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Seeking meat slaughter in Los Angeles
December 28, 2013 2:24 PM   Subscribe

I have never seen my meat slaughtered, and wish to either witness this or do it. This will be a learning experience for me and for my teenage nephew. Is there a place within L.A. County to participate in or to witness slaughter?
posted by goofyfoot to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don think they slaughter on premise, but their the only "whole-animal only" butcher in the US; Lindy and Grundy would know where you should go. Drop them a line for sure.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:29 PM on December 28, 2013

If you want to kill your own meat, would chicken do for your purposes? It's pretty easy to buy a chicken, and maybe you could kill it in your own yard (kinda weird, but at least you can then clean up after yourself). Or, you could go deer hunting and then "field dress" your meat and chop it up into pieces right there.

Slaughterhouses are (sloppily) regulated workplaces. They aren't an appropriate place for people to roam around and try their hand at it. It's a dangerous place if you don't understand what you are doing. That's why I'd recommend either going far enough down the food chain and animal size that you can do it yourself, or maybe a movie.
posted by Houstonian at 3:10 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

You want to go to a slaughterhouse or just see a carcass butchered? You could try the Lancaster Halal Slaughterhouse--many halal places let you watch, but I think they expect you to buy something. The Farmer John facility in Vernon is only pigs (Clougherty Packing Company), and I don't believe it's open to the public, but you could give them a call.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:24 PM on December 28, 2013

I might know a guy who might know a guy. Check your MeMail. (I'm not being coy; I'm not sure how great this lead will be.)
posted by Room 641-A at 3:28 PM on December 28, 2013

The short documentary film Les Sang des betes is on YT.
(Not recommended for sensitive viewers).
posted by ovvl at 4:01 PM on December 28, 2013

There are live poultry stores ( some places also do live seafood) in urban Chinese and, I think, Latino areas in Los Angeles. You choose your bird from the cages , they take it out back and kill it and dress it and package it for you to take home. Perhaps they will let you watch . Here's an example of a place.

posted by Bwithh at 4:47 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I realize it's a weird question. But except for a decade as a vegetarian, I've eaten meat all my life, and have never seen a slaughter. It's possibly an ethical duty to witness how my food is butchered. My nephew is interested and I have promised him this experience. He's hugely into guns and killing right now, though he's never seen anyone or anything die, and we cook together, so this seems a logical pursuit.
posted by goofyfoot at 4:51 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Been there, (and you really don't) but I agree the hallal or a small kosher butcher might be the better experience. A larger establishment would be quite, ah, industrial. Clean, safe, but kinda like an auto conveyor line in reverse.
posted by sammyo at 4:54 PM on December 28, 2013

Any place that would let you watch would not be representative of how the vast majority of meat sold in supermarkets is slaughtered. From Michael Pollan: Then they will get on another truck and travel 100 miles to Liberal, Kansas, to a National Beef plant there. They will be put in a pen in a parking lot and wait their turn, and go up the ramp, and through a blue door. I was not allowed to go through the blue door. The kill floor is not something that journalists are allowed to see, even if you own the animal, I learned.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you want to kill your own meat, would chicken do for your purposes? It's pretty easy to buy a chicken, and maybe you could kill it in your own yard (kinda weird, but at least you can then clean up after yourself). Or, you could go deer hunting and then "field dress" your meat and chop it up into pieces right there.

I'd strongly recommend getting someone who knows what they're doing to demonstrate this at least once before tackling it yourself. Killing and cleaning a chicken isn't surgery, but watching it done right will save you some trial and error. Ditto for field dressing a deer.
posted by jquinby at 6:02 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

The poultry houses will sell you the live bird to kill yourself but usually the slaughtering happens in the back. I would be surprised if they let you back there.
posted by hamsterdam at 6:12 PM on December 28, 2013

I grew up on a farm where we butchered our own animals, I ran a trap line while in high school, and have hunted and fished all my life, and so have killed or watched many, many animals die, and it is just plain unpleasant. I'm not sure your plan is the best for you and your nephew's mental health, this seems to me the equivalent of using hardcore porno as sex education for someone who's never even seen another nude person. Maybe start with some hunting videos (lots on youtube). Here's a video that may be informative: Video Tour of a Pork Plant Featuring Temple Grandin.
posted by 445supermag at 7:03 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

