Animal Butchery

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One of the first classes I took at the CIA was meat and fish fabrication. I believe that whole animal butchery is a essential skill to have as a cook and chef-in-training. Whole animal butchery is easier on your wallet and you develop a sense of respect for the animal that you just broke down intimately with your bare hands. You also learn not to waste any offal parts or the parts that are usually thrown away. Almost every single thing can be used on an animal, I personally always like to see how little waste I can create when butchering.

We got to go primal and break down entire primal cuts (loins, ribs, shoulder clots, etc) that were as big as our protein cutting boards. We were also taught how to break down primal cuts of cow, veal, chickens, pigs, and lambs. On the ocean side, we were shown how to butcher round and flat fish, shuck bivavles (clams, mussels, oysters), crabs, big game fish (big eye tuna, swordfish), and lobsters. Butchering fish was by far my favorite, nothing is more perfect that watching your razor sharp knife glide effortlessly through a beautifully fresh fish.

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The not so pretty was butchering a 50 pound quarter of veal. The stench of veal is still seared into my nose; it smells of innocence and mother’s milk. The flesh is insanely tender and soft, and the connective tissues haven’t developed yet so removing silver skin and tendons takes more precision that regular beef. Worst of all when I wedged the tip of my knife to sever the connective tissue in the knee joint, joint fluid generously squirted all over my tote, face, and coat.

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~ by Clifton Su on September 4, 2012.

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