Buying Organic Grass Fed Meat
A few years ago we bought a cow to give our family organic grass fed meat. The reason was two fold. We wanted healthier beef to feed our family. We also wanted to save money. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if we would have started this adventure without my brother and his wife. I would not have known where to start! However, because of my sister-n-law’s family, we knew a farmer that could provide the beef. My sister-in-law also could help in the entire process.
Buying a steer for organic grass fed meat, is simple but there are a few important steps. The important steps are what I think most people are most overwhelmed by. Questions like, “How much will this cost?”, “Where do I find a farmer?”, “What do I tell the butcher?” are thoughts I had in the process.
Once you can answer these questions, the benefits of owning your own beef in your freezer are simply amazing. I know where the steer came from. I know that our ground beef came from one animal and not hundreds. I am also supporting our local farmer and butcher. That is really important to me. I want to support them and what they do.
Here’s a few things you need to know and answers to questions to get you on your way to owning a cow! (Okay, I know it’s not a cow – but it just has a nice ring to it!)
Where do I find a local farmer?
The first thing I would do is ask family and friends. Ask on facebook. You might be surprised who is already buying from a local farmer. They’ll be able to give you firsthand knowledge. If you find that no one you know has experience in this area, go onto craiglist and search for “freezer beef” in your local area.
What do I ask the farmer?
You’ll want to ask the farmer whether the steer was grass fed or grain fed. You’ll also want to ask what the timeline is for the beef. The steer may not be ready to go to slaughter for a few months.
Where do I find a Butcher?
Our farmer transports the cow to the butcher. The butcher calls us. Easy!
How much meat is it?
It’s A LOT of beef. We personally purchase a ¼ of a cow each time. That also means that we have to find someone to purchase the other ¾. It’s much simpler than you think. The farmer we have used, usually knows another family that is waiting to split the cow. For our family of four (includes two young boys) a ¼ of a cow will last us a little over one year.
The total weight of our cow in 2011 was about 400 pounds in beef. That is quite a bit.
Do I need a deep freezer?
Yes, yes and YES. It is a lot of beef. Even though we only get ¼ of a cow, we could not fit it in our regular freezer in our kitchen. It’s an investment in the process, but it’s so worth it. You’ll get the return within just one year!
How much does it cost?
We paid $3.10 per pound or $308 for our ¼ of a cow. That includes the cow cost and butcher cost. It was a little less than 100 pounds for our family. That is a little more per pound on ground beef but far less for the steaks. And the fact that it’s grass fed means that it’s significantly less for this quality. This past year we paid even less!
As I mentioned above, you will pay the farmer and then you will pay the butcher. They are separate.
Update: Please note that pricing can vary. I live in a very rural area. Either way, I’ve never known it to be more than what you’d pay in the grocery store for this quality! 🙂 You will know the approximate cost up front. The farmer and the butcher should give you a rough estimate.
What does the process look like?
Once you’ve committed with the farmer, you’ll have to wait a few weeks. The farmer will take the beef to slaughter when it’s ready. It then goes to butcher where it hangs for a few weeks. The meat is left at the butchers and the butcher will call you to see what kind of cuts you would like. Once that happens, they will then call again and let you know when to pick it up!
When you go to pick up your beef, bring laundry baskets or boxes to transport the beef. It is already frozen for you (at least that’s what our butcher does) but it’s much easier to transport with a few boxes.
What kind of cuts do you get?
You can’t cut the cow into all steaks, unfortunately. You will receive a phone call from the butcher and they can help talk you through it. The first time we ordered, I chose way too many roasts. The second time we had more of the roasts turned into ground beef.
Here’s what I tell the butcher. (And to be honest, I had no idea what to say my first time. My sister-n-law had to tell me.)
3 lb roasts
1 lb packages of ground beef (⅓ of it made into patties)
2 steaks per package
cube and round steaks ground into ground beef
As you can see, you don’t really give the butcher exact amounts. You’re primarily telling him how to package it. And then when he asks about the heart and the tongue, you might be like me and say …. you can keep it! 🙂
The Meat is wrapped in paper?
Yes, our meat comes wrapped in butcher paper. And let me tell you, there is no freezer burn! I love it! You can however have it vacuum sealed as well. The cost is different so make sure to ask what the difference is.
What’s the final breakdown?
Here’s what we ordered for a ½ cow. We then split it amongst our family. This was the cost for us in 2011. This past year (2013) we paid even less!
Cost of ½ a cow: $451
Cost of butchering ½ cow: $165.57
What do we get for $616?
5 pkg. T-Bone Steaks
4 pkg. Porterhouse Steaks
7 pkg. Sirloin
3 pkg. Sirloin Tip Roast
3 pkg. Rolled Rump Roast
2 pkg. Round Steak
9 pkg. Cubed Steak
7 pkg. Rib Steaks
9 pkg. Chuck Roast
3 pkg. Arm Roast
2 pkg. Rolled English Roast
4 pkg. Boneless Stew Meat
54 lb. Ground Beef
18 lb. Beef Patties
Total Weight: 198.6 lb.
That’s $3.10 per lb!!
Remember, the packages of steaks, come two to a package. Amazing, right?!
Any other questions?
What questions do you have? I can’t tell you how awesome it is to fill your freezer with meat that came from a local source. And, it tastes better too!