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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Helped a friend with a landowner cow hunt yesterday. Got to the property just at sunrise, had a nice cow down within 40 minutes but it took us all dang day to get her cut, and packed for freezing.

I am currently hanging them in my garage and using a plastic 4' table to cut on and the workbench typically covered in visqueen to vac seal everything.

We did get it all done around 7 maybe 8pm. Why does this take so long? Anyone have their own setups or maybe tips that they have found that save a lot of time?

I always find myself struggling with silver skin and other membranes, hair, fat, etc. Especially the silver layers between layers of muscle like you find on front legs.

Working at the small table is uncomfortable on the neck and back. Standing at the bench is hard on the legs and feet.

Are there processing classes a person can take? I love hunting but getting the animal into the freezer is always such a chore.


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Some good friends or family and a cooler\fridge of cold drinks of choice makes the process a lot more enjoyable and faster. When you have someone processing large cuts, another trimming, and another running the grinder\wrapping sealer it can move along at a good pace. Throw on a football or playoff baseball game and it can actually be an enjoyable time.
 

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I have always found that with a elk you are looking at a good day for 2 people working on it. This is cut, trimmed, ground, and wrapped and placed into the freezer.

I can do a deer in a evening.
 

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Just curious, why the rush to process it so quickly? I let them hang for several days. That’s just how I was taught, perhaps I have been doing it wrong. Processing your own is difficult, especially when it’s 1 or 2 guys doing an elk. My back, legs and hands always hurt when I’m doing it and the next day as well. The worst part for me is skinning an animal, the carpel tunnel kills me.
 

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Just curious, why the rush to process it so quickly? I let them hang for several days. That’s just how I was taught, perhaps I have been doing it wrong. Processing your own is difficult, especially when it’s 1 or 2 guys doing an elk. My back, legs and hands always hurt when I’m doing it and the next day as well. The worst part for me is skinning an animal, the carpel tunnel kills me.
We used to hang for a couple days as well. Until i got more serious about it and researched it more. You need to age it right at 37F ... if you cannot keep it at those temps, you are better off processing it immediately. Our meat is much better IMO, doing it that way. Now, I really should build a coldbox to hang meat in at precise temperatures... but we dont usually kill so many big game animals to make it worth it.

-DallanC
 

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I've done my own deer for years. I break it up into 2 nights anymore. My hands are shot and it kills me to do it all in one night. Elk I always had done. Now no one will do them anymore, they are too backed up as has been mentioned.
If I do get one, I'll just take the nights I need to do it. I have a little cooler I can keep the 1/4's in to keep it cool enough. Works out very well.
I have found as I get older to just be patient and not rush things. Works out better long term.
The wife wraps and labels for me.
 

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I've been doing my own for a long time now. But along the way I have taught friends and family to do it too. More hands definitely helps There could also be something said about being too fussy.
To de-bone shouldn't take long at all. Then separate the muscle groups. As for silver, a filet knife works wonders.

We use a couple of 8' Lifetime tables as a work surface.
 

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I have an unfair advantage - lots and lots of practice. Not because I am some kind of "the most awesome-ist hunter ever", but because I had previously been part of a family owned and operated meat processing business that (my dad) started up in 1993. So, I've helped cut up hundreds of deer and elk over the years, with quite a few hogs and beef thrown in as well. So much for my resume...

Anyway, on to the secret of life. You take the bone out of the meat, not the meat off the bone. Use your knife to cut along the bones and leaving very large sections of meat on the table - much less work. Think kind of like the opposite of the "gutless method" but in a more controlled environment where meat is removed from the bone.

Then, to remove silver skin, you use the same type of technique as you would fileting a fish. For a muscle group such as the sirloin tip, you separate at the silver skin layer, nothing but meat on one side, the exposed (internal silver skin) on the outside of the other piece. Use your knife and cut just under the silver skin to remove it in large flat sections. Any meat left on the silver skin and be "scraped off" in one motion with your knife. Backstraps are also a muscle group to filet off the silver skin and scrape the left on thin section. Remove other connective tissues like this is well (I call that the "snot stuff").

