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I have always been a regular grocery store shopper buying my ground beef in bulk and using my vacuum sealer to save money. After watching the news about tainted beef, having to check lot numbers and worrying about the beef I already fed my family, then watching Food Inc. my priorities have changed. If you do not know the dangers of E. Coli Bacteria or have not watched Food Inc. you can find it on Youtube.com. Food Inc. opens your eyes and makes you think about the food you feed your family.
Besides having my own garden each summer, I think it is important to buy locally where possible in order to support local businesses. We live in The south side of the Twin Cities and there are many farms and ranches and farmers markets that make it possible to buy locally. I decided to try to buy a half a cow for my families beef. The search started to find a local, organic, free range cow to buy. The research started around April every local, online ranch being on average $5-8 dollars per pound of beef for certified organic beef. Most were already sold out for the season and they were already taking reservations and deposits for the 2011 season. I remembered that a woman I graduated with from high school and reconnected with on Facebook, mentioned the previous year that she sold cows from her farm, so I contacted her and asked for details.
My High School friends Ranch is located in Afton Minnesota, about 30 minutes south of my house. She had photos of her happy, healthy, young cows on her Facebook page. The cows had plenty of room to roam in grass, they were grass fed on no pesticide grasses, and were hormone free. These are the main important points of why I wanted to buy organic, but her cows also did not have the added cost of the organic certification process. She also had cows available to buy this year!
I put in my order for a 1/2 a cow, we have a big freezer in the basement and I agreed to split 1/4 of the cow with 3 other friends. The average for 1/4 of a cow is $400 and 1/2 a cow is $800 depending on weight.
She messaged me and said that they were bringing the cows in and to expect a call directly from the butcher shop in about 10-14 days. The butcher shop called me 12 days later and I gave them cutting instructions, how I wanted it packaged, (1 lb ground beef packs, 3/4 inch steaks, 2 steaks per package mostly boneless roasts averaging 2-3 lbs per roast.) I explained that I had never done this before to the woman on the phone and she was patient with me describing all of the options and what was common.
They butcher shop called me the next morning and told me I could to come pick my beef up. It was packaged in four large boxes two boxes with ground beef and two boxes with steaks and roasts and already frozen.
It was aged/hung for 10 days for flavor after slaughter.
1/2 of cow this cows dressed weight was 302 lbs
The price of the 1/2 cow including processing was $740.00
The price per pound dressed weight was $2.45
The weight of the beef processed and packaged was 219 lbs
The price per pound of processed and packaged was $3.37
I got about 120 lbs of steaks and roasts and 100 lbs of ground beef. Each package of butcher freezer papered meat is clearly labeled with my name to make sure I am getting my cow and the type and quantity of cut. You may be able to get your choice of cuts less expensive if you get every sale at the grocery store but you have no idea where your meat is coming from. I did not think that $3.37 per pound was too bad considering what you get when you average the cost per cut.
I ended up keeping a full 1/4 of cow split every other cut plus an additional 1/8 (after splitting 1/4 of the cow with 3 friends) of this cow for my family. I believe I kept 3/8 of a cow.
Here is the breakdown of my cuts.
-3 packages of soup bones
-3 packages of stew meat
-3 rump roasts
-1 sirloin tip roast
-1 beef arm roast
-4 beef chuck roasts
-2 beef porterhouse steaks
-9 T-bone steaks
-7 ribeye steaks
-11 sirloin steaks
-6 beef top round steaks
-55 packages of 95% lean ground beef
I had no idea what to expect since this was my first half of cow purchased, so I wanted to share my experience with others. I am truly pleased with my purchase, the hardest part was cutting a check for $740 bucks.
The aged beef is very meaty tasting, it tastes like eating a steakhouse steak each time we eat it. The beef adds much more flavor to your food than quickly processed grocery store beef. When you brown the ground beef there is no need to drain the fat, it is about 95% lean ground beef and there is no lack of flavor with the reduced fat. If you could buy 95% lean ground beef what would that cost per pound? The steaks are marbled and fabulous. I have made two roasts and they are flavorful without the 2 inch coating of fat at the top of my slow cooker.
Consider buying a local side of beef, know where your meat comes from, and taste the difference!