Reduce Food Waste: Eat the Whole Carcass, Nose to Tail

Updated on January 13, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth is also a keen home cook. She enjoys trying new recipes.

This tasty stew is made by slow cooking a cheap cut of beef.
This tasty stew is made by slow cooking a cheap cut of beef. | Source

Buy a Whole Carcass or Side of Meat for Less Per Pound

Are you planning a BBQ, or do you regularly cook for large numbers? Have you thought of going wholesale? Cuts of meat at your local store can be expensive. If you buy meat in quantity as a whole or half carcass you can save money, as long as you use the whole animal, nose to tail.

A domestic freezer will accommodate a whole sheep or goat, or you could buy a side of beef or pork. Whatever your choice, a carcass can either be bought un-butchered as a carcass, or it can be sold “dressed,” i.e., cut into joints ready for cooking.

Average Market Weight Lamb and Goat Meat

Characteristic
Lamb or Goat
Live animal weight
100lbs (45kg)
Age
8-12 months
Carcass weight (after dressing)
50lbs (23kg)
Carcass composition
Lean 55%, Fat 28%, Bone 17%
Information from UN Food and Agriculture Organization

How to Butcher an Entire Cow: Every Cut of Meat Explained

How Many Meals From a Whole Cow, Pig, Lamb, or Goat?

If you buy retail, it’s easy to work out how much meat you need. Recipes clearly state how many people a dish will feed. But how do you work out the number of meals you will get from a carcass?

As a rough guide, 50% of the “live-weight” of a carcass is lost once an animal has been butchered. You therefore need to buy a carcass that’s twice the weight of the meat you would have bought retail. The wholesale price of the carcass will reflect this.

Smaller animals are usually younger in age and their meat is more tender. For this reason, the price per pound of a smaller carcass tends to be higher than that of an older and heavier animal.

Tougher cuts are cooked slowly or stewed. The better cuts can be flash fried, roasted, braised or broiled. Bones and offal are used to make soup and stews as well as dishes like haggis, sausages and tripe. If you make use of all these recipes then your “average” sheep or goat carcass can provide 50-60 meals.

Haggis (eaten on Burn's Night) is a sheep's stomach filled with a mix of oatmeal, sheep's liver, and lungs.
Haggis (eaten on Burn's Night) is a sheep's stomach filled with a mix of oatmeal, sheep's liver, and lungs. | Source

Offal Is Not Awful

There’s no need to throw away any part of a carcass or side of meat. Many people have forgotten that cheap and tasty meals can be made with offal. Offal includes the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, stomach (tripe), and testicles of an animal. There are many regional speciality dishes that use offal for their unique taste. These include liver pate, sausages, haggis, sweetbreads, steak and kidney pie, and chitterlings.

The Science of Cooking: How to Make Cheap Cuts Tender

Meat eaten by humans is muscle tissue with some fat. Muscle is made of bundles of protein fibers held together by 3 types of connective tissue; collagen, reticulin and elastin.

Collagen holds and connects each protein fiber to the others. If collagen is heated above 60 degrees Centigrade it denatures and becomes soft (called gelatin.) When you stew meat, the aim is to break down the collagen tissue so that it transforms into gelatin and the protein fibers fall apart.

Reticulin and elastin are much stronger connective tissues. Their role is to connect muscles to bone. They require temperatures of over 90 degrees Centigrade maintained for long periods before they become denatured. They are tougher fibers and form the gristle found in meat.

The best stews are made from cuts with a lot of connective tissues (tough meat) as these have maximum collagen and so will benefit from long slow cooking.

Jamie Oliver's Easy Slow-Cooked Oxtail Stew

Meat Tenderizing Techniques

Braising

Braising is a way of tenderizing cheaper cuts. The meat is first seared quickly in a pan to seal in the meat juices, then it’s transferred to the oven or pressure cooker to allow the meat to continue cooking until tender.

Tenderizing Mixes

Tenderizing mixes contain enzymes that break down the connective tissues. This reduces the cooking time needed for the meat to become tender. I have never used these mixes as I prefer not to add any chemicals to food.

Tenderizing Tools

There are two types of tenderizing tool available. One is a kind of mallet that you use to hammer the meat into thin pieces. The pounding action physically breaks up the connective tissues.

The other has multiple prongs or long pins. The pins-pricks help to destroy the connective tissue, but do so without damaging the overall size and thickness of the meat. I recommend the WHARPH meat tenderizer. It’s easy to use and is great for making cheap cuts of beef, pork, and chicken tender and BBQ-ready.

Marinades

You can also use a marinade to tenderize meat. Homemade marinades consist of spices and herbs (flavorings) and an acidic liquid (usually vinegar or wine). The meat is soaked in the marinade overnight and tenderizes due to acidic action.

Many of the ready-made marinades (store-bought) contain tenderizing enzymes. So be sure to read the ingredients list before buying if you want to avoid this type of additive.

This multi-pin tenderizer has 48 cutting blades to break up tough connective tissue.
This multi-pin tenderizer has 48 cutting blades to break up tough connective tissue. | Source

Braised Beef Stew

The ingredients in a beef stew or casserole are as individual as the person making it. They can include almost any root vegetable together with the meat and onions. The following quantities are therefore just a suggestion but will make enough for 6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs. chuck steak, brisket or oxtail
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ lb. carrots
  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 2 sticks celery
  • Fresh herbs and seasoning to taste (e.g. bay leaves and rosemary)
  • 1 pint meat or vegetable stock

Method

  1. Dice the meat into small pieces no larger than one-inch square.
  2. Fry them quickly to seal in the juices before putting them into the casserole or slow cooker.
  3. Chop onions, carrots and potatoes into small pieces and add them to the dish. You could also add chopped celery, peppers, diced swede or parsnip. The exact combination of vegetables depends on your personal preference.
  4. Add water or stock to about an inch from the top of the cooking dish.
  5. Season with herbs, spices, salt and pepper according to taste. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of flour if you like a thicker sauce.
  6. Place the casserole dish on the middle shelf of your oven. Cook at 300 degrees Fahrenheit or 160 degrees Centigrade and allow to cook slowly for three hours. If you are using a slow cooker then refer to your manual for equivalent cooking times.
  7. After every hour or so of cooking, check to see that the stew is still very moist. Add a little extra water if it is becoming dry.

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    10 days ago from UK

    You give some great tips in this article. I can remember eating tripe many years ago.

  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Eaglescliffe 

    10 days ago from UK

    Thanks for reminding me about using lemon or lime juice as a marinade. They give a really nice flavor to the meat; fresher than the taste you get from using vinegar.

    I'd not heard of the Mexican dish menudo before, so I googled it. Sounds like a tasty way to cook tripe in a stew with chilli peppers, onions and limes.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    10 days ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I've read only shellfish can rival organ meats in nutrient density. So I'm very interested in buying some, and seeing what I can do with it.

    I'm pretty poor so I'm only ever buying what meat I find at a discounted price. Thing is, I probably get at least half my calories from meat, and I've no intentions of changing my diet for any fashionable purpose, or any purpose.

    And another thing which could be useful - if one isn't planning to eat livers, hearts, etc, those things can still be turned into food in other ways. Where I live, such organ meats make for fantastic catfish bait.

    One can't be said to have wasted something were it used for bait to catch another meal, right?

    I learned about tripe from eating menudo. Usually this is beef tripe, and yes, it makes out really well for stews.

    I like to use lemon or lime juice for marinade. It's very very acidic, and will to a degree "cook" the outermost layer of tougher meat.

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