Also, you clean the outside the same way. You won't lose more than around 5lbs of trim so no big deal really.

I wish I had some photos to post, my wife has a cow hunt the first weekend in December (she should kill opening day 😬). So keep this thread alive, or I'll bump it to the top with posted pics of what I'm talking about.
 

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I have an unfair advantage - lots and lots of practice. Not because I am some kind of "the most awesome-ist hunter ever", but because I had previously been part of a family owned and operated meat processing business that (my dad) started up in 1993. So, I've helped cut up hundreds of deer and elk over the years, with quite a few hogs and beef thrown in as well. So much for my resume...

Anyway, on to the secret of life. You take the bone out of the meat, not the meat off the bone. Use your knife to cut along the bones and leaving very large sections of meat on the table - much less work. Think kind of like the opposite of the "gutless method" but in a more controlled environment where meat is removed from the bone.

Then, to remove silver skin, you use the same type of technique as you would fileting a fish. For a muscle group such as the sirloin tip, you separate at the silver skin layer, nothing but meat on one side, the exposed (internal silver skin) on the outside of the other piece. Use your knife and cut just under the silver skin to remove it in large flat sections. Any meat left on the silver skin and be "scraped off" in one motion with your knife. Backstraps are also a muscle group to filet off the silver skin and scrape the left on thin section. Remove other connective tissues like this is well (I call that the "snot stuff").

Also, you clean the outside the same way. You won't lose more than around 5lbs of trim so no big deal really.

I wish I had some photos to post, my wife has a cow hunt the first weekend in December (she should kill opening day 😬). So keep this thread alive, or I'll bump it to the top with posted pics of what I'm talking about.
^^^This.

And having the proper knives helps big time (having both a rigid and a flexible boning knife will handle 99.99% of the work). Meat hooks are very useful too. I also grew up where we always trimmed off the silverskin and cut steaks and cubed stew meat before packaging. Now, I don't bother with that and it hasn't affected the flavor quality at all. Keeping the packages in whole roasts at the portion size I want, then trimming the steaks or stew meat when I thaw it out works very well.
 

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I've had some extra practice cutting meat at a processing facility as well. I'll share a couple things I do, take it or leave it. The most time consuming part for me is packaging. Luckily my wife helps with that so I'm not alone.
The biggest thing I do to save time if I'm cutting my own elk or deer is leave some silver skin. Like on backstraps, i just leave it. If it's for other people, i take that all off so they don't have to. I've found when it comes back out of the freezer it just rips right off i usually don't even need a knife. Also provides an extra layer of protection from freezer burn.
I also never cut steaks on fresh meat. All my straps, tenders and steak cuts that come out of the back leg go into the freezer either whole or in 10 or 12 inch sections. If I want to cut steaks I can do it when I pull it from the freeze. Basically I leave everything in the largest chunks I can. Saves a lot of time and knife work while giving me more versatility for cooking. I can still cut it more when I get it out, generally though I'll just smoke those whole and slice it thin to serve it.
Another thing I do is never grind and do all my sausage the same day I'm cutting. Anything that will be ground goes into a grind pile and into ziplock freezer bags. That way you get a better grind because it's partially frozen when you use it, you don't waste time wrapping cause of the bags and you do batches of sausages/burger in more manageable portions.
These things all save time on the front end but mean a little more prep work before cooking dinner. For me it's worth it to get stuff into the freezer quicker. Plus it's easier to deal with removing silver skin or cutting steaks out of a 12 inch long chunk of backstrap than 10 feet of them.
Just my ideas. Hope it helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks all.

We cut this one into three major groups and did no grinding at this time. I packaged the trim or grind meat into 5lb. packages. Plan being to thaw and grind later or as needed.

We also cut the larger muscle groups into roasts and packaged them as such.

The last type of group were the steaks cut from the backstraps.

Sounds like 7-8hrs with two guys non-stop is about average and also sounds like getting at least 1 6ft table (possibly 2) would help create a better work space.

