Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats at Astor Center

Whole Beast Butchery with Ryan Farr Ryan's knives and tools to break down an animal
Whole Beast Butchery with Ryan Farr at Astor Center, NYC & his knives & tools to break down an animal

Ryan Farr, the owner/head butcher of 4505 Meats taught for one night at Astor Center this past Wednesday. To those of you who aren’t too familiar with Mr. Farr recently released his book Whole Beast Butchery. It’s a handy guide that includes step-by-step photos of how to butcher a whole animal and he’s one of the premier butchers out in San Francisco, California.

The whole lamb (minus one of its legs)
The whole 3.5 month lamb – minus a leg

The agenda of the evening is to learn basics of how to break down entire 3.5 month, 35 pound lamb from Whistle Hill Farm in Vermont. The photo above is the lamb Farr would be cutting up. It’s missing a leg because the other one is roasting in the oven.

4505 Meat's Chicharrónes Starting with Saumur Brut, Non Dosé, Ch. La Tour Grise 2001 (a Chenin Blanc)
Chicharrónes & Saumur Brut, Non Dosé, Ch. La Tour Grise 2001 (a Chenin Blanc)

We started the evening with a glass (or two) of a Chenin Blanc, the Saumur Brut, Non Dosé, Ch. La Tour Grise 2001 paired with 4505 Meat’s famous chicharrónes. The chicharrónes are like addictive pork skin cotton candy. It’s crisp then it dissolves in the mouth like cotton candy. The pork skin chips are sweet then spicy then calms back to the mildly sweet-spicy undertone. It’s like crack. Mr. Farr said how it’s made is by taking the pork skin, trim out as much as the fat off the skin as possible. Deep fry it in rice bran oil and then it’s tossed in a sugar and three-chile pepper mixture. The chicharrónes does work well with the sparkly Chenin Blanc as the wine is very dry with a slight smoky undertone. (There was a huge bowl of those addictive fried pork skins available for us to snack on throughout the class.)

Here’s Mr. Farr talking about the tools he used and his goals with butchering an animal:

Explaining the basics, Part 1

If you are queasy seeing a lamb butchered and cut up (though the animal is not alive and it is bloodless), please do not continue reading or viewing videos of this post. There are generally graphic video clips of the lamb getting butchered after this jump.  

To those of you who are indeed not able to deal with watching it, overall, Mr. Farr did an excellent job teaching the class how to break down an animal within the relatively short time span of 2.5 hours and served the most delicious lamb dishes (merguez sausage and roasted leg of lamb in rosemary pesto) and amazing sausages that are normally sold from his shop. If you are in or from San Franscisco, California, I totally recommend visiting there and cook and eat through all their sausages.

Video Part 2: Intro to his tools, Beginning to separate the lamb into large cuts

The video clip (time: 4 minutes 34 seconds) above explains the areas and names of what the cuts of lamb would be. Then he proceeds the general agenda of the evening and proceed to talk about his tools and do the deed – cut up the lamb head.

Farr making sausages & continue to break down the lamb

This video above shows Farr making and explaining how a sausage should be made of and what parts makes it delicious. Though it’s about 12 minutes long, it’s very informative.

Merguez sausage The Chenin Blanc and the Chinon "Rive Gauche" Rouge, M. Plouzeau 2010 (Cabernet Franc)
Merguez sausage and my wines (the Chenin Blanc from the chicharrónes and a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley; M. Plouzeau, Chinon “Rive Gauche” Rouge)

After completing the demonstration of making his lamb sausage, he took out the cooked sausages from the oven, sliced them up and have them served to the class. His merguez sausage was probably one of the best I’ve eaten. The harissa mixed into the sausage was boldly flavored yet perfectly balanced that the lamb was still the star of the sausage. Also the sausage was “snappy” as promised. The pairing of a vintage 2010 Cabernet Franc from M. Plouzeau “Rive Gauche” was incredible. The dark berried, slightly acidic wine stood up so well to the merguez. (I ended up buying a bottle after class for a future dinner at home.)

Separating the leg from its ball joint
Lamb leg getting separated

Since Farr is teaching this class for only 2.5 hours long (I mean that I wish it was longer, as I want to know more), he proceeded to de-bone a leg of lamb.

Ryan slathering on the rosemary pesto marinade onto the leg of lamb The leg of lamb, tied up
Slathering on the rosemary pesto marinade onto the de-boned leg of lamb & the leg tied up

This particular segment of the class, he demonstrated another one of his recipes from his book: Roasted leg of lamb with rosemary pesto. This is a pretty straightforward recipe. Take the de-boned leg of lamb and butterfly it, by making an incision every 0.5-inch and slather it with his rosemary pesto marinade. Tie it up in butcher’s twine and roast it in 350°F until it is medium-rare to medium.

Channing Daughters "Due Uve" 2009 (Syrah/Merlot) Cutting up the leg of lamb

Serving the leg of lamb

Serving the (almost) final course: Channing Daughters “Due Uve” 2009 (Syrah/Merlot) paired with the roasted leg of lamb

The super tender, flavorful leg of lamb was paired with a Syrah/Merlot from Channing Daughter’s “Due Uve” 2009. (If you might recall, I visited this small winery in the North Fork of Long Island this summer.) It’s light and slightly spicy (like black pepper) with some tannins that works with this herbaceous roasted lamb.

Serving the Maple Breakfast Sausage
Maple Breakfast Sausage Chicken beer sausage Chicken Apple Calvados
Our little “sausage party”

Since there was about 15 minutes to spare, we had a little sausage party. Farr brought out three different types of sausages that he does sell at his shop: Maple Breakfast, Chicken Beer, and Chicken Apple Calvados. Needless to say, they’re all mind blowing. The maple breakfast was perfectly sweet yet savory with a lovely background of sweet pork meat. The chicken beer was intriguing by its somewhat softer texture (almost like boudin blanc, if you ever had it) and the slight bitter hop-y flavor from the beer used in this sausage. The chicken apple calvados was probably my favorite of the three served.

That was the finale of this class. It flew so quickly, as I felt like I learned a couple of tips as to how to break down an animal. Especially with my own section of beef prime rib from Pat LaFrieda. Side note: If I ever go to San Francisco (hopefully soon, if my schedule allows me), I would love to take Farr’s hands-on whole animal butchering class.

The baby lamb...butchered
The entire lamb, butchered

This is what Farr ended up cutting the lamb into (at least for the chops, there’s a larger pile of other cuts) on the cutting board adjacent to this sheet pan.

To view more photos of this class, please click through the slideshow below or view it on my Flickr set. As for other video clips I haven’t shown on this post, you may look through my YouTube Channel.

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Astor Center

399 Lafayette St. (at East 4th St.)
New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 674-7501
Official Website

4505 Meats
Address of their Farmers Market stand in San Francisco, CA:
1 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105
Official Website


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.