
saw through the breastbone. Insert the handle of the knife in the abdomina=
cavity with the blade leaning backward to open the belly cavity with a kni=
saw through the breastbone. Insert the handle of the knife in the abdomina=
cavity with the blade leaning backward to open the belly cavity. In case o=
male, remove the penis before opening the carcass.
The inside of each round muscle over the pelvis is covered with a thick=
white membrane. Follow this membrane and avoid cutting into the muscle. Th=
knife can be forced between the soft cartilage that joins the pelvic bone.=
older animals, the pelvis must be sawed.
The carcass is now ready for hoisting. Insert the hooks of a beef sprea=
single tree in the tendons of the hind legs. After the carcass is partiall=
hoisted, complete skinning the rounds and the back of the carcass.
Remove the bung by cutting around it on the two sides and back and pull=
through the opening of the pelvic cavity. Continue pulling the bung and=20
intestines and cutting the ligaments that attach the intestines to the bac=
Pull down on the paunch to tear it loose from the carcass, cut the esop=
where it goes through the diaphragm and allow the intestines and paunch to=
into a container or on the ground. The liver should still be attached to t=
carcass and can be removed next. Remove the gall bladder from the liver.=
Continue hoisting the carcass until the head clears the ground. Remove =
heart and lungs by first cutting out the diaphragm, the white connective t=
that separates the abdominal and thoracic cavities. Grasp the heat and lun=
pull forward and downward and cut the large blood vessel attached to the=20
backbone. Remove the heart, lungs and esophagus as one unit.
Complete skinning the carcass and remove the head The head is removed b=
cutting across the neck above the poll and through the atlas joint.
Carefully examine all the internal organs and the dressed carcass for a=
abnormalities or conditions (such as abscesses or inflammation) that might=
affect the wholesomeness of the meat.
Splitting the carcass
The carcass should be split into two sides. Start the splitting by firs=
sawing through the sacral vertebrae from the inside. As soon as the cut is=
through the pelvic area, sawing can be done easier from the back. Make the=
down the center of the backbone to the neck. Leave the neck attached to ba=
the sides on the singletree.
Trim any soiled, bruised or bloody pieces of meat. Wash the carcass wit=
water to remove any remaining blood and dirt. Pump the forelegs up and dow=
few times to aid in draining blood from the forequarters.
To improve the appearance of the carcass, shroud it tightly with wet, c=
white muslin to smooth the exterior fat during chilling. Use skewers or ti=
tighten the shroud.
Beef should be aged a few days before cutting. The amount of aging will=
depend on the amount of fat covering, desired flavor and temperature.
Carcasses that have only a thin fat covering should be aged three to fi=
days; those with more fat, five to seven days. Very little tenderization o=
after seven days. Longer aging may result in off flavors and odors due to=
microbial growth. Only carcasses with fat covering the entire outside shou=
aged longer than 10 days.
If the temperature of the carcass rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, th=
required for aging is reduced. Also, chances of spoilage are increased.
The sides of the carcass are quartered by cutting between the 12th and =
rib (Figure 1). The 13th rib is left on the hindquarter to allow air to=20
circulate over the kidney knob and to prevent bacterial growth if addition=
aging time is desired.
Remove the rib and plate from the chuck and brisket by cutting between =
fifth and sixth rib. Cut perpendicular to the top line of the carcass. Sep=
the rib cut from the plate at a point 1-1/2 inches below the rib eye muscl=
the end where the side was quartered and cut parallel to the back.
The rib may be cut into rib steaks by cutting the desired thickness. Th=
blade end may be made into a roast, or the entire cut boned into boneless =
steaks or roasts. The rib cuts are rather tender and may be broiled or dry=
The plate may be processed by cutting two or three rows (2 inches) of s=
ribs and the remaining boned for ground beef.
To remove the brisket and foreshank from the chuck, first locate the ar=
joint near the surface of the carcass. Cut about 1 inch above the top of t=
joint, perpendicular to the cut made when the quarter was first divided (F=
The brisket may be separated from the shank by cutting through the natu=
seam that joins them. The shank is usually boned for grinding, but cross-c=
shank or soup bones may be made. The brisket should be boned for a roast o=
The blade end of the square-cut chuck may be cut into steaks or roast.<=
The hindquarter should be placed on the cutting table with the outside=
The flank is removed by starting the cut on the round near the cod area=
following the round muscle. Cut closely to avoid cutting into the lean on =
round near the stifle joint. Continue the cut forward on a line to a point=
3 inches below the loin eye muscle at the 13th rib.
The flank steak, the prominent muscle on the inside near the center of =
flank, may be stripped out for a steak and the remaining lean trimmed for=
Separate the loin from the round by cutting between the fourth and fift=
sacral vertebrae at a point approximately 1 inch in front of the aitch bon=
loin should then be cut into steaks. Begin cutting at the sirloin end and =
toward the small end of the loin.
Remove the rump by cutting parallel to the two ends of the aitch bone a=
just behind the aitch bone. The rump is usually boned and tied for roasts.=
sirloin tip is removed by following the round bone to the knee cap. The ti=
be used as roasts or steaks.
The remainder of the round may be cut into steaks or roasts most easily=
separating the top and bottom round. The hind shank should be boned for gr=
Packaging beef for the home fre=
Successful freezing depends on proper packaging to protect foods in fre=
Use moisture-vapor-proof material to prevent the loss of moisture and the=
development of off flavors.
Ordinarily Kraft or waxed papers do not adequately protect food in free=
Use moisture-vapor-proof material, designed especially to wrap foods for=20
freezing. These materials are strong, easy to handle, resist grease, are=20
moisture proof, and won't transfer odors. Plastic and Kraft laminated mate=
is probably the most economical and is easiest to use in most cases.
How to wrap
The drugstore fold is the approved method to seal the moisture in and a=
To make the drugstore fold:
- Place the meat in the center of the paper.
- Bring the two horizontal ends together and fold over until tight aga=
the meat (at least one complete turn).
- Tightly fold one end, then the other, turn each end underneath and s=
For easier separation of steaks when frozen, place a double thickness o=
waxed or freezer paper between each piece with plastic sides to the meat.<=
Before packaging, remove or cover sharp bone edges with double thicknes=
freezer paper so they will not puncture the wrapping paper.
Label each package clearly with a crayon or grease pencil. Include the =
of the cut, the quantity and the packaging date.
Freezer storage time
The maximum recommended period of freezer storage for meat is 12 months=
Thawing frozen meat
For best results, thaw in original package in the refrigerator. Allow=20
approximately three hours per pound for small roasts and steak packages, a=
four to five hours for larger roasts. If thawed at room temperature, allow=
hour per pound.
Cooking frozen meat
Frozen meat may be cooked satisfactorily either by thawing prior to or =
cooking. When cooking steaks or roasts from the frozen state, allow additi=
Frozen roasts require approximately one-third more time for cooking tha=
roasts that have been thawed. Allow additional time for cooking steaks or =
beef patties compared to thawed cuts. When broiling, place frozen steaks a=
ground beef patties further from the heat or at a lower temperature than t=
cuts so the meat will be cooked to the desired degree of doneness without=
becoming too brown on the outside.
G2208, reviewed October 1993