Monday, November 12, 2012

Meat Equipment

 One thing I want to make clear. I'm not pushing this product. A question was posed about what meat grinder I use and what it costs. I'm going to FINALLY answer. Hold on to your hats because our grinder if purchased today is $200 US dollars more than when we bought ours umpteen years ago.

Now it is $739 dollars. It seems to be the trend of higher prices. Don't know if it costs that much more to make, less demand, or what but this puppy is high priced. 

If you aren't a serious meat cutter, buy something smaller is a less expensive price. Another option would be to buy used. Advertise in your area, "Wanted, used meat grinder" you might find a bargain. But first do your homework. Decide how big and what brands you would be interested in. E-bay and used meat processing web sites exist online as another option. Meat shops and grocery stores that are going out of business or replacing equipment sometimes have something but beware of the volume of business they do. A meat plant might have really big equipment. Our meat saw happens to be used from an old butcher shop. It works great.

I understand few can fork out $736 dollars for a meat grinder. We are a one income family and hence money doesn't flow freely. I've spent years saving to purchase one item, often asking for money instead of gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Then I turn around and do it over again and again. I spent three or four years saving for my present spinning wheel. We have the largest hand meat grinder on the right. We used it for years and even added a motor but when we began doing beef, no way, was this going to work. My arm would have worn off.

So if something is a need, be creative. Our meat grinder is from Cabelas and for years we have been using Cabelas gift cards and points to obtain merchandise, sometimes adding a little cash to make up the difference. With a priority list we saved and purchased one thing at a time. Sometimes it will take us a few years like in the case of the meat grinder. Some people have cards that earn them flying miles, well, we buy self-sufficiency equipment with ours. It would be out of our purchasing ability any other way.

And though I'm not always keen on buying equipment that has a number of attachments because I'm afraid the main piece will go bad and there I sit with all the attachments and nothing to run them on, BUT room is essential. A small industrial grade meat grinder and cuber take up lots of room. A meat grinder and the cuber attachment, not so much. This is important when you have a slicer, large rolls of meat wrap paper, food grade tubs, etc. etc. and they all have to fit in a small space of storage. We have a single garage and a small home.

We have been collecting this equipment since all our kids were home and beyond, our youngest is 28, so that is over fourteen years. You don't have to be rich to have your own equipment, just determined. And I don't recommend going to the lengths we've gone unless you do 1200 pound animals such as beef. We spent years will a small meat grinder doing our elk, deer, lambs, and occasional goat.

On rare occasions we purchased half a beef and had a shop process it but that was rare because that kind of money just didn't happen often while our kids were small. Then when we started raising and butchering our own beef and two hogs, it was just too much volume and a small industrial grinder was needed. Usually we did the beef one year and the hogs the next because of freezer room and the money pinch. With this small volume on our  our type of equipment, it should last a life-time and beyond.
So I recommend that you first think long and hard about just what are your needs and the type of processing that suites you? For us one of our favorite extras is the cuber.We LOVE, LOVE our cuber. I have pretty severe TMJ but have no problem since we cube all our elk, deer, and some of our tougher cuts of beef and pig. My favorite meat cubed is pork. YUM! Somehow it transforms it into something extra wonderful.

Our grinder gets a work out. We don't just grind beef for hamburger but pork too. I purchased a couple packages of ground chicken from the store too see what it was like and I liked it. Now I'm open to purchasing turkey or chicken and grinding it, if the price happens to be right. Our grinder could really get a work out in the future. Our volume of ground meat is high since we mixed in with our beef and pork sausage or hamburger, deer scraps. Scraps meaning meat that was a bit too tough and sinewy for steaks or stew. I freeze it and thaw when we are ready to process a beef or pig. I don't stop there but grind fat too to render for soap and leaf lard for pies. For us, the grinder and cuber are a must.
We just purchased another piece of equipment last month with gift certificates given from a vendor to our husband and $12 bucks of our own. It is a hamburger patty maker that attaches to the meat grinder. We have a hand run press hamburger maker but it takes a great deal of time to weigh the meat balls for consistency and press each one. I give up long before I make as many as I want.

Time is the cruncher. Many hands makes light work but many hands have all grown up and left home. That means it usually comes down to just these two hands by that point in the meat processing, hubby having gone back to his main job, making money to keep a roof over our heads and pay for our daily needs. I am my own schedule to keep and have only so much time to a lot also before other duties are screaming loud and clear in their urgency to be done.

Each year we try something new in meat processing. We have books and a video and my brain, which is never still. I'm sure my husband would like to turn it off sometimes. Poor man, but he never says a word as I say again and again, "What if....? That has led to a love of sausage patties of various flavors and degree of fat, made into hamburger patties and frozen. We love these in the place of a hamburger and they make a quick fast meal, plopped frozen on the grill, cooked, and sandwiched in home-made bread or bun. They are a wonderful change up from plain hamburgers. This is fast food, our style. The sausage stuffer isn't used so much as we always slice our round sausages so they lay flat anyway.

There are a number of smaller grinders on the market if you do your own elk, deer, lamb, goat, and maybe a pig now and then that will do the job nicely.  Save your money. Don't gear up to this level if your not doing large animals. I'll do another post later on what I believe is the bare necessities of meat processing equipment and the luxuries I think are worth the buck.

We are planning to do a pig soon and in a few months a beef. I have a feeling it will be wise for us to lay away what food we can now. I'm a bit concerned about the drought and agriculture's stability. A friend just purchased four bales of hay at the feed store $15.90 a bale. OUCH! She is forced to sell her horses. 

So if you are a do-it-yourselfer meat processer, what are your favorite extras and what do you think is eccential?

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