Author: Jen Langdon

24 Aug 2023

A Small Producer’s How-to Guide to Animal Processing

A Small Producer's How-To Guide to Animal Processing

As a small scale farmer, you may want to incorporate animals into your operation to positively impact your soil health, and to provide additional revenue streams for your operation. But how do you go from having animals on your pasture to meat in your freezer? There are many points to consider, and with a little planning you can make the most of the benefits your animals can bring to your operation.

What kind of processing do you need?

One of the most important questions is: how are you planning to sell your finished meat? If you are planning to sell it in a retail setting, you will need to select a State or Federal (USDA) inspected processing facility. Federal inspection is required if you are selling the finished product across state lines (common if you are shipping meat to customers). If you are processing animals only for your own consumption, or plan to sell only to customers who will work with the butcher directly, you may instead choose a custom exempt processor.

If you are processing animals for your own consumption only, on-farm slaughter could be an option for you. Consider buying a copy of Adam Danforth’s book Butchering, which provides very thorough step-by-step information. There may also be butchers in your area who will harvest animals on-site for you on a contract basis. Ask around at your local 4-H, extension office, butcher shops, or ask other local farmers to see if anyone nearby is offering this service.

How to find processors in your area:

Be sure you start your search early. While each processor has their own timeline, some slaughter appointments are commonly made a year in advance.

Start with a Google search in your area. Another good resource is the FSIS Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory. You can use their search tools to locate butchers in your state/region that accept the species you are planning to harvest. Be sure to ask other producers in your area who is processing their animals – personal recommendations from other farmers can be the best place to start.

How to choose a processor:

Once you have identified some processing options, it’s time to follow up with each one to make sure you make informed decisions. Some things to consider:

  • Call and talk with someone at the facility. Building a personal relationship with your butcher is important.
  • Understand their fees, minimum requirements, and any other particulars.
  • Make sure they can provide the services you need – organic processing availability, label claims, retail labels with weights, etc. are different at each facility. Most processors will offer vacuum sealing, which will offer the longest shelf life while frozen (at least 1 year). Paper wrapping may also be available at a lower cost, but the product will need to be consumed more quickly to avoid freezer burn.
  • Value-added products, like ham, bacon, and sausages may help boost your total carcass value. You may want to purchase and sample some value-added products from the processor, in order to select what best suits the taste of your customers. Be sure to review ingredient lists to make sure they meet your expectations.
  • Make a facility visit ahead of time, and make sure their facility and dropoff site suits your needs and meets your standards. This is also a good time to meet their staff in person.
  • Consider travel time to their location and its related stress on your animals, and wear and tear on your equipment.
  • The processor may not accept appointments for all species at all times of year. Make sure to confirm that the harvest dates you have in mind align with their schedule.

Deciding what cuts and products to order

Before your drop-off date, the processor will have you fill out a form (known as a cut sheet or cutting instructions) to make sure your animals are cut to your preferences. The most important factor when filling out the cut sheet is: what do you/your customers want to eat? Are there seasonal or regional variables you should keep in mind? Are there less popular cuts you could have fabricated into more valuable items (like having chicken drumsticks made into sausages)? Make sure to work with your butcher when filling out the cut sheet, to make sure your requests are within their capability and to understand if any of your choices will incur additional fees.

What equipment is needed to transport animals to a processor?

It is very important to ensure the safety of yourself and your animals during transport. Transportation can be stressful on animals, so ensuring your equipment is properly selected and in good working order can help mitigate additional stress. Stressed animals can have a greater tendency to be injured during transport, which could lead to bruising or broken bones that can reduce carcass quality or could lead to an animal being condemned at the processor.

Small animals like chickens and rabbits may be transported in crates made for that purpose. Large animals like sheep, hogs and cattle should be transported in a livestock trailer towed by a truck. Make sure your vehicle is capable of towing the total weight of your trailer with the animals inside.

Picking up your finished product

Work with your processor to schedule a pickup date and time. Keep in mind that value-added products might take longer to produce than your standard cuts. Ask how many/what size boxes to expect, and plan cargo space in your vehicle accordingly. If you are traveling a long distance, make a plan to keep the meat cold (insulated blankets, coolers, refrigerated truck or van, etc.).

Storage post-harvest

If you are selling directly to a customer in bulk, your customer may pick up the finished product from the butcher directly and you will not need to store the meat yourself. If you are planning to sell the product in bulk at a later date, or as individual retail cuts, you will pick up the meat from the butcher and then maintain it in your own cold storage.

Acquire adequate frozen storage sized to meet your needs, such as chest/upright freezer(s), or a walk-in freezer with shelving. Consider a battery powered temperature alarm to make sure you don’t lose product in the event of an unexpected freezer failure or power outage – these alarms are often equipped with bluetooth alerts, which can be useful if your storage is in a less frequently visited location. Have a backup power plan (such as a generator) in the event of a power outage.

Find a storage organization method that works for you. Keep an inventory list to make sure you know what you have available to sell, and the date the product entered your inventory. In general, it is best to sell vacuum sealed meats within a year of packaging.

