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Picture of How to butcher a lamb
When I first started raising sheep I didn't know how to butcher one, so I took my lambs to the butcher.  He charged me $50 each, and I had the nagging feeling that the leg and loin roasts should have been quite a bit larger than they came back to me.  What could I do?

A friend of mine recently taught me how to butcher a lamb for myself.  So now I can save money and get the cuts just the way I like them.

The pictures that follow are a bit graphic, so be SURE you want to know how this is done before you continue.  But if you do, mmmmm...  so delicious!
 
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Step 1: Get your stuff together

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 Get your things together.  You're gonna get messy and you won't really want to go back in the house, so get everything you need up front.  I backed a car out of the garage so I'd have a space to work that wasn't in the snow.

If you're doing a halal killing (in keeping with islamic law) you won't need the gun or the rope.  I have not yet worked up the nerve to try it that way, so I use the gun.

Step 2: Get the critter

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This is the tough part.  Once the deed is done, the rest is smooth sailing.  It DOES feel a little like killing Bambi, so if you're tender-hearted, get a more cold-blooded friend to help.  Maybe a hunter or a farmer, or someone that has some experience with this.

Tie the front and back legs together so the animal can't get up or move.  Trust me, it's for the best.  Use the rifle at close range to make sure the animal doesn't suffer.  Aim for the spot just behind the ear and make certain that you use proper gun safety!  If you shoot your own foot, don't come crying to me. 

If you are going to do a halal killing, you will need to have someone help you hold the animal, but you can't bind it.  You also have to skip this step and go directly to step three.

Step 3: Drain the blood

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This is where it starts to get graphic.  If you are doing a halal killing, the animal will still be alive.  If not, you are now dealing with a carcass.  Either way, it's time for the shears.

You would be amazed how tough it can be to cut through thick wool.  Since I usually butcher in cold weather, their wool is pretty long.  Clean up a spot on the neck just above the shoulders.  Then get your sharp knife and make a deep cut from one shoulder to the other, cutting through the neck.  This will allow all the blood to drain out of the animal, even if it is already dead.

If you are doing a halal killing, you have to release the animal after you make the cut so it can move freely as it dies.  My apologies if this is upsetting to anyone, but those are the rules.  I didn't make them, I'm just reporting them.

Step 4: Field Dressing - part I

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This is a polite term for taking the guts out.  You have to do this step with care, or you'll make a real mess for yourself.  If you get any of the contents of the stomach, intestines, bladder, etc, on the meat, you will have to get to rinsing it quickly or you can spoil it.  

Make an incision just below the point where the ribs come together and then extend it to within a few inches of the anus.  Do NOT cut into the anus at this point.  You'll be unhappy if you do.

Some knives have a "gut hook" on them that facilitate this process.  If yours doesn't, make sure to keep your knife flat against the belly so you just slide the blade under the skin and don't puncture anything inside.  If you do it right, it will look like this.

Step 5: Field Dressing - part II

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Now that you have the initial cut, you will need to get to cutting some bone.  You will want to remove all the internal organs in one smooth step.  This will include, heart and lungs, as well as all digestive organs.  You will need to cut through one side of the rib cage so you can get at the heart and lungs, and the middle of the pelvis so you can remove the intestines. My knife cuts ribs just fine but doesn't do as well on the thicker pelvis.  You can use the electric saw for that, but I wouldn't.  Too much risk of tearing intestines.  I used a hack-saw for this animal because it gave me the control I needed to keep the blade well clear of the innards. 

There is a thin membrane that attaches all of the organs to the inside of the body cavity.  You will need to begin at the bottom by lifting the anus through the gap you created in the pelvis.  Lay the five-gallon bucked down next to the carcass and place the intestines into it.  Continue separating the organs from the body cavity and feeding them into the bucket as you go.  They should just about fill the bucket when they are all in there.  

Spread the ribs and cut out the heart and lungs.  You don't need to be too concerned about punctures at this end of the carcass because getting blood on the meat won't affect its quality at all.

If you like haggis or want to make your own sausage, you may want to keep heart, liver, lungs, stomach, or intestines.  That's your call.  If you don't know what a haggis is, check this out.  Personally, when it comes to organ meat, I'm out. 

Step 6: Hang it up to drain

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This will let the blood finish draining from the carcass.  Use the game hanger and the accompanying block and tackle.  The pulleys make lifting it MUCH easier.  You can hang it from a tree or a deck.  I used the monkey bars of my kid's playset.  If that seems harsh to you, ask yourself this: who do you think took these pictures?

