Exploring one of the most controversial issues of the times today animal cruelty. Have you ever really given thought to what it is that you are eating? Do you think twice before you order up a hamburger or steak about where the meat came from? Most people do not. Everyone is raised differently, and we all enjoy different types of food. Let s explore the process used in the slaughtering of animals for food.
Almost all of us have imagined what it is that happens behind the doors of a processing plant where mainly beef and hogs are processed, but have you ever wondered about a deer or a buffalo? Having no idea what to expect, I went along with Ben, a local meat processor, to witness and explore what happens to a buffalo that has been raised for slaughter.
Generally, all of the animals are brought to the shop by the owners the day before slaughter. Beef and hogs can only be slaughtered if a U.S.D.A inspector approves them. An inspector is present during all aspects of meat processing to assure health standards.
The animals are inspected before, during, and after the slaughtering process. This ensures not only that the animal is healthy but also that no animal cruelty is involved. On the other hand animals such as deer and buffalo do not have to be inspected. Although they are treated with the same respect as any other animal to the processors, it is inadmissible for the meat of a deer or a buffalo to be processed at the same time as that of a beef or hog.
A buffalo is a very strong animal, thus making it safer for the animal and the processor if the buffalo is slaughtered on sight. Ben has worked in processing for almost twelve years. He goes out to the Ruxer Buffalo Farm about once a year to help them slaughter. Ben and I arrive at the farm at about nine a.m. on a cold Saturday morning. Ben has brought all of the equipment required for the job. These items include a cradle used to keep the carcass off of the ground while being skinned, a few knifes, a sharpener, a bucket of hot water and a tub to place his dirty apron and utensils.
As Mark Ruxer and Ben discuss how to shoot the buffalo, I was allowed to look through the fence to see my very first live buffalo. It was the biggest animal that I have ever seen. I jumped as it looked up and snorted in my direction. This was such a large animal. Mark wanted to keep the head intact for a mounted display. This took a little more planning because the buffalo needs to be shot behind the neck instead of between the eyes. If the shot is even a hair off it will only make the buffalo angry instead of killing it.
Mark always shoots the buffalos because they are more prone to trust him than Ben. The first shot is fired, and we all wait to see if the beast will drop. He grunts and throws his head back. Mark takes another shot. This one drops the animal to the ground. I watched in awe of what a tiny bullet could do to such a large animal.
Ben explained to me how I could tell if the animal was dead. He told me that if the eyes were rolled back into the head and you could see the white part of the eye that the animal was still alive. If the eyes were in a fixed position and appeared to be glossed the animal was dead. So I looked into the eyes of this massive beast, I could clearly see that he was dead. Ben entered the knocking pen and pulled the hind legs of the buffalo together.
Then he used a chain to hook the legs to the bucket of a tractor. Mark slowly backed the tractor and pulled the huge animal out of the knocking pen. This is where the real work begins. Ben puts on his apron and sharpens his knife as Mark lifts the bucket of the tractor so that the buffalo is hanging up in the air. Ben used his left hand to locate the gap between the breastbone. Then used his right hand to stick the chest cavity with his knife.
This is called bleeding the animal because it causes all of the blood to drain from the body. As the blood flows out of the opening Ben starts to remove the head. The steam rolled out of the neck as the last cuts were made to remove the head. This head is now set aside for Mark. Then the beast is moved over to the cradle and slowly lowered onto it. Ben ties off the esophagus and rectum with some twine to keep anything from coming out.
Then he starts to skin the animal. This takes him about thirty minutes. Then Ben has Mark move the buffalo back to the hanging position so that he can gut it. The penis and rectum are removed first to keep any contaminates out. Then Ben slowly cuts a line down the center of the belly and the chest. As he does this, you can hear the gasses seep from the carcass.
The abdominal area is slowly pulled open exposing all of the organs; Ben cuts out the liver and the heart. He places them in a container for mark to take home. Then one swift tug and all of the remaining organs come out together into a barrel to be thrown out. Now the buffalo is loaded onto the back of a pick up. It is placed onto plastic to be taken to the shop for further processing. In conclusion, although slaughtering is not something that I would want to witness everyday, it was a very educational experience.
The question of animal cruelty will always remain a part of what we eat. The slaughtering of animals for food will continue to be a part of everyday life. Going into this with an open mind I was able to explore what really happens behind the doors of a processing plant; it is not what you would expect at all. I am impressed with the amount of respect the processors have for the animals they slaughter. I am even more impressed with the thought of being eye to eye with a buffalo.