Butchering turtles
February 23, 2006 11:31 AM   Subscribe

How does one butcher/process snapping turtles.

Apologies to anyone offended by the question.
I will be helping my father-in-law capture snapping turtles in a pond on his farm. They are systematically killing the baby ducks every spring. After capturing them, how does one:
A) Kill them
B) Process them.
He wants the shells, I want the skeletons to reconstruct. What do we need to know in order to remove the meat and organs? They are quite large, up to 80lbs, possibly more.
posted by Heatwole to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: http://www.sunjess.com/turtles/

They sell a video on the process. It only costs $25 and would be completely worth it if you ask me.


This is a page with a description on how to make snapping turtle soup. It includes butchering instructions.
posted by ChazB at 11:39 AM on February 23, 2006

Best answer: http://www.sunjess.com/turtles/

Full of action packed adventure and information!!

posted by chrisfromthelc at 11:43 AM on February 23, 2006

Don't waste the meat. I'm sure you can find someone who wants it, if you don't. It's quite a delicacy.
posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on February 23, 2006

Just watch Cannibal Holocaust! They slaughter a real turtle and eat it.

Actually... don't. You'll be a better person.
posted by ORthey at 12:32 PM on February 23, 2006

Best answer: DON'T watch Cannibal Holocaust.

We usually just hold them down with one booted foot and take off the head with an axe.
Be very carful of the head, it will continue to snap for a while.

We've improvised step two a couple of ways. The first time we tried using a hammer to 'crack' the bottom shell like an egg and pry the two halves apart. This worked ok...much better was the reciprocating saw with a snub blade.

Then we gutted it, removed the meat from the skin, and chopped it up.

I always marinade in a lemon-dill-butter sauce. You'll want to cover it when you marinade it - when you get to this stage you'll realize this right away. The meat has a tendency to twitch around and spray marinade all over your counter/fridge.

Skewer the meat pieces on ...skewers. This will keep them from 'hopping' to the edges of the grill and burning.

Grill her up and eat it right off the bobs. Couldn't be simpler.

Damn. An 80 lb. snapper is good eating for a couple weeks. Lucky.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:45 PM on February 23, 2006

The meat has a tendency to twitch around and spray marinade all over your counter/fridge.

Why??? Since I buy all of my meat from the store, is it deader than meat from a freshly butchered critter or is it something about snapping turtles in particular?

I'm totally freaked out here, btw.
posted by jennyb at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2006

Best answer: Reptile and amphibian meat does seem to have more "chicken with the head cut off" action than others.

As an old cajun once told me, turtle stew is so good it will "make your tongue slap your brain!" We usually shoot the turtle when he comes up to rest on a log in the sun. Ditto with the axe to the head (machete was our tool), though if you are trying to preserve bones, you may want to be more surgical.

Not sure how to help with preserving the shell though, that usually got pretty cracked up in the processing. remember that the skeleton and shell are not exclusive of each other, the spine and shell are one and the same!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:15 PM on February 23, 2006

You can tempt them to bite a broom handle and then cut off their head. My mother swears she got a bowl of turtle soup with a still beating heart in it !?! Turtles and snakes are known for having muscle movements/heart beats many hours after death (beheading). After cutting off the head, some people scald them in hot water so you can scrape the skin off. Just split the shell on each side to separate the top and bottom. Snapping turtle soup is great. You may find a resturant that is willing to pay you for the turtles (live), saving you the trouble.

Now, I've heard some rednecks say that you can get a snapping turtle to let go (stop biting down) by shoving a broom straw up its nostril. Of course, if you're swimming in a pond and one of them bites down on your toe, it's going to be a long walk back to the house with an 80 lb. turtle on your toe, just so you can pull a straw off the broom and shove it up its nose. So I suggest carrying some broom straws with you on your turtle adventures.
posted by 445supermag at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2006

If an 80 lb. snapper bites down on your toe, you will not be going anywhere with that toe ever again.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2006

posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2006

Reptiles are ectothermic and have ridiculously low metabolisms, which I think might account for the post-mortem muscle movement. Simply put, they take longer to die than mammals do, which makes dispatching reptiles humanely a real challenge.

A word about wild turtle meat, particularly snapping turtle meat, if you're thinking of eating it. From all accounts I've read turtle meat is wonderful. But toxins -- especially PCBs -- have been known to bio-accumulate in turtle tissue, thanks to their position in the food chain and their extremely long lives. An 80-pound snapping turtle is probably older than your grandfather, and its meat is probably quite polluted.

Just be sure, before you do this, that snapping turtles are not a protected species in Maryland. What you propose would not be legal in my neck of the woods, where all wild turtles are protected under provincial law. You may wish to check first. It depends on the state, but you generally don't want to be on the wrong end of wildlife law.

(Personally I'm more fond of turtles alive and ducks roasted, so naturally I'm a little bothered by the question and would rather you not do this, but I recognize that that's my problem -- I'm sure rodent keepers don't want to hear about snake feeding at my house, either. I will say, though, that turtles are at more risk than ducks are, and that while a duck population can rebound in a season or two, turtle populations take decades to recover, if they ever do. End of lecture. Sorry, but turtle conservation is one of my things. Had to say it. Hope everything else was helpful, though.)
posted by mcwetboy at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2006

An addition to mcwetboy's note: You'll also want to make sure that these aren't alligator snapping turtles, which are a protected species.

Also, why not ask your local animal control department, the state fish and wildlife department, or the local humane society about this? Surely there's a solution to this problem that doesn't involve wiping out a part of your local ecosystem.
posted by Trinkers at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for the information.
The farm is in Virginia, where they are not a protected species. Additionally, it's not likely that we'll make much of a dent in the population. But thank you for the thoughts about that.
posted by Heatwole at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2006

80 lbs? Not likely. The only species of snapping turtle in Virginia is the Common Snapping Turtle. The largest on record for Virginia is 35 lbs. The record for anywhere is 68 lbs. (Alligator Snapping Turtles get to be much larger (200+lbs) but aren't native to Virginia)
posted by TimeFactor at 4:47 PM on February 23, 2006

nothing to add except, thanks for this thread. in my zoological ignorance I was unaware of the existence (especially in the USA) of such impressive, impressive reptilians -- they look like dinosaurs or something.
thanks for the pics, too.
posted by matteo at 10:55 AM on February 25, 2006

*hides until the slaughter ends*
posted by terrapin at 8:57 AM on February 26, 2006

Best answer: A little late to the fray, but before you eat the turtle, it's best to keep him for a few days and feed him cornmeal. Really. I came from MN and that's what my family always did. Cleans them out, I guess.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2006

Turtles are far too similar to people for me to think about eating one. My dad quite resembles a turtle.
posted by onegreeneye at 10:33 PM on March 18, 2006

« Older Need a stripper   |   Urban planning jobs in developing areas? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.