Yeah, that's right.  I'm raising farmers.

Use your knife to make a hole all the way through the skin between the knee and its tendon.  This is where the hanger hook will go.  Do this on both sides and then hoist it up until it is hanging vertically.  Leave it there for at least 30 minutes to drain whatever blood is left. 

Step 7: Begin the prep

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After it's hung for a while, it's time to begin preparing the carcass.  I used a yard cart to haul it to the garage.  You could probably just lift and carry it now, if you had to.  It's amazing how much the organs weigh!

Once you're in the garage, lay the carcass on the prep table.  I laid down some butcher paper so the dirty wool didn't get on the table.  

 

Step 8: Take off some odds and ends

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Cut through the skin all they way around the legs just below the meaty part you want to keep.  Then break out the electric saw.

Cut the rest of the way through the neck and remove the head.  Cut through each of the four legs and place these parts into the second bucket.

You might want to cut the tail stump off right now to make skinning easier.  I didn't, but you might.

Step 9: Skinning

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Now place the knife flat against the skin near the neck and gently slice it away from the meat beneath.  The skin will come away with a decently thick layer of fat, so don't be alarmed if it seems to thick.  The good meat is underneath. 

If you're planning to use the skins for anything, be sure not to cut through them right now.  This can be tough to do, so don't get frustrated if you botch it.  Keep practicing.  You'll get it.

Cut along the chest and ribs toward the back legs.  When you reach the legs, cut through the skin to free it from the leg bones.  

Cut the skin all the way off one side and then turn the carcass over and do the other side.  When you are finished, lift the skinned carcass and have your helper (you brought one, right?) place the skin wool-side down on the floor and pitch the butcher paper.  Now place the carcass on the clean table and you're ready to divide it up.

Step 10: Cuts of meat

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Now it's time to decide what cuts you want to keep from this lamb.  If you don't know where the cuts come from on the animal, check out this diagram from the American Lamb Board.  I prefer roasts to steaks, so I keep most of my cuts whole.  If you like chops or steaks, you can cut it that way, but you need to decide now.

To separate the roasts, use your sharp knife and separate the front legs from the body at the shoulder joint.  Then do the back legs as the hip joint.  Take the time to carefully work the blade between the bones of the joint and it will separate pretty easily.  There should be no need to cut through bone here.

Almost done!

Step 11: Cuts of meat part II

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 Some people cut the  breast meat as a "rolled roast".  It's a bit like beef flank steak, and I prefer to use it as ground lamb.  I like ground lamb a lot, so all the leftover cuts will be ground.  

Take your electric saw and cut the ribs off of the backbone.  Now all that remains is to remove the tenderloins.  These are the nice thick strips that run from the head to the hips along either side of the backbone.  Take them out in one piece and they will make delicious loin roasts.  If you prefer, you can slice them to get the lamb equivalent of fillet mignon.  You can slice the leg roasts into sirloin steaks as well, if you like.  I like them better as roasts.

Finally, I cut the spine into three pieces to use as soup bones, and I carve as much meat as possible off of them.  All those extra bits will go into the ground lamb.

Step 12: Grinding the odd cuts

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All the little leftover bits of meat can go in the grinder.  My wife has a Kitchen Aid mixer, and we got the meat grinder attachment for it.  Depending on how liberal or conservative you are with the bits you grind, you should end up with somewhere between five and ten pounds of ground lamb.  Cut the pieces so that they will fit in the hopper.  Try to keep a balanced mix of lean and fatty cuts, as this will produce a more flavorful product that will form and cook better than one that is too lean or too fatty.  I like my mix to be about 80-20. 

That's it.  You're done.  Enjoy the lamb.
NedP8 months ago

Processed my first lamb and used this as a guide. It all went pretty smooth, though I didn't mess with using an electric reciprocating saw (I didn't want to deal with the clean up...I like my saw). I found a hand tool at Home Depot with interchangeable reciprocating saw blades for $14 bucks (the metal cutting blades work the best, wood cutting blades are too course). It made quick work of the ribs and any other necessary bone cuts. I live in a temperate climate and the weather wasn't a factor in deciding whether to field dress the animal outside. I would highly recommend that you skin the animal while it is hanging. Let gravity help you get the skin off. Aside from that....thanks for the guidance!

bodie (author)  NedP8 months ago

Congrats! it's is a very satisfying thing to raise and harvest your own meat. That hand saw sound pretty useful. My next project will be processing one of our hogs. I may make an 'ible for that too!

mumzy44 days ago

Hi, can I please ask how old should the Lamb be and what weight is best to be at butchering? Thank you for your reply :-)

bodie (author)  mumzy42 hours ago

The ones I butchered were usually between 100 and 150 lbs.