If you are selling meat to others, you may be subject to Health Department standards for inspection, safe storage and handling. Be sure to check with your local jurisdiction for accurate information in your area. In general, refrigerated meats must be kept below 40ºF and frozen meats must be kept frozen at or below 0ºF at all times. Raw poultry must be cooked or frozen within 9 days of slaughter (slaughter day is day 1). In general, other meats should be frozen with 10-14 days of packaging in order to maintain quality.

Data collection post-harvest

You may find it beneficial to track some data post-harvest, to better inform your management decisions in the future. Data you may consider tracking in a simple spreadsheet may include:

  • Animal weights pre-harvest (if available).
  • Animal hanging weights post-harvest.
  • Weights of the product received back from the butcher from each harvest. You can use this to calculate your total carcass yield. You can also decide what your profit margin needs to be, and work backward to determine your retail pricing per pound/cut/animal.
  • Your sales over time, in total and per cut. You may find it useful to track this information at different intervals for comparison, for instance each month, quarter and year. This data may help inform the way you fill out your cut sheets for future harvests, as you compare your sales vs. your inventory.

There are many considerations to keep in mind when deciding how to harvest animals, which can be overwhelming at first. If you have questions that we haven’t addressed here, please reach out to and we will do our best to help.

20 Mar 2023

Prescribed Fire at Greenacres

Prescribed Fire at Greenacres

Fire as a Land Management Tool

As stewards to the land gifted to us by the Nippert family, Greenacres strives to utilize the best land management practices available. Fire has always been a part of the natural world, and returning prescribed fire to our landscape is an integral part of conserving nature, for the benefit of both wildlife and humans alike. Various plant communities found on our properties are dependent on fire to create a healthy, resilient, and biodiverse ecosystem. From the wildflowers of spring and summer, to the oak trees feeding its acorns to the animals of the forest, to grasslands hosting quail – all are dependent of periodic fire to keep the ecosystem in balance.

Students out on an early fall adventure.

Conducting a Prescribed Burn

As a land management tool, prescribed fire requires careful planning and thorough training to ensure the safety of persons and property. Greenacres staff members who plan and lead prescribed fires are certified through the Ohio Division of Forestry and have years of experience. Staff trainings are held to ensure all those who are working these fires are knowledgeable and competent in their roles. Permits are issued through the Ohio Division of Forestry, the Ohio EPA, and local fire departments, holding Greenacres to the utmost standards while conducting prescribed fires.

Greenacres conducted two prescribed burns in Indian Hill in 2022 – for more information on those fires, please click here

If you have questions, or would like more information, please email Chris Glassmeyer at

14 Mar 2022

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Dried lavender is available at Greenacres Michaela Farm.

Simple and sophisticated, these cookies are perfect for tea parties, luncheons, and make the perfect hostess gift when visiting friends. 

Recipe courtesy of Victor Sarringhaus


  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour plus more for rolling
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp whole dried lavender buds


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and beat to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add the flour/cornstarch mixture to the butter/sugar mixture a third at a time, mixing after each addition. Add lavender with the final third of flour mixture. Dough will be crumbly.
  • Spread a teaspoon of flour on work surface. Turn out dough and work into a ball. Rub surface with flour. Roll into 1-inch log, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350º.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. On a very lightly floured surface, roll dough out to ¼” thick. Cut cookies with a 3" round cutter. Poke holes in cookies with a fork.  These cookies will not spread while baking, so they can be placed close together on the cookie sheet.
  • Bake 18-20 minutes. Color will stay light, but dough will be set. Cool 10 minutes.  Makes 20-24 3-inch cookies.
19 Jan 2022

Bacon and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast with Cheesy Pasta

Bacon and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast with Cheesy Pasta

This elevated take on basic chicken breasts is fancy enough to serve to company, but quick enough for a weeknight meal!



  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 lb spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz pasta, such as penne or bowties
  • 5-6 oz creamy, easily melted cheese (such as Boursin, goat cheese, or cream cheese)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 350º. For the spinach filling, saute bacon in a large oven-safe skillet until crispy. Set cooked bacon aside to drain on paper towels. Pour off and reserve most of the rendered fat.
  • In the same skillet, saute the garlic until just starting to brown. Add spinach and stir often, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, until cooked down significantly and most of the moisture has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add cooked bacon to the spinach mixture and combine.
  • Butterfly each chicken breast by slicing nearly through each piece, starting at the long side. Open the chicken pieces like a book and spread the filling evenly across each piece. Fold the pieces back together.
  • In the empty skillet, heat several tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat over medium-high heat. Carefully add the chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to your taste. Allow the chicken to cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes per side.
  • Transfer skillet to the oven, and bake until chicken is fully cooked, about 15-20 minutes.
  • While the chicken is baking, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Once cooked, reserve about a cup of the cooking water before draining.
  • Return the pasta to its cooking pot (remove it from the heat), add the cheese and a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Stir to combine as the cheese melts, adding more of the pasta water a little at a time, as needed, until you have a creamy sauce.
  • Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove pan from the oven and allow to rest 5 minutes. Slice chicken and serve on top of a bed of cheesy pasta.