How We Safely Include Our Children In Butchering and Processing Meat

Both of my boys (and now a baby girl!) have been around the hunting, farming, slaughtering, butchering and processing of animals since birth. It’s a year round, every day occurrence over here at Fort Schat. Naturally, we had to find ways for the boys to be included, otherwise they just got in our hair while we tried to work. But how’s a Mama supposed to get their eager 2 yr old to help when there is blood, raw meat and sharp knives involved?! Just the thought of that is enough to give you grey hairs.

Then one day, I came up with what may be one of my best mothering/teaching moments yet. Why not get Mac (now 6) to help me label the packages? He doesn’t have to touch raw meat, is far enough away from meat grinders and knives, AND he has a fun time doing it!

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But Kate! You say. There is no way my 2 year old can write “Venison Steaks 2015” on a package. How am I to get him to help label our meat!? Well…here’s the thing. Your child won’t start off ACTUALLY labeling the packages. Here’s how it went down when Mac was 2 and wanted to help out.

Mama wraps and labels a package with sharpie, passes over to Mac, who draws a picture on the package with crayons. Every new package needs a new picture! To his credit, he really was trying to write on them, you just couldn’t tell. This activity went on, sometimes including cousins, sometimes just him, until last year when he was 5. Then! He could actually kind of write!! To make it simpler for him he only labeled the ground venison, which we label simply with a “Gr Ven 15”.  I also made the decision not to label the packages myself. I didn’t want to undermine his oh so hard effort to write the letters, but he couldn’t write too legibly. I’m not type A, otherwise this may have not worked, but because he only had the ground venison to label, we just knew all last year, that if we couldn’t read what it said, it was ground venison labeled by Mac. We’ve turned a corner now this year, and he can write legible labels! He was so proud to show Marius when he got home after the boys and I had been grinding and wrapping venison.

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It’s been fun to see it come semi-full circle, with Hamish now helping out. This year, our labeling went something like this;

Mama labels one package as how I want the rest to look. Pass all other packages to Mac, who puts a blank one by the “master package” and copies down the label. When he’s done labeling, he passes onto almost 3 yr old Hamish, who with his trusty green sharpie (I couldn’t convince him to have crayons, so I gave him a different colour so he didn’t blank out what Mac had written) scribbles on the package. Hamish got ahead of Mac and scribbled on packages Mac hadn’t labeled yet. Mac is a little particular and this made him frustrated to start off with, until we decided he could just flip the package to the other side that was still blank and label that side.

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(p.s. that sharpie on the floor was already there from a Hamish drawing. Magic Erasers won’t make it go away…I’m at a loss for what to do! But not too worried as things like that don’t make me lose sleep 😉 ) (edited to add, two years later and its naturally worn off, YES!)

I’m excited for next year when I can get Mac to label more and more!

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As Marius and I grew up butchering venison and other animals, we’re not tooooo squeamish with the kids around raw meat, and as their abilities/interests allow, they’ve done the following;

-Help cut up chunks of stew meat for wrapping. This one they’re not very productive at, but they feel really really ridiculously cool helping with this anyways.

-Push the plunger down in the grinder. I put the strip of meat in, they push the plunger down and get great joy out of the meat squirting out all ground up. They get bored of this one pretty quick due to the noise.

-Carry packages of meat to the freezer. Kind of a make work project, but it keeps them busy.

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It’s hard to involve small children in butchering deer! This year with Mac being 6, I feel like we’re turning a corner into him truly being helpful to the process. I can’t wait for years to come when they can help more and more. Hey, maybe Marius and I will work ourselves out of a job and the boys can butcher the whole thing themselves?! I don’t doubt that before they graduate high school that will be a skill under the belt, and boy is this Mama proud of that!

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