KateMcdonaldAR made it!8 months ago

Farmdoctor are you a scientific vet ??? No I didn't think so. The cutting of any animals throat is cruel and the animal suffers terrible this has been proven by scientific vets not that it takes such vets to prove such a thing. Clearly you are someone who believes in ritual slaughter and the world knows how barbaric this is. Who do you think you are to say that sheep don't feel any pain when their throats are slit, how do you know this?? To say it's cruel to shoot a sheep OH MY GOD you are a frightening human being. If you had two choices one being killed while you are unconscious two being killed while fully conscious which one would you choose. Pity help any animal that ends up in your hands. Truth is since animals cannot speak therefore they cannot tell you if they are suffering you exploit this. But one thing everybody knows (that is those who know anything about animal slaughter) is the halal is extremely cruel and is the slowest most painful way to kill an animal. Get your facts straight before you mouth off, oh and halal slaughter is a religious form of slaughter so are you a practicing Muslim? Even Muslims will accept the stunning of an animal before its throat is cut. Your nothing more than a coward who gets off on the brutal slaughter of innocent animals like sheep who cannot defend themselves. As for bodie you have no idea what you are on about mate not an idea in the world. Would you cut the throat of a dog mate? No of course not, you would make sure it was killed as humanely as possible.

http://www.peta.org/blog/cruelty-behind-muslim-ritual-slaughter/

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Really! With the title "how to butcher a lamb" do you think this is the best thing for you to read if you find it so offensive? This is great information for those of us who believe that animals can be and should be used for the purpose of food.

I am not a doctor but I have been butchering my own meat since a child with my father and I believe that it is abusive to animals to buy your meat from stores because most of the meat in stores comes from large scale industry and by raising your own and doing the dirty work yourself you are giving the animals the respect of your actions my animals are always treated with care never thirsty or hungry they are made friendly to eat out of our hands they follow us around like pets and it is all for the purpose of putting food on our table for our family not to make or save money because it costs me money to live the way I do the reason for hand feeding is to make it easy on them when its time to butcher them then they are not scared and trapped for death they walk right up to it and get petted now the reason I am commenting on your post was because I dont think you have ever done any of this and if so you probably watched it be done in a disrespectful way to nature and it probably made you have feelings that you don't like the process should be done in a way that a child can see it and not get afraid and the way I do it they don't now about how to do the killing part there are lots of ways and lots of opinions as whats best and all are not what the animals want so its best they don't know whats happening so that said is it better to shoot them or cut them
bodie (author)  KateMcdonaldAR8 months ago

So no Halal meat for you then?

shender bodie6 months ago
Thanks for posting. Great Instructable. Here is a video of one of my first slaughters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmwOQSQuw1s&sns=em

mmuuttss6 months ago
Good information if I could give you some suggestions first if you are killing using a gun once it is dead hang it up high enough to have it's head over a 5 gallon bucket then cut all around the neck and let drain once it stops dripping remove the head this process makes for better taste in the meat by getting the chemicals of the brain out and away such as dopamine and adrenaline they make meat tast different you also are better off with skinning it hanging up because the dirt you might get on it won't affect it as much as the lanolin on the wool by skinning it pulling down and using one hand to pull other on knife and helper only pulling you can turn it inside out keeping as much lanolin away from the meat as possible in this process you will want to cut around the anus and tie off the anus and bladder with string I use yarn because its easier to hold with slippery hands this keeps urine and feces off meat also about taste and last bit of advice is to leave it hanging for at least 24 hours in cool clean place walk in is best but most of us dont have one so I came up with a great way to do this get a very large cooler one bigger that the body on the end without the drain drill a hole through it to attach eye bolt to hook the body onto then hang the cooler up in your garage or back porch then hang meat inside it put some ice on the bottom I use frozen half gallon milk jugs then shut the cooler and I tie it shut to keep dogs out after 24 hrs then butcher it how you like the waiting period helps the meat to get bato a more relaxed state before butchering and makes for a more tender cut all these suggestions are only about making it more enjoyable to eat please try them and let me know if you can taste the difference
schnitzle1 year ago

Hey there's that caul fat that everyone is always going on about during the cooking shows!
This is the scariest part to me. I just know I'd nick something and it would be poop city.

