Wednesday, January 28, 2009

...a grumbly, rumbly, roaring stomach...

Food. Probably one of the dirtiest parts of working at the EFRC. Yes, you can scoop poo, pick up maggot filled bones, even the occasional spray, but feeding is where most of the dirty work comes in.

Blood, guts, bones, and internal fluids can get messy, no less a bit smelly. I have learned not to take my clothes home with me. They stink, they are always wet with blood, rain, or snow, and frankly they are just too disgusting to deal with unless you plan an immediate laundry date.

So, butchering. Do you ever wonder how its done? What we use? How we section the animals into meals reasonable for every cat in the center? If so and if your stomach can handle it, go on and read ahead!

For the most part we feed out cow, horse,deer, or goat, but some cats eat only chicken which is processed, much the way we see it when we buy raw chicken from the store. The others, we butcher in our new building. Cows and horses, normally, come already deceased. Every once and a while they come alive and Bill, who drives to get most of our deceased livestock, will put them down humanely.

However, when we get them we move them into the barn and pull a metal rope around the back hoof of the animal. Typically the head comes off first since it allows the animal to drain most of its blood once gone. After the head, we cut off the back leg that is strung in the wire rope. The tension of the animals weight hanging allows a very clean and fast cut detaching the leg from the animal. We then take excess meat off the leg, cutting it down to a size that we can carry and use the chunks. Next is a front leg. We cut it the same as the back, except we leave the shoulder blade attached as well. We take the second front leg next and lastly pull the animal up by the last back leg. We do not take the leg off, instead we cut the chest cavity open and allow the guts (intestines, liver, heart, lungs, etc) to drop into the bucket of the Bobcat. We then take the guts to the compost where they decompose with the help of high temperatures and plenty of bacteria. Since the leg is still attached, we use this time to cut the ribs from the spine, the spine from the brisket, the brisket from the pelvic portion of the animal, and the pelvic from the last remaining leg. Once again, the tension of the animal upside down, allows fast and easy cuts. Butchering can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes for one animal.

The meat, whether on bone or in chunk, is taken into the cooler (approx 30x30 ft) where it waits to be fed out to the cats. We feed out approximately 3,000 pounds of meat a day an equivalent of 2-4 large animals. The meat in the cooler could be fed out immediately or up to a week later.

Front legs will typically be fed to one large cat (lion/tiger), back legs to two cat along with a chunk, and heads/pelvic/brisket to large groups with chunks for each additional cat. Ribs will be fed at random. Smaller cats eat chicken, small legs (calf/goat), or small chunks.
Some cats are fed only chicken. Unlike cow or horse which is red, chicken is white meat and has found to slow the rate of renal failure in cats. We have many old cats and a few with diagnosed renal failure, they eat only chicken. Others have allergies to red meat and can only eat white.

All in all, the process of feeding, even the butchering is well worth the smell, the dirt, the blood, and the grime. The cats need to eat. At the end of the day, looking back at what you have done, accomplished, and achieved, no snow, rain, cold, or heat could beat the gratification of happy cats.
Pictures: Top- Joe butchering
Bottom- meat in the cooler

1 comment:

Phil said...

Wow that was quite gruesome but wow what an amazing job you have. Incredible photos below too.