What you should know before butchering on the farm

Close-up image of fresh grilled hamburger

COLUMBUS, Ohio—There’s growing interest in on-farm butchering, say experts at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), and they’re offering guidance for doing it right.

As major meat processors have suffered shutdowns and back-ups because of COVID-19, and as small processors have been swamped with business as an alternative for slaughtering market-ready livestock, more and more farmers have started to think about simply doing it themselves.

But processing livestock safely, humanely, and legally isn’t a simple thing at all, said Lyda Garcia, assistant professor of meat science in the CFAES Department of Animal Sciences.

“I grew up in south Texas, where on-the-farm animal processing was common,” said Garcia, who is also a meat specialist with Ohio State University Extension, CFAES’ outreach arm. “But it’s a skill. Not just anybody can do it or should do it.”

Farm Science Review presentation

That’s why Garcia and Lynn Knipe, an associate professor in CFAES’ departments of Animal Sciences and Food Science and Technology, will cover the subject during this year’s virtual Farm Science Review. Their session, “On-the-Farm Slaughter and Processing,” is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 22, 11–11:30 a.m., at fsr.osu.edu.

Watching the talk is free, but signing up in advance is required. Sign up at fsr.osu.edu starting Sept. 8. 

2 new fact sheets

For additional resources, Garcia and Knipe, who is likewise also an OSU Extension meat specialist, have co-written two new fact sheets, “What You Need to Know About Animal Processing on the Farm in Ohio” and “What You Need to Know About the Legal Side of Home Processing.”

The fact sheets cover subjects such as animal health and welfare, food safety concerns and best practices, and Ohio’s laws and limits on on-farm butchering. One of those laws is that unless the meat is inspected, only you and your family can use it—you can’t sell it.

Food safety key

“If you don’t understand food safety, if you don’t understand the potential hazards at stake, that can lead to more serious repercussions than just not getting an animal processed,” Garcia said. 

“It scares me to no end to think about what could happen, especially to the elderly and our very young, who don’t have as strong immune systems,” she said. 

Possible hazards include pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, salmonella, and campylobacter, which Garcia said can cause illness and possibly even death.

“Carelessness is not an option when it comes to food safety,” she said.

The fact sheets are free at go.osu.edu/onfarmeatprocessing and go.osu.edu/legalhomeprocessing. Further details, including how to contact Garcia and Knipe (under the “About Us” button), are available at meatsci.osu.edu.

“I encourage people to take home processing seriously—to think it through,” Garcia said. “If it’s something you want to do, then reach out to us. We can help guide you best as possible.”

Virtual event

This year’s Farm Science Review is being held 100% virtually, with sign up and all of the events being free of charge, because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a normal year, more than 100,000 people attend the event in person.

For details about Farm Science Review, visit fsr.osu.edu.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Lyda Garcia