Friday, June 24, 2011

Buy a Half of Cow Instead of Packaged Meat from the Store

Buying steaks and ground beef from the store can be very expensive. Steaks can range from $5 to 10 a pound. Hamburger is over $3 a pound for the lean meat and roasts are somewhere in the middle. Most of this meat is corn fed feed lot meat that is pumped with hormones and antibiotics. Good deals on meat are basically meat that is about to expire. Better quality meat from a local butcher or a natural food store like whole foods will cost even more.

Therefore, the best way I've found to buy beef is through local ranchers that do only grass fed beef. This beef costs anywhere from $3 to $4 a pound. I also am able to chose my cuts of beef, such as one inch thick steaks or grinding up some of the roasts into hamburger.

The key is to get a freezer to store all the extra meat. Freezers are pretty inexpensive and after one year of buying the cow the freezer should be paid for. The other nice thing about buying the cow, is a family always has food on hand and dining out is cut down saving even more money. When our family is stuck with what to make for dinner, we just grab some ground beef out of the freezer and make something like a pasta with meat sauce.

I've found that a 1/4 cow lasts my family of five about 12 months. We eat a lot of beef (2 to 3 meals a week), hence the reason I wanted a healthier cut. As the kids are growing I am having to move up to the 1/2 a cow. A quarter cow normally provides 150 - 180 lbs or so of meat. Cuts on a quarter cow can be limited because the part of the cow is the front half or the back half of a side instead of the whole side.  This is normally up to the rancher or butcher on how they divide up the side of beef between the two parties that are buying that side.  Also, a quarter cow can take longer to purchase because the rancher has to find another party that is buying a quarter as well.

One note to buying a quarter or side of beef is how the prices work. A rancher might sell the steer for $2.25 a pound based on hanging weight. Hanging weight is the weight before bones and excess fat are removed. Because grassfed beef is very lean, this only accounts for about 15 percent of the cow. Another fee might appear for butchering the cow. This is because most ranchers take the cow to a butcher to do the cuts. This costs about $0.50 a pound. It is good to know how the pricing works, but my average has always been about $3 to 4 a pound for the last 8 years that I have been doing this.

A personal note is that I like to buy grassfed beef. I don't look for the organic label because I buy mostly from small ranchers that tell me how they raised their beef. The organic label is a USDA certification that costs thousands in the certification process and most small ranchers cannot afford it, but they are using the same practices that the certification forces.


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