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Family maintains tradition of butchering on the farm

Soly Akkerman looks out the kitchen window at the family's two Angus steers. The two black 1,600-pound steers stand in stark contrast to the white snow covering the family's crop land north of Austin on this March day.

The family has been raising beef, and growing corn and soybeans since Soly's father-in-law, Edward Akkerman, bought the farm in 1950.

Edward farmed and worked as a butcher at Hormel back when cows were slaughtered at the plant in Austin.

He taught his son, John, the skills of a farmer and a butcher.

Each spring, four generations of family and friends gather to butcher steers. Bud Read, who worked with Edward at Hormel, provides guidance. Soly, her mother and daughter-in-law prepare lunch.

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Two days, one week apart, are committed to the process. On the first day, the steers are slaughtered and cleaned. The first day ends with the carcass hanging from a tree on the farm. It is given one week to cure. The sides of beef are then cut into roasts, steaks, ribs, and meat for hamburger.

Butchering at home is pretty rare, said Jerrold Tesmer, Fillmore County Extension educator. Most farmers take their livestock to a locker plant to have it butchered. The Amish, however, still butcher at home.

There are no state regulations regarding livestock slaughtered on the farm as long as the animal is owned by the farmer and the meat is for consumption by the farmer's family, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It's similar to vegetables canned at home or wine made at home. There are recommendations, but no one is there to regulate the process.

The two Angus steers will provide beef for the Akkerman family for a year. The rib eye is the prized cut.

Every part of the animal is used. Read hangs the fat as suet and feeds it to the birds. Bones are spread on the farm land as fertilizer. The hide is sold to make leather.

Soly and and John know the story of each steer, bought as calves from the livestock auction market in Zumbrota in early summer. The steers are raised on corn grown on the family farm.

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