Here's how to butcher both livestock and wild animals in Dwarf Fortress, as well as explanations on refuse stockpiles and standing orders.
Butchering animals is dirty business, but some dwarf has to do it. Butchering animals is one of a few ways to keep food on the table in Dwarf Fortress, but the process is less obvious than what players coming from Rimworld may be used to.
You can butcher animals and livestock in Dwarf Fortress, but there are limitations on which animals you can butcher. Pets and tamed animals who simply died or were killed otherwise also cannot be butchered for parts and meat.
Animals killed by your hunters or tamed animals can both be butchered with relative ease, though. Here’s how.
How to Slaughter Animals in Dwarf Fortress
First and foremost, you need a Butcher’s Shop set up. This can be found under the Build menu in Workshops -> Farming -> Butcher. You’ll need this whether you’re looking to butcher wild or tame animals.
You’ll get a lot more than meat from most butchering tasks, as bones, organs, and other parts have uses.
How to Designate Livestock for Butchering
This is the more straightforward task, as you don’t need to have any dwarves assigned as Hunters.
Open the Labor menu (the ‘y’ key), and click over to the Creatures tab, then the Pets/Livestock tab. You can mark animals for slaughter via the small butcher knife icon among the others to the far right in their listings.
Once you’ve done this, the tame animal marked for slaughter will be taken to the Butcher’s Shop and taken care of without any further input from you.
How to Butcher Other Animals
If you’ve got at least one Hunter dwarf roaming the area for prey, they will bring their kills back to the settlement and butcher them automatically at — you guessed it! — the Butcher’s Shop.
It’s convenient that this system works without outside input, but not every fresh corpse your dwarves have at their disposal is a Hunters’ mark. Hunters may kill additional animals by accident while on the hunt, or maybe something crazy happens above ground. In either case, there are opportunities for additional animals to butcher for meat and parts.
You can designate dwarves as Hunters within the Labor menu under the default Work Details tab, just as you do with Minters, Plant Gatherers, and others. The designated dwarf or dwarves will gear up and head out to hunt once assigned.
Refuse Stockpiles Explained
Animal corpses, unlike the corpses of dwarves or the other races in Dwarf Fortress, are categorized as refuse and can be stored in stockpiles specifically marked to hold refuse.
You’ll want a refuse stockpile for piling up animal corpses for butchering. You can put it indoors or outdoors, as long as it’s close enough to your Butcher’s Shop. However, there is one more step to be done before you’re set on this front. And that is to allow your dwarves to collect refuse from outdoors.
What are Standing Orders?
To do this, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with yet another portion of the Labor menu. This time, you’ll be working with Standing Orders. This is found under Standing Orders tab, which is found under Labor (and conveniently the tab just next to the default Work Details tab). You’ll want to select the “Refuse and Dumping” tab.
By default, gathering refuse from outside at all is disallowed. To get your dwarves to start hauling in animal carcasses, you’ll need to click on ‘Workers ignore outdoor refuse’ to toggle it to instead by “Workers gather outdoor refuse”.
You may want to whittle down further what’s allowed in the stockpile you’re using for animal carcasses themselves so their resulting body parts are stored elsewhere. You can do this by selecting the stockpile and then clicking ‘Custom’ to manually set that the stockpile will only take bodies.
Now that you know how to butcher animals, you should be able to keep a steady flow of meat flowing in for use in meals. Butchery is indeed a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. If you found this guide helpful, consider checking out our other Dwarf Fortress guides, such as how to get seeds and how to feed animals.