How to Choose and Kill a Beef

US - All cattle can be fattened by careful feeding, but the muscular development and mix of fat and lean that make for best eating are found in breeds that are meant for beef rather than for milk production. If you know you'll be doing your own butchering, then, you might consider breeding a dairy cow or two to a beef bull.
calendar icon 11 February 2008
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Prime beef comes from a quickly fattened steer or heifer between a year and a half and two and a half years old. Look for a sleek, vigorous animal with a broad, deep body that's well filled out and covered with a smooth layer of fat. The ideal weight is about 800 pounds . . . and, since you want as much as possible of that mass to be edible, it's best to avoid a critter with heavy bones.

Naturally, the health of a meat animal is of first importance. Watch the beast you plan to butcher for several days before you actually kill the animal to make sure it looks well and behaves normally. If there's any doubt about its condition, check with your veterinarian. When the carcass is opened, look carefully for signs of tuberculosis: pockets of pus or granular material on the lungs, liver or spleen and possibly hanging from the ribs. If you find such traces, the carcass needn't be a total loss—you can boil it until the meat falls from the bones and feed it to chickens or hogs—but handle it with care to avoid infection. It's best to wear gloves, and to sterilize all tools after using them.

If you have to kill an animal because it's injured, bleed it at once to avoid spoilage and discoloration of the tissues and then handle it just like a slaughtered carcass . . . but if the critter died of overheat, its meat is unfit for human use (though it too can be boiled for livestock feed).

Source: Mother Earth News
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