Review: The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making


A wise man* once said, “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” Think about that before reading The Complete Book of Butchering … and decide if you really want to know where your meat comes from. If you don’t understand why, think about the subtitle: How to Harvest Your Livestock & Wild Game.

This is not a book you read for fun, just because you’re interested in food. This is a working manual for people who have live animals, and who need to turn them into dead animals, and then into steaks.

Not for the squeamish

You’ve got about six pages of introduction — talking about the history of agriculture and the origins of butchering as a specific trade — before you hit chapter 1, “Muscles Are Meat”, which leads with a full-page color picture of two skinned beef carcasses.

I like when an author is clear on who they’re writing for. Philip Hasheider is a farmer and former cheese maker’s assistant. He has written How to Raise Cattle and How to Raise Pigs. He doesn’t write for “foodies” or gourmets, but for the people much earlier in the process.

Not what I expected

If I have a complaint, it’s that the title suggests it’s as much about the smoking, curing and sausage making as about the butchering, but it’s not. Besides the first chapter I already mentioned — which is mostly general guidelines about food safety, cooking temperatures, safe handling, etc. — there’s a chapter about knives and other equipment, one about preservation, and one about starting a butchery business. And six chapters of butchering directions for different types of animals.

There’s only one chapter on sausage making, and smoking and curing only get one chapter between them. If smoking and sausage making are just a part of your butchery business, that’s probably a good balance. If you want recipes that start with pre-cut meat, there are plenty of better sources available.

Some good recipes

At the end of each chapter are some recipes that make use of whatever meat is covered in that chapter. They are the classic type of recipes that I like: chicken and dumplings, stuffed pork chops, shepherd’s pie, broiled squab, venison meatloaf.

One in particular that I like is the baked corned beef hash, which I’ll be making real soon now. I’ve got a neighbor who hunts so I may be getting some venison. If I do, I’ll probably try the venison and beans.

Is this for you?

I can’t remember ever having a more clear recommendation than I have for The Complete Book of Butchering …

  • If you want to be a butcher, or want to process your own livestock or game, this is the book for you.
  • If you want to smoke meat or make sausage, there are other books that cover the subject much better.
  • If you just want to know a bit more about where different cuts come from, this book has way more (graphic) detail than you’re interested in.

Who wants my copy?

I’m not going to be doing my own butchering any time soon, if ever. Which means I don’t need most of what’s in this book.

If you are planning on butchering some livestock, or dressing some wild game, leave a comment telling me about it. Whichever one sounds most interesting, I’ll email you for a mailing address.


  1. Oh, wow! I’ve wondered if there was a book out there like this. My husband is in the woods deer hunting as I type. We would love to be able to save money on having it processed and learn to do it ourselves. A true hunter can take it from the woods to the table!

  2. I’m interested in where everything comes from. Anything. I want to know how electronics are made, from mining through until I stick it in my computer. I want to know from the egg hatches until it’s in between 2 buns at the local fast food place.

    Learning is everything. The more you know, the more you can know. Send me that book!

    My goal in life is to learn everything. Yes. Everything. Granted, it’s a goal hard to reach (some say impossible) but I can sure as heck try!


  3. Now thats my kinda book!
    * beats chest, sniffs, spits on ground *

    But of course, I’m sure there is someone out there that needs it more than me. We are gearing up for our Hog Harvest in a couple weekends. After that, it will be “Duck Day,” and then chickens.

    The thing about butchering is that there is no way to describe the process without using inflammatory words. Honestly, truly, cross my heart – its not as horrible as it sounds. Once you get working its all very interesting and not any worse than what you would see on any of the prime time crime shows. In fact,when we first started to do our own butchering I pretended I was one of the coroners on CSI. A sense of humor also helps – it relieves the tension.

