First off, on Saturday morning, a cow was slaughtered. This would be the first cow slaughtering I have seen. Not my first slaughtering, I have witnessed a few goats and many chickens killed for dinner. I don't know what it says about me, but I was a lot less affected by the process than I thought I would be. It was gruesome and nasty and unpleasant but not inhumane. I am not sure if "inhumane" is the right word but I didn't feel like a great wrong was being committed. Normally, there is not an enormous amount of respect for animals but in this instance although it was violent, nothing was cruel.
The killing itself went by fairly quickly. As you might imagine, there was a great volume of blood and some amount of struggle but the wound was severe and large enough that I don't believe the cow suffered for long, if at all. After enough blood had drained and the cow had gone, everything and everyone repositioned for the remainder of the work. There were about 5 or 6 men and a smattering of boys from around the area in charge of the affair. It was apparent to me that the passing down of knowledge was taking place. The roles were well defined that the oldest man ran the show, directing what to do and how to do it. The men did all the unpleasant business of cutting and sawing and the boys mostly held things in place and ran small errands.
It was a laborious undertaking. It may be the case that the whole process took more time and effort because the tools were simply not up to the task. I have seen this in other arenas too. Sometimes the better resources or options are not available but often I see an unwillingness to try another way or use another method for no other reason than a reluctance to change. For example, the flaying was done with 3 knives only one of which was actually a hunting knife that seemed appropriate. The other two knives were a pocket knife and a cheap kitchen knife. All the knives, however, were incredibly dull. This was remedied by inefficiently scraping the knife against the concrete porch. During the sectioning of the cow, a very dull hacksaw was used to cut through bone. The blade had been worn down so that the teeth were almost non-existent. Why not buy a couple of proper hunting knives and a replacement blade or at least keep better care of the knives so they stay sharp or invest in a whetstone? I don't know and I didn't ask. To be fair, this sort of thing is not exactly common so maybe proper cow slaughtering equipment isn't really needed. Everything was completed and there is never a rush on any task and this one wasn't any different so perhaps I'm the only one with objections.
Despite the tools, everything looked like it was done quite well. There were a few set-backs mostly after the skinning. The saw got stuck for a period when the kerf collapsed on the blade because one of the boys was falling down on his job to hold the leg. The intestine was pierced at one moment which made things considerably more messy. In fact, this was an interesting moment. As I said before, the eldest male present was pointing and directing throughout much of the slaughtering. During the part where the hind legs were to be split, the man who was sawing at the hip was being careful no to pierce the intestine which had not been removed yet. For whatever reason, the eldest man was not happy with what he was seeing and yelled and pointed while this other man was busy being careful. Eventually, the eldest man took control of the saw to do what he thought needed to be done and ended up piercing the intestine almost immediately. Instead of a told you so moment or any sort of dirty looks, everyone just worked right around what the eldest man had done and continued to defer to him for the rest of the ordeal. I thought it was a fine example of how far respect for elders really goes. I am sure the older man really did know what he was doing as I am sure he has been been involved with many a slaughtering but his impatience or carelessness made everyone's job much worse. He happened to make a mistake but that did not affect his status whatsoever.
In summary, the major tasks involved were: skinning, evisceration, quartering and sectioning of the ribs and spine. The major sounds were: gurgling, slicing and tearing of flesh as well as cracking and grinding of bone. The major smells were all malodorous. It was was an all out assault on the senses. The price that needs to be paid for meat is not cheap. The only things I know that were tossed were the gall bladder and the contents of the stomach and intestines. Everything else was eaten including the head and remaining organs which I respect for efficiency sake.
I know what was used and what wasn't because shortly after the slaughtering and butchering, the organs were already being cooked. First, the liver was eaten by all who were involved which included me. It was cut up and cooked within an hour of being taken out of the cow. It was not that bad, in fact it was quite good. I don't think I would go out of my way to have it again but it was flavorful. As for the rest of the organs, I was not that thrilled about them. There's more bad news. I cannot say whether I am more courageous than before I had eaten cow's feet. Furthermore, even if I were more courageous than before, I wouldn't be able to tell you if it was the cow's feet that did it since I had just about everything. I ate a hodgepodge of lungs, stomach, intestine, heart, feet, and head. At least these were the parts that I could pick out. After cooking, it all sort of looked the same. Not sure if it was the items themselves or just the manner of cooking but I found the dish to be far from delicious. I had a notion beforehand but I couldn't be sure until I tried. Nevertheless, it was definitely a worthwhile event and the meat was more appreciated after seeing what sort of work went into getting it.