I agree with Wordwoman on this; a typical slaughterhouse isn't going to let you watch. I used to work in HR in a beef processing plant and it was enough of a hassle to go into the Fabrication building (where they cut up the sides of beef into primal cuts)--take off jewelry, put on boots, hairnet, and hard hat, put on white coat over clothes. I would have been allowed to go into the Processing plant (the slaughter part), but never without scheduling it in advance and they would never have let someone off the street in there. It's very noisy, messy, smelly, and hot (lots of 180 degree water being used) and there are lots of potentially dangerous machines (saws, etc.) that you shouldn't be around if you don't know what you're doing. It's an industrial environment except that you're disassembling something rather than assembling something.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:30 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have hunted and killed my own meat. I have also slaughtered a chicken for a friend.
The killing of the chicken was significantly more visceral, personal and disturbing.

I would definitely warn against diving straight in to killing a chicken.
445supermag is correct in suggesting that you spend some time desensitizing yourself on youtube and then, I would suggest watching someone else do it.
I think hunting is a better entry point.

Hunting can seem like a small, exclusive and ideological club. I have very little in common with most of the hunters I meet in the field, but the world is changing. There is a burgeoning (for lack of a better, less judgmental term) hipster hunting movement. In Austin, there is a fellow, named Jesse Griffiths, who does artisanal butchery AND teaches people how to hunt. It can be expensive, but I would bet there is something similar near LA.
The other option for learning to hunt is befriending a hunter. The problem is finding one, usually at a gun or hunting club, places where you may not feel comfortable.
Hank Shaw has an article on getting started as a non-hunter. (He's also a great writer and has some spectacular recipes.) He links to the California hunter education site and to an online course by the International Hunter Education Association which is free and is a good step forward.

If you go the route of finding a hunter to take you, I would suggest bird hunting.
It is usually much easier to find places to hunt and people who will take you and your chances of success in a short time are much higher than if you attempt hunting big game.

Whatever you choose to do, good luck. I admire the desire to understand the sourcing of our foods.
posted by Seamus at 8:41 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you actually want to go hunting, it's a lot more involved process than you might think.

First you need a hunting license. This involves taking a two-day safety course.

Then you need to buy a rifle or shotgun so you can practice shooting it before you go hunting. In California this involves another test, a 10-day wait, and several hundred dollars. In theory you can go hunting with someone else's gun, but you still need to learn to shoot one first. You can potentially rent one at a shooting range, but they won't let you take it out in the woods.

Then you need to figure out what it is you want to hunt for, which is probably going to involve a lot of reading and searching for things like seasonal ranges of pheasants, or how to distinguish California's different species of rabbits from one another, or how to tell male and female animals apart.

Then you need to figure out *where* you can hunt, because hunting on public land in California is fairly limited. You'll probably want to visit this place before hunting season and check it out. It's also probably a several hour drive from wherever you are if you're in an urban part of the state.

Then you have to wait for hunting season, which for most things is in the fall.

Realistically if you're actually going to try hunting for yourself it's going to end up taking you a year and a thousand dollars or more.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:21 PM on December 28, 2013

I dove right in by killing a chicken. One year, for Thanksgiving, because I thought it was a good idea. I got a beautiful $5 rooster off the farm and garden section of Craigslist that was destined for the dinner table and brought it home and killed it. Me and my partner read that you needed to hang it by its legs and cut its neck with a very sharp knife, so that's what we did. My partner held the legs, I used the knife, and the neighborhood stray cat got the blood after it had drained into the pot. And also some feathers still attached to skin (the original cat toy). It still breaks my heart a little thinking about that chicken. That was the part that was over quickly.

Then we spent hours taking it apart. We played a 10-minute instructional youtube video over and over and over again, that long morning. For a while the chicken was still warm, but it cooled. It's not just the act of killing, there's also the disassembly of a body recognizable as so recently living.

