What’s in a Cow?

21 Dec

One of our cows?

My husband is an unemployed economist (oh, irony!), and money is tight.  One of the major (and legitimate) criticisms of ancestral diets is the cost.  It’s a hard thing to do on a very tight budget.  I spend a lot of time cooking and freezing, doing as much processing as I can, seeking out local deals, scrounging free produce from the farmers market that I work at, food pantries, and stuff from cans.  There is a lot of effort involved in this.  Because I feel that food is my medicine that prevents my illness from developing, I do not consider it an option to return to the less expensive, more convenient vegetarian grain-based diet that I ate before.  I thought as an informational post, I could talk a bit about our experience buying half of a cow.  it’s an experience that not a lot of people have these days, particularly from an animal that you know personally, and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.

Our friends E and J are farmers in Vermont.  J’s brother is a dairy farmer, and a couple of years ago gave them three of his male Jerseys to raise for meat.  These three little guys lived fully on pasture, happy as clams with their little donkey friends keeping them calm.  I knew them.  My kids knew them.  In November, E asked us if we could like half of one of the guys, that they were going to market the following week.  Five of the six halves he sold to us and our friends, and the other half he was still looking for a buyer for.

Since everything happened very quickly, we had to make room in our basement on short notice and with short cash.  We had a half-full 5 cubic foot freezer already, and we bought a second freezer of the same size for $169.  It was less expensive to do this than to trade in the one small freezer for a larger one, and this way we can eat our way though one freezer and shut the empty one off in order to save money.

The steers went to market the Friday before Thanksgiving, and were ready to be picked up the week after.  The sides hung between325 and 360 pounds. This should yield 60% to 65% take home beef. For the sake of figuring out what your price per pound cost will be E used 60%.  Our cost was $0.55 per pound for cutting and wrapping.

                 $1.50 per pound for the hanging carcass; this is a standard way for selling sides of beef and is on the very low-end of the spectrum. E also had the guys doing the slaughter remove some extra fat and kidneys that are usually left on to add to the weight.
                 $20.00 – Slaughter cost $40 per animal.

Our cow? Thats my daughter in the blue.

When figuring a 60% return on the hanging weight this will come out to a price of $3.50 per pound for what we took home. Since 60% is low, we made out a little better than this.   Our half was 325 pounds, and we got just over 200 pounds of beef.  What exactly does two-hundred pounds of beef look like?  Well, I wish I took a picture, because it was pretty impressive but I was in a great hurry to get it all catalogued and into the deep freeze.  My husband drove up to Vermont to pick it up at our friends farm and when he pulled in the driveway, the entire back of our SUV, seats folded down, every inch covered with another cooler.
When you get half of a cow, this is what you’re looking at:
~48 packages of ground beef wrapped in 1.5# packages
~9 large top round steaks
~18 packages of shanks, three shanks per package
~3 bottom round roasts
~11 porterhouse steaks
~15 rib eye steaks
~4 eye of round roasts
~4 rump roasts
~5 sirloin steaks
~3-3# packs of stew meat
~3 london broils
~2 brisket
~3 chuck roasts
~5 short ribs (3# each package)
~3 t-bone steaks
~2 tenderloin
~2 shin bones

These are the three steers! They are actually watching my daughter have a tantrum but she is out of the frame.

The roasts are all about four pounds, and the steaks about one inch thick.  I did ask for any bones or organs that they could give me, but only was able to get the two marrow bones that I will use for stock.  Next time we do this, I think I will try harder for the liver, more bones, and more of the nasty bits that no one but me would want.  I would love the tendons, heart, liver, tail, and for some reason I didn’t get a flank or skirt steak which is too bad because I was planning on a big old Rouladen.

So far the meat has been delicious.  We have had a few packages of the ground meat in a sweet potato shepherds pie, meatloaf and meatballs, and I made BBQ pulled pork from the bone-in chuck roast.  Unfortunately not many people have the opportunity to ever eat meat this fresh, from animals who they knew personally.  We feel very blessed to have this much healthy, ethically raised, local food to feed our family, and I look forward to giving steak instead of cookies for hostess gifts this holiday season.
Next up: “How the hell did I end up with a deer neck, and what in god’s name do I do with it?”

24 Responses to “What’s in a Cow?”

  1. martha perry December 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Great post!

  2. Dennis December 22, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    That’s awesome! I only wish I was on the recieving end of one of those holiday steaks!

  3. Jules December 22, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Great post Amanda; looking forward to the deer neck!

  4. anubis silva December 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    A cow only has TWO syrloin steaks!

    • A Slim Winter December 29, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      the sirloin from my half the steer is divided into five steaks. it was butchered into aprox. 1″ thick steaks and 3# roasts for ease. .

  5. Sarah Jane @ The Fit Cookie January 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Buying beef like this is so economical. My parents recently bought 1/2 a buffalo and it was AMAZING! We like to hunt and got 3 antelope this past hunting season and it has lasted us several months. It definitely helps cut costs and is much healthier than store-bought meats.

    • A Slim Winter January 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      wow! a basement freezer full of wild antelope and buffalo! amazing! where do you live, if you dont mind me asking?

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  1. Highbrow Cook Off! Everyone’s a Winner « Highbrow Paleo - April 1, 2012

    […] world of paleo blogging.  It is not necessary to have black truffles and quail eggs on hand, or a half a cow in your freezer to eat  heathy diet.  It’s not necessary to spend your paycheck at Whole Foods. […]

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