One of the hard truths of running our business is the fact that all meat starts as a live animal. A large focus on our farm is that all animals should have an excellent quality of life, with the fastest, most humane death possible. We work incredibly hard to keep our animals happy and healthy, so it's very important to us to work with a locker that will help us make that transition smoothly.
We're very fortunate to have Elma locker available to do our processing, and we were able to arrange a tour last week so that we could see exactly what happens to our animals between the loading chute and the freezer door. We also really appreciated the chance to see the process step by step so we can be sure we're giving our customers the truth and nothing but the truth when they ask!
This is the most recent group of animals we took to the locker. The smaller space keeps them from banging around and hurting themselves if they get startled for any reason. Taking them over the night before allows them to get calmed down and for any stress hormones to be metabolized.
A build up of stress hormones can cause problems with meat quality, and any amount of bruising from being scared during transport has to be cut out of the meat, so it's definitely in our best ethical and financial interest to keep everybody happy!
They are kept off feed and water overnight to make things easier for the processor in the morning. At 7 am the state inspector will be there to make sure our animals are healthy and that the meat is fit for sale and consumption. This inspection is the biggest difference between buying a whole animal or buying by the pound.
When the processor is ready the animal is moved from this chute to a chute on the kill floor, where they are dispatched with a .22 slug, the same way we do it on the farm. This method is very accurate and fast, which means that it's also very humane.
Here Roger Meirick (co-owner of the locker) talks to our group about how the meat is processed. Cattle are hung for 14-21 days, sheep and hogs are hung for 3-4. After that they are cut, maybe smoked over hardwood or turned in to sausage, then wrapped and labeled for sale. I can tell you that the smoking room is one of the best things I've smelled in a long time, as it was full of pulled pork being hickory smoked when we visited.
And here is Charlotte inspecting the finished beef bacon after we picked it up at the locker!