ManowarARG1 year ago
i don´t think i would be safe(and clean) to skin the animal at the end of the process, i´ve seen many people butcher lambs(and cows, deers, etc) and they always skin the animal as soon they kill it

and i think you don´t need the saw to cut the limbs, with a knife in the joints is enough
bodie (author)  ManowarARG1 year ago

We kept the skin on it because we knew we were going to move it around in a wagon. I didn't want the meat to come in contact with the dirty old wagon.

As you mentioned, a knife in the joint is sufficient to separate the leg bones. We used the saw because we didn't want the whole leg bone, just the meaty part.

asmith1721 year ago
can you please Explain more on what prion is and what you have to do to be careful while butchering.. thanks
bodie (author)  asmith1721 year ago
Prions are cells that have misfolded proteins in them. They seem to be able to "recruit" other cells to also misfold the same protein and they end up building amyloid plaque in the nervous system. Since there is no known treatment and the diseases caused by prions are always fatal, it gets a lot of press, even though the risk of coming in contact with a prion seems to be very low.

The processes by which prions are formed are poorly understood at the moment. There is a growing body of research that suggests that animals that eat the remains of other animals, their urine, feces, or saliva, are at greater risk of developing prions.

That being the case, the risk of you getting a prion in your meat is controlled by good animal husbandry practices, proper grazing rotation, herd sizing, and feed management. The butchering process has very little to do with the CREATION of prions.

If you suspect that the animal you are butchering may already HAVE prions, it would be safest not to eat it at all. If you decide you want to eat it anyway, you would want to avoid letting any of the meat come in contact with any part of the brain or spinal column.
kunilemel2 years ago
Many tools you use there. I never needed more than two knives, and one will also suffix. Forget the shears. no need to cut so low - around here we cut just under the jaw, no wool there, and it's a smaller, neater cut, and that way you can do single-handed, no helpers whatsoever. And it's still HALAL by the way, that's how the bedouins around here do it always. All I've just said is true for goats and cows also.
Can you shear the sheep before you dispatch it? Is Spinal nerve matter an issue for BSE . SE happens in many mammals and we can get it . Kuru is another version (or just another name) Krutchfield Jacobs Disease is the same in humans, (different source though)

Great instructable. My father in Law, (commercial meat cutter) had a "lamb Chopper" that was stolen it was aglorious saber with about a 3 foot blade (plus handle) he used it exclusively with lamb, but it was great for big steaks

Please please please do a video and put on Youtube. I though they tied off the annus immediately to prevent and expulsion of fecal matter, you could tie off the penis as well(if a male).

did you send the skin out for processing?

thanks again
bodie (author)  spark master3 years ago
You could do that. Depending on when you normally shear and when you normally lamb, it might not be much of a problem. We lambed in February and butchered the next winter, so we couldn't really shear the sheep first unless we butchered it just a few minutes later.

In general, you should be very careful handling brain and spinal cord if they could possibly be infected with BSE prions. However, since we raised these lambs from birth and fed them only grass and a tiny bit of grain, we were pretty confident
that they were prion-free.

I don't know about the tying-off of things, but we just handled them carefully and didn't have any problems. I contemplated processing the skins, but ultimately decided that I just too much going on and didn't have time. They would have made excellent rugs, though.
Eric T4 years ago
Here is a suggestion: Place the swing set or what ever you use to hang the carcass on. Near the table where the disassembly is going to take place. Then after you field dress it and hang it start cutting the hide around the back legs. Cut the hide like described then pull down the hide and cut with the knife blade toward the hide (Better to cut the hide then the meat so it can be washed with a water hose. After the Hair or wool “whatever” gets on the carcass.) I have butchered cows, hogs & deer. Very Good Instructable!
Wolfbird5 years ago
Actually, thanks for explaining how Halal works. I've bought Halal meat at my local grocer a few times because I noticed it was on special (or whatever) without knowing what it really meant. I was under the impression it was just some religious mumbo-jumbo holy-water incantations stuff.

Since it all tastes the same to me, I think I'll stay away from Halal from now on. Dying from bleeding out sounds like a crummy way to go.
bodie (author)  Wolfbird5 years ago
 I've never died from loss of blood, so I can't say first hand.  But I've been TOLD that it's not a bad way to go.  Evidently, you become very sleepy and then you die.  There are worse things.

Anyway, the point of halal meat is that the person that is doing the killing is giving thanks for the animal and dedicating it to God.  I do something similar when I say grace before eating.

