This past Saturday, I made a big jump in my butchery skills. I broke down my first whole animal, that's butcher-speak for cutting a carcass into marketable cuts.
Billy was a 20 lb goat kid, Cabrito!
I had assisted a few times before, but this time, I did the cutting. Now, I've become mostly immune to any sort of reaction to the carcasses I handle everyday, but when one still has eyes, a tongue hanging out of it's mouth and even a tail, it makes things much more interesting...
Butchery is incredible for me because it mixes all of my passions and experiences; it is at once food, anatomy and sculpture, it is both athletic and artistic. So, as I counted down 4 vertebrae from the skull, held the neck firmly with my left hand and let the bone saw do it's thing, I felt an exhilarating sense of pride and accomplishment in my mastery of a new skill. It was remarkably quick work, in a few minutes the 20 lb goat was 2 rib racks, several scotch loin chops, 2 leg roasts and sweetbreads. The offal and head, my colleague, Bryan, uses to make pate. The goat is selling OK for right now. It's been written up recently and we are actively encouraging people who haven't had it before to try it. Goat accounts for almost 2/3 of the red meat eaten in the world. Because goats deposit most of their fat in a layer on their sides, the meat is naturally high in protein and low in fat. The taste is similar to lamb, so if you like lamb, try some cabrito next time you're feeling adventurous!
Weeks ago, I took the skull from the first goat we broke down. As it was Bryan's first, it should have been his to take. But he had plans to be out of town, so I lucked out. It is now on my bookshelf, so goth, right?
Bone preservation is a maybe unsurprisingly laborious, time-consuming process. All said, it took about a day and a half for a skull about the size of a softball, but it came out perfectly. I still have to varnish it, but I think it will be a pretty great momento of my first year as a butcher.
I also now have a deep respect for taxidermists.