Butchered A Whole Cow

IMG_6379-1 (dragged) 1
“If skill could be gained by watching, every dog would become a butcher.”
--Turkish Proverb

On the day J, Ryan, and I
went kayaking in the Bay, I got the opportunity to try a hamburger from the 4505 Meats booth at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. I could not think of a burger I liked better. Not long after this, I signed up for a butchering class with them. There was no room in the beef classes when I checked, so I signed up for the whole hog class, but I asked the awesome Tech and Ops Manager Kent to let me know when a spot might became available. One did and I snatched it up.

It's always a good thing to know where your food is coming from, and 4505 gets their beef from
Magruder Ranch where they raise healthy, safe, and sustainable grass-fed cattle. Their customers include Chez Panisse, Flour + Water, and of course 4505 Meats. It's also a great thing to see the processes that your food takes before it gets to your plate. This is why I was super excited to take this class.

Here's a description of the class:

This class will give students the opportunity to break down an entire steer, yielding over 100 pounds of local, grass fed, high quality meat per student. Cuts will include Rib Eye, Flintstone Chop, Filet, New York, Strip, Short Ribs, Osso Bucco, Burger meat, Skirt Steak, Flank Steak, Bones, etc.

In addition to getting expert butchering instruction and experience from Ryan Farr, you will be paying $6.50 a pound for high quality cuts of meat that you typically see for double or triple that amount of money at retail stores. This class is roughly 9 hours long and takes place from 9am - 6pm. There will be a one hour break in the middle of the day to enjoy sausage, chicharrones, and other goodies!

Before the class started, I got to meet the other people I'd be spending the day with: George, Phyllis, Michael, Jason, and Aleks. Everyone was pretty excited about it.

We started the day with a delicious scramble with sausage and salad greens.
Pasted Graphic 5

After we ate, we signed a waiver and our instructor Ryan Farr told us a little bit about the beef they work with. Then we got a short introduction to the tools we'd be using, which included sharp knives, strong kitchen twine, and saws.
Butchering Tools

Our instructor Ryan and Kent brought out the first quarter that we would be working with. It was the cow's left rear section.

With the quarter hung from a hook, Ryan explained some of the different things we could see right away. Two examples of this are the kidney and the hanger steak, which gets its name because it hangs from the diaphagm.
IMG_6367-1 (dragged) 1

All the tools were laid out, and we got to take a good look at this first quarter. On one side, there was a sticker that said it weighed 647 pounds. On the other side, we got to see the cross section of the cow and the inside of the lower spine.
IMG_6371-1 (dragged) IMG_6362-1 (dragged) 1 IMG_6374-1 (dragged)

Ryan showed us where to start, in front of the leg. Making a small cut at the insertion of that muscle, he just made smaller cuts to separate along that muscle.

From here, Jason got the chance to work his way across with a knife and go all the way around until he got to the bone.
IMG_6399-1 (dragged)

George cut his way through the rest with a saw.
IMG_6415-1 (dragged)

The bottom section came off and separated from the leg. From this angle, we could see the leg socket and the sirloin.
IMG_6427-1 (dragged)

On the inside, Ryan showed us the flap on the left and the flank on the righ.
IMG_6430-1 (dragged)

The leg section showed the other side of the cut.

Next, we got to work on the front of the steer.

After I made the initial cut between the 4th and 5th rib, Phyllis followed my line and attacked the rest of the cut with a saw.
IMG_6443-1 (dragged)

We repeated this for the other half of the steer, taking turns cutting and sawing.
IMG_6464-1 (dragged)

Eventually, we got to work on our own stations with one of the eight sections we'd just cut off. Ryan showed Michael and George how to approach this leg.
IMG_6473-1 (dragged)

My first piece was the rib section, and my first order of business was to remove the skirt steak.
IMG_6480-1 (dragged)

Next, I sawed the ribs off and removed the shoulder blade.
IMG_6485-1 (dragged)

I was left with just a long section of meat.
IMG_6489-1 (dragged)

I cut between each rib to make beautiful, thick rib eye steaks.
IMG_6494-1 (dragged)

I worked with the sirloin next. I removed this bone from the muscle, trying to stay as close to the bone as possible.
IMG_6502-1 (dragged)

As we worked through the day, the cuts resembled things we normally eat more and more. Eventually I got to work with the tenderloin head (filet mignon).
IMG_6511-1 (dragged)

I also got to cut up some flank steak.
IMG_6512-1 (dragged)

We also got to see some internal organs, like the liver.
IMG_6540-1 (dragged)

If you've ever had a 4505 burger before, you'd know why I'm so excited to see so much ground beef.
IMG_6544-1 (dragged)

We took a lunch break that included spicy meatballs, some delicious vegetables, and salad.

Of course, no trip here would be complete without a big bowl of chicharrones.

After lunch, we bagged ground beef and cut up bones.
IMG_6582-1 (dragged)

I took a peak in the fridge and found something special.
IMG_6595-1 (dragged)

We had all our coolers lined up, so Ryan and Kent could divvy up our beef before we headed home.
IMG_6598-1 (dragged)

This was a long day, but ultimately, it was also very rewarding. When I got home, J asked me how I liked the class, and I responded with little hesitation that it was one of the most fun things I've done this year (and I've done a lot!). Not only did I get to learn about food, I met some really great people and participated in a quality hands on experience. Ryan was a great teacher, and I left with not just a boatload of tasty beef and a lot more knowledge but also a greater appreciation of where my food comes from. If you ever get the opportunity to take this class, do it. It's awesome!

Related Items:
Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork
Dash And Bella - blog by Phyllis Grant
Sac Valley CrossFit - CrossFit affiliate of Jason Benade and Aleks Chung
The Mobile Mixologist - website of Michael's wonderful drinks
blog comments powered by Disqus