    Say Drew, did you see I tagged you for a meme? Hope thats ok:

    Your pal,

  4. I’m a city girl with big country dreams, hoping to one day raise and hunt, and be able to take a more active role in putting food on my table. Self taught poultry butcher (if you can call taking apart a bird butchering). Have some experience slaughtering chickens at a relative’s farm as well, but am pretty intimidated about taking it to the next level. A larger animal is a pretty expensive purchase and I’d love to have some kind of guide to help me on my first try.

  5. My husband hunts and butchers his game, but I am still learning. I have helped butcher lambs, rabbits, and chickens. We hope to get a side of pork late this fall or next spring and butcher that ourselves. I would like to learn more about what I’m doing and may take a class, but would love a book like this one–especially for butchering larger animals (poultry and rabbit are pretty easy). The ones I have are not well illustrated.

    Have you seen Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman? We love it. My husband has smoked meat at home for a long time, but Ruhlman’s book took him to a whole new level. We’re having a big smoking session this weekend in fact. On the menu: pork bellies, a rabbit, a old hen, salmon, trout, and some vegetables, if there’s room.

    • Chris, would you be willing to take some pictures of what you make with it when you’re done? Not the butchering process necessarily, but the dinner you make with what you prepped?

  6. The reason I would like to have this book is the same reason I ended up on your website in the first place. Doing things the way my grandmother did (and grandfather and great grandmother and great grandfather) has been a devoted interest of mine for as long as I can remember. I have finally realized my dream of living in the country and now that hunting season is upon us, I hope take my first deer. I would much prefer butchering it myself as opposed to having to pay one of the local processors. After all, that’s how my grandmother would have done it…

  7. Here in east Texas we have a terrible feral pig problem. They’re very destructive and they reproduce at an unbelievable rate. My sister trapped two this spring, fed them over the summer and sent them off for processing last week. She wants to do it again next year, but she wants to do the butchering and processing herself, so I would love to be able to give her the book. (And as a bonus, it means more free pork for me – woot!)

  8. I’d love this book! We need all the help we can get! We are raising most of what our family eats on our 5 acres and have been seen often with computer print outs in hand of “How To’s” while we are hands-on learning how to!

  9. I’d love a book like this to study from, since I’d like to homestead soon so I can be self-reliant. This book would help me get closer to that self-reliant goal, where I want to grow my own food, raise my meat, and even meat for feeding the dogs. I was raised a city girl, and a book like this would go a long way in getting me to my goal.

  10. Well, I know SOMEONE in my house who would LOVE this book.

    Okay, so that someone isn’t really me, as I am but the reluctant assistant. But A. got three deer tags this year, which means the potential for a LOT of carnage in our shed. Plus, we recently ascertained that Chickie tricked us all and is not, in fact a chick of the female variety. I see Coq au Vin in our future!

    Are there instructions for butchering lambs in that book? And do I really want to get into that? Maybe not.

  11. I tried to post this yesterday and it didn’t work, maybe because of the link I included. This is a publication I learned about in my food safety course. Oregon State University extension has a publication called Big Game from Hunt to Home (PNW 517) and the entire PDF is available online for free. That might help folks who expect to soon be confronted by a deer to cut up :)

  12. Great post! I’m looking to make some changes in my own eating habits and learning to cook, so I appreciate your insight a lot! Thank you. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I did yours and I thought your readers may appreciate it:

    I’ve started to look for their stuff more regularly and I think I’m going to add your blog to my list as well. Thanks for the post!


    • I love that “food for thought” link. I followed the link to the Spinach Fandango recipe. [shudder] No wonder she rebelled against her mother’s cooking.

  13. Just curious… who ended up getting your copy?

  14. Darcy,

    I never heard back from Chris, so email me your contact info and I’ll send it out.

  15. Thank you for the review. I was planning on buying the book for my husband, as we have recently butchered three home grown pigs in Ireland. But it is really the information and tips for smoking and curing that I’m after. I will check out the suggestion of a previous poster, but could you give me any more suggestions?


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