Demonstration: Traditional Old-World Meat Cutting

Brandon Sheard, Farmstead Meatsmith


Former academic (Renaissance Literature)

Not trained in ‘conventional’ butchery.


In the US we focus on two things:

  1. Trim
  2. Portioning

There is an emphasis on these two things in all restaurants and supermarkets.


The hanging weight is without skin, guts etc.

We usually get back only 40% of the hanging weight because of the cuts that we want.


There are three ways of cooking meat and are linked to the physiology of the cow – braising, pan frying and roasting. If you are familiar with these, then you can butcher and make sense of the cuts.


We have to re-learn the curing and preserving of meat rather than freezing.


The fat is so important in grass-fed animals and we need to include that. To apply conventional butchery techniques to grass-fed animals is a waste.


Farmstead Meatsmith provides a range of services:

  • On-farm slaughter
  • Traditional butchery
  • On farm slaughter
  • Classes – 6-8 hour classes
  • No freezer classes – preserving instead
  • See also Anatomy of Thrift website.


The pelvis and shoulder blade are the only tricky bits to cut around.

Cannot stress the importance enough of a good knife.


Grass-fed beef should be hung for a minimum of 30 days (at least).


It is important that people desire grass-fed beef.

The most effective way to ensure this is through hospitality.


No trim!

  • May get discolouration from bruising
  • Some mould is fine
  • It is the beautiful fat that distinguishes grass-fed meat so why get rid of it?
  • We give the farmer back 100% of animal
  • This assumes kitchen skills but people should learn

With conventional butchery the butcher returns an average of 60% back from the butcher, so 40% goes to waste.

Of the 60%, the retailer gets 60% of this.

We need to get 100% of hanging weight to honour the animals we raise.


The back leg is the trickiest cut to cook. There is no lubricating fat, it is tough and it is prone to to dryness even with long cooking. Therefore we eat it raw. It can stay unwrapped in the fridge for around 2 weeks (I had a taste of this and it was lovely).


Aged grass-fed beef should smell like milk!


The beef was supplied by Sheepdrove Farm and the owners gave a brief talk on how they raise their cattle after the demonstration .


On watching Brandon, I was reminded of this quote by Daro Cecchini:

‘Here is the essence of our craft as butchers; a task crude and compassionate, strong yet delicate, always respectful toward the killed animal, with the ethical imperative of always using the meat in the best manner possible, knowing that, since the beginning of time, these animals were given to mankind as a gift from God…

…A true butcher looks to use the whole animal and hopes, as one would hope for themselves, that the animal had a comfortable life full of good food, necessary space to live and a respectful death.’  
Dario Cecchini

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