If you don't have any luck finding someone who will let you watch, go ahead and do it yourselves. Get a broiler or dual-purpose chicken. Or any unwanted rooster. You'll learn more.
posted by aniola at 10:23 PM on December 28, 2013

Go to the farmers market and talk to the small ranchers there selling meat. It's unlikely they do it themselves, but I know small farmers who use boutique abattoirs (especially for their own personal meat, I.e. two pigs), and there are mobile abbattoirs as well. I also know several small farms that do their own chickens... ask around.

Joel Salatin has videos, likely on youtube, of how to kill and process a chicken.

I personally would stick to chickens first, or small dumb animals generally. I.e. Not Pigs. likely has abbattoirs listed.
posted by jrobin276 at 10:42 PM on December 28, 2013

If you buy a live chicken, you can kill it quickly and relatively easy by breaking its neck. Here are some caveats, and they are both very important.

One: Do not attempt this without seeing it demonstrated in person. You want it over quickly and cleanly and there is a technique to it. Someone who grew up on a farm is likely to be able to show you.

Two: The previous warning was for the chicken's benefit. This one is for yours: When you do it, aim the chicken's ass away from you. You'll see why.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:52 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not to make a value judgment, but I think it's a good idea to participate in your food path. If the kid eats a burger, it is probably better for him to know it's not some injection molded substance. Les sang des betes (blood of the beasts) is a pretty visceral exposure to the coldness of food animal's death, and if you can't find an abattoir, it may fulfill your objective. The only aspect of it that's problematic is that it's in rural and somewhat dated France, so it may lack the punch of being in a modern setting. Personally, I can barely stand to drive by a local abattoir because the smell is overwhelming and viscerally objectionable.

Hunting is a good idea, too, but there are risks there. One, of course, is generally kids with guns, but in fact, a lot of kids have made it to adulthood. It's unpopular and out of style for a lot of kids, but there is a certain security that comes from having done it.

I wonder if all boys go through a phase of being fascinated with dealing death, with cruelty? Blowing up frogs, burning ants, hunting birds with no intent of consuming them.... seems like there was always someone willing.

I had an aunt once who raised cows. I remember she took us to a slaughter house and explained what the process was, but that particular day, no activity was scheduled. It was as glamorous as a garage or a brake shop. To this day, I'm glad we visited on an off-day.

I spent years as a vegetarian because I didn't want to contribute to the infrastructure of death that supports much human life, reasoning that I was a life form that could CHOOSE not to support pain, unlike a cat, which just has to eat. Maybe there was some penance from the gut shots that stretched hunting quarry's death out for anguishing minutes of fear, pain, and pursuit? Falling off that wagon took a long series of rationalizations of the relative intellect and pain sensitivities of the species involved and now, I've made it to omnivore status on the substrate of animals that are locally raised, humanely cared for, and who have great lives terminated by one bad day, and even that's brief.

Even today, eating alone at a restaurant, I am prone to the vegetarian selections, in large part because of my old, dusty morals. I'd be really interested in the reaction you get from your visit (or viewing).
posted by FauxScot at 5:29 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you'd like to start out with a smaller animal slaughter viewing experience, there are many Chinese markets in Los Angeles that will kill fish, seafood, and sometimes frogs for you. I once stood at a Chinese market seafood counter and watched a butcher methodically and rhythmically slaughter and skin about 100 frogs someone had ordered. The whole process took maybe 15 minutes. When they kill the fish they will beat it on the head and then prepare it however you like, even frying it while you wait. This might be a way to ease into the concept before jumping into wringing a chicken's neck in your back yard.

Also: I know in/near the downtown Chinatown in LA there is a shop where you can select a chicken and they'll kill it for you while you wait. Apparently in the 90s they did it in front of you, but I'm not sure if that practice still stands.
posted by Temeraria at 9:16 AM on December 29, 2013

Thank you all for such thoughtful replies on a topic I know very little about. I will put more thought into this, and consult further with my nephew's parents, before going forward.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:21 PM on December 29, 2013

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