But I get your point because I probably won't do it that way unless and until I have a customer that demands it.
hahns bodie4 years ago
But before the theoretical drowsiness comes the pain of getting cut from shoulder to shoulder through the neck with a big, sharp knife.
I'd very much prefer a clean shot through the head.
Mirime4 years ago
Thank you for the careful way you showed the before and after of the live and not live lambs. Many people need to see that meat comes from a real animal not, and I quote " made in the store were no cows get hurt"
abu.salim4 years ago
If all of you want to know more about the fact behind regulation of animal slaughter ini the Islamic  law. You can read it here. Actually it's in Indonesian so I use google-translator so you can read in English.

You will know that based on research of Prof. Dr. Dr. Schultz dan his patner, Dr. Schultz and his colleague, Dr. Hazim . There are so many advantages ini the way of animal slaughter in the Islamic law.
Thanx.

Klik here : The fact of animal slaughter in the Islamic Law.

Original URL : http://www.tutorize.co.cc/uncategorized/fakta-penyembelihan-hewan-di-dalam-syariat-islam.html


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LittleWolf4 years ago
I was expecting more criticizing comments, I guess Instructables really is quite a refined community.

Thanks for making this instructable, it is very informative. I always find it hilarious how most of my friends will faint at the notion of butchering a raw chicken, let alone killing it or gutting it.

As for the organs, you mentioned clients in one of your comments. I really hope you at least sell some of the organs, they are seriously Good Eats. I hate liver but I'll always pass it on to someone who likes it. Hearts tho, hearts are all mine. Try cutting them in small pieces and making gravies with them if you can't get over the texture.
haugenka5 years ago
Excellent ible! And all this time, I thought butcher paper was for making flow charts and notes at meetings... You're giving your kids a huge gift by teaching them where their food comes from and how it happens. I learned the process from a 10 year old Muslim boy in West Africa, who, once he saw my amazement, says, "You think THAT's cool, check out THIS: it's a metal CAN, and it has PEAS inside!!!"
bodie (author)  haugenka4 years ago
Thanks. It was difficult for them to eat the first lamb that we butchered. The tastiness of it helped them get over it. Now we butcher our own chickens and lambs, and my third son is saving to buy a hog. They have learned a lot and we are getting a much higher quality meat than we could buy in the store. The kid with the can of peas is kinda mind-blowing. I guess it's all in what you're used to, isn't it?
haugenka bodie4 years ago
It is in what you're used to, but it's pretty cool when you can make conscious choices about what your kids get used to, and they get in on the whole cycle of life. The 'metal tube' is cool in its own way – probably saved a lot of lives – but either way, I think it's all about awareness and appreciation – being grateful for the life of the animal or being grateful there's a can of peas there during the dry season. Learning that kind of appreciation is much harder in a big town grocery store!
canida haugenka4 years ago
Awesome story. It is weird to find food in a metal tube!
canida4 years ago
Great Instructable! I've recently butchered a couple of pigs and a goat, so am having fun comparing to your notes.

Did you freeze the meat, and if so how did you prepare/wrap/store it?

Muslimama5 years ago
The point of a halal butcher is to make sure the animal dies in the fastest most humane and painless way. With kindness and compassion and in the name of Allah. It is also required that the animal be raised in the most humane way. If these things are not being done, then it is not halal.
wsecomp5 years ago
Good job, Bodie!  We raise goats and have someone do the butchering for us ($40 per animal).  He took the skin and horns off in one piece (which we are in the process of tanning). Eventually, we'll get to where we can do it ourselves.  We're still a little tender-hearted to do it yet.

About the only thing between killing kosher and killing hallal is for kosher you don't have to let the animal walk around (that I know of).  But other than that, slitting the throat is the same.

Even without the internals, the animal can still weight quite a bit, so make sure to lift with your legs and NOT with your back!  Our yearling buck weighed somewhere around 60# after removing the skin and internals.
Nicely done. I've butchered several types of large game and cattle before but not sheep. It's good to see a clean easy to follow walk-through of the process.
bodie (author)  Tyler W. Cox5 years ago
 Thanks. :)  When I wanted to learn, I had a hard time finding the information.  So I thought an ible might help someone else.
I'm curious why you don't fully shear the wool before slaughtering the lamb?  It seems that it would be easier that way.

Good instructable.  Although, I don't think I'll be giving it a try anytime soon.
bodie (author)  ImTeslaBeotch5 years ago
 I didn't shear them because I knew I was going to use the skins.  I wanted the finished, tanned skins to have a nice long wool on them.  If I were not planning to use the skins, I probably would have sheared them first.
Makes sense, that was what I was assuming.
Jayefuu5 years ago
Brilliant ible. Everyone who eats meat should be made to read this.