Beyond Meat – Tapping Into Additional Yields From Animals On The Farm
I farm because I desire that raw tangible connection to nature, in essence to ourselves. I also farm because I enjoy producing food that we eat, it makes me feel safe and eating food from the land we work with every day deepens the connection that satisfies my soul. We produce a variety of things on our farm, but the biggest contribution to our own diet is meat. We easily provide ourselves with all the meat we need. Our meat consists of goat, chicken, beef, and the occasional wild caught deer and even groundhog. Not only are animals a part of our farm because they provide us with food and income, but also because we enjoy being around and interacting with them and I feel that our life is richer for it. They teach us a lot about communication and intelligence and patience. By raising the animals we eat we can also be sure that they are treated humanely, live a good life, and that their dispatch is performed with respect and is quick and as low stress as possible. In addition to the meat for our table, animals provide a plethora of additional yields. Over the past few years I’ve been dabbling with these additional yields, learning how to process different parts and how to enjoy and utilize what they produce. These are some of the ways we tap into the additional yields that our animals provide. Needless to say, nothing on our farm dies in vain.
Once the meat is cut from the carcass, the bones are boiled down for a nutrient rich broth which is frozen or canned for future use. I add vinegar to help pull the minerals from the bones into the broth and let it cook for 12-24 hours before straining the bones out. Beyond just using broth as a soup base, it’s a wonderful rich substitute for water when cooking rice, greens, or beans.
Animal skins are an amazing resource. Early on, I filled our freezer with beautiful skins that I couldn’t bear to toss out until I taught myself to tan them (with the help of books, articles, youtube, and trial and error). Tanned animal skins can be made into clothes, bags, blankets, or even just used as home decor with a deep story. I took a 3 day workshop to learn how to make buckskin (the soft supple suede like leather with no hair) – using the brains of the animal, lots of elbow grease, and smoke. And although I haven’t made anything with my buckskins yet, a skirt is in my very near future. After learning to tan hides for myself I began to offer my services to local hunters who wished to preserve the pelts of their kills. Tanning for others is now a way I bring in a bit of extra income during the winter in the ‘off’ season for the farm.
Animal skins can also be made into rawhide. Rawhide is skin that has simply had the hair taken off and then dried. I’ve salvaged deer hides that would’ve otherwise been tossed from local hunters and made them into beautiful sounding drums by stretching and tying them over hollow forms. Rawhide can also be cut into a thin strip and used as strong lashing.
Fat is rendered down into lard for cooking. Rendering is as easy as cutting pieces of rich white fat from the carcass and melting them down in a pan or crockpot. The fat is then strained into jars while it is still hot and in liquid form and then cooled and used for cooking throughout the year. Lard from our goats has become a staple in our kitchen for cooking and it also keeps our cast iron cookware, which we use on a daily basis, well-seasoned. Lard can also be collected from the top of a pan of fatty broth where it rises and solidifies once it is cooled in the refrigerator. Lard can also be used for making soap (with the other main ingredient being lye). I’ve made soap from hog lard in the past.
I’ve even collected the fat that is scraped from bear hides in preparation for tanning them for hunters. Now while I wouldn’t use this for cooking since the skin it is scraped from is fairly dirty, I render it the same way and we use the resulting grease as a boot oil and conditioner for metal tools. I even used it once to get pine sap out of my hair!!
Hooves from goat and deer are removed and make a lovely sounding rattle to play along with the rawhide drum. The feet from chicken can be eaten or used with the bones to make broth, but we mostly dehydrate them and utilize them as nutritious dog treats.
Anything that isn’t utilized is composted and returned to the earth from which it came.
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