Backyard Butcher Goes To The Meat

Don Livermore doesn't sit in town waiting for someone to bring in an animal for butchering. He takes his rig to the farm and butchers right in the backyard. In 90 min. he can kill, clean, quarter and load a full size head of beef. Within 2 to 3 hrs. of the animal going down, it's being cut up at a local meat cutting shop.

"It's just a job, and someone has to do it," says Livermore, who's been doing "it" for more than 40 years. In fact, his slaughter truck is 40 years old.

Livermore started his business in 1972 and charged $5 an animal. Today he charges a little more and slaughters an average of about 400 head of sheep and beef a year. His business was interrupted recently, however, when Livermore had an accident on the racetrack. An avid stockcar racer at age 70, he broke his neck, but expects to be back at work -- and on the racetrack -- within a year.

Livermore's trade is dying out, he says. Demand has steadily dropped over the past 10 years or so. For many years he never slaughtered fewer than 1,000 animals, reaching a peak of 1,300 in 1996. He recalls when there were as many as 6 mobile slaughter trucks working the roads of southwestern Ore. Today there are only three.

"Some farms where I used to butcher now have hundreds of houses sitting on them," says Livermore. "I don't think business will ever get back to what it used to be. Many people no longer have money to buy a half or quarter at a time. They've learned to live on hamburger from the store."

What hasn't changed is how he does the job. Once the animal has been put down (hopefully with a single bullet), he skins it, most of it on the ground. Then an electric hoist on the truck is used to lift the carcass to finish the skinning and remove the organs and offal. A reciprocating saw splits the carcass in half and then into quarters, which are hoisted onto the truck.the things customers often tell Kosanke is how well the aprons stay on.

When Livermore started out in the business, he bought a van and fitted it with a stainless steel interior for hauling meat. A separate small stainless steel room was installed behind the driver's compartment. It holds four 55-gal. drums to hold hides and offal. Livermore salts and sells the hides, while the offal goes to a landfill. He also installed a potable water supply tank in the truck. Livermore estimates a new truck would set him back around quite a bit. He has no plans to buy a new one, says his wife Jayn.

"I think he'll keep doing it until he can't get up in the truck anymore or it gives out," she says. "Guys are betting on which one is going to give up first."