I thought about researching a material that I could place on my large workbench to serve as a taller, larger work surface as well.

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I can usually do an elk in 4-5 hrs, deer less than 2 hrs. but I love to cut up the meat my family harvests. If I could I would do it as a side job. I don't have the big equipment to store multiple Quarters or Animals. I can usually start after teaching and be done by 7ish. but I Grind the meat the next day though. I hope to process a Bison if I can find one in late December. Now that I think about it, I probably would start to hate to do this as side job:)
 

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Forgive if mentioned above.
I will generally not cut into steaks, stew meat, etc upon first butcher. I will leave big chunks of the muscle whole. Leaves you more room to decide what you want to do with the cuts down the road. I.E. Pull out a 3 lb chunk of backstrap, defrost, cut a few steaks for dinner on wednesday, dice the rest for kebabs on thursday, etc. Also, I generally don't fret the thinner membrane on first cut.

Another huge time saver was the front shoulders. I now take a saw and cut the front shoulder into 2/3 bone in roasts. Tougher with elk, as they are tricky to get into the crock pot, but I have a full antelope shoulder in the freezer for the braising pan later this year, and a few deer front shoulders that are cut into 3 pieces bone in for the slow cooker. SHanks stay bone on and whole for the freezer, to be braised whole or cut to osso bucco discs down the road.

Still takes forever, but I don't want that animal out of my sight after I shot it, its part of the process for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm usually forced to process my game without aging due to temps in the garage. I also find that meat starts to get that "crust" if you wait very long.

Is that stuff edible or does it just add to lost meat?

We did this elk so soon after harvest that it didn't really have any crust or dried out meat.

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My dad was a old time do it yourselfer.

To age meat he would leave the hide on and hang it in the garage. He would leave it uncovered during the night when the temperatures were cold and then first thing in the morning he would head out and wrap it up in blankets for the day keeping the meat quite cool. Then come dark he would start the process all over again. He aged a few of the first deer that I ever shot this way and we never did loose any meat because of it. His idea was that he would wait until there was mold growing on the insides of the ribs before he would start to butcher.

Then we would skin it and start the process of processing it. Mom would take all the bloodshot meat and work with it until there was very little wasted. Skinning out the blood shot until pretty much all was thrown away was where the hole was. As for the ribs, she would take care of them also. Scraping them down and washing them. She would then put all the ribs into a home made BBQ sauce and boil them up on the stove. Those ribs came out so good I can almost still taste them 45+ years later. The hocks were packaged up with soup bone written on the label to be used later with some lima beans. The bits and pieces were never ground up but packaged as stew meat. All the bones were left in for handles when you were smacking your lips on some fresh fried deer chips.

But then both of my parents were born in the teens so long ago. They learned how do do things and no food was wasted. And I mean no food.
 

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A lot of great advice. A couple tricks I've found to be helpful. I use a couple 8' banquet tables with meat bins. Do you burn the hair off the carcass if you hang it? That's pretty handy if you can do that. Not always possible. Hair is the bane of my existence when processing. I have 5 gallon buckets that are the scrap. I have grind tubs and then steak/roast tubs. The only steaks I cut immediately are the back straps. I trim what is reasonable on silver skin. I grind the front quarters of all critters, so I just hack stuff off, take some silverskin off until I get to the shank and then just cut chunks up and put in the grind tub. The trimmings from roasts go into the grind tub as well. I then mix all the grind up so it's evenly distributed so I don't get tough parts. The silverskin is really negligible when ground. I can cook some silverskin off of roasts. I'll make some pastrami soon from my antelope and I'm almost out of elk roasts. I usually wait to make sausage/pastrami till after all seasons are over so I can do it one shot and be ready for summer fishing and fall hunting.

To raise the table so you can sit comfortably but not strain your neck, you can get 2" PVC and cut it at say 8" sections and set the banquet table legs into the PVC, that raises the level of the table. You can sit or stand at that height.
 
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