Sunday, January 31, 2010

Makin' Meat

In May of 1847, the vangard company of pioneers sent out hunters to find meat on the plains. After an overnight excursion, they sent a rider back to the camp to fetch a wagon. The hunters hauled 1,800 pounds of buffalo meat back to camp, only to receive Brigham Young's castigation for wasting powder and lead by killing so much.

The other day I had the opportunity to re-enact this scene, in modern terms. A ranching friend of mine had four buffalo available: a five year old cow and three yearling calves. We (a few friends and I) used a horse trailer instead of a wagon, and hauled them to a local butcher. When all was said and done, we had eight hanging halves for a total of 1,900 pounds. I imagine that when all is said and done, we might lose a couple hundred pound in bone. If we were pioneers, those bones would be used as well. Here's a trail reminiscence from Catherine Camp Greer, speaking of buffalo bones:

"After we had cut the meat off the bones, they would build a big log fire and put the bones in and scrape the coals all over them and cover them with ashes until they were roasted… You have no idea how much marrow would be contained in the larger leg bones; sometimes almost a pint, and we used this for butter."

The marrow was high in fat, and therefore made good calories. As part of my book research last week I added up the calories in the daily ration afforded by the PEF regimen. Between the daily flour, bacon, dried beans and fruit, etc., the PEF pioneers received 2,200 calories in their daily ration. When balanced against the daily toll of the trail, it seems pioneers likely expended 3,500 calories for a deficit of 1,300 calories. Only through such wild sources could this deficit be made up.

I don't know if I'll go to the trouble of rendering marrow from the bones of our bison, but I'm pretty sure we'll have some tasty eating for the next year, thanks to electric deep freeze chests in the basement.


Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Hey Brock! I gave you the Lovely Blog Award. Come by to pick it up!

Brynn said...

Hello Brock! I'm a film student at BYU and I'm currently working as a props assistant for a feature film set in 1860's Salt Lake City. We're currently in the research stage, and thanks to my cousin, Lyndsey Johnson, I've been able to learn some incredible things from your wonderful blog!

But I still have quite a few things to research. We're hoping to make this film as authentic as possible, and I just know that you'd be a terrific resource. If you're interested in talking with me or even simply answering a couple questions via email, please let me know! My email is

Thanks, Brock!

Cowboy Curtis said...

Brynn, Brock is your man for authenticity.

Sounds like a fun project, let us know how it goes.