Buying the Cow

David and I are in the process of buying our third cow in as many years.  The first two years, we split the meat with family and friends.  This year it’s all ours!

The farmer who raises our cows is right over the border in southern Wisconsin.  He rents his land from David’s friend and his cows are grass fed and organic.  To quote my vegan sister-in-law, “They are happy cows.”  They live a great cow life, grazing the land and playing in the sun.  Well, up until we have them slaughtered that is.  But I try to not to think about that part.

Oh, and I should mention that I name our cows.  Why?  I’m not sure.  I think in my twisted head it seems more respectful to the animal.  It also makes it easier to talk about the cows and compare last year’s cow to this year’s.  Our next cow will be called Victor.  I use boys’ names for all the cows because I just can’t bear the thought that I’ve killed some poor cow’s baby mama.  Am I crazy?  Probably.

Anyway, there are many advantages to buying beef in bulk.  The main reason we went this route was because we wanted to know about the animal we were eating.  Where and how was it living?  What was it eating?  Was it killed in a humane manner?  How and where was the meat processed?  Well, we can go visit the cow prior to slaughtering.  I doubt we will ever take the farmer up on that option but, it is still available.  We see the processing plant when we pick up our processed meat.  It is a very clean, very cold little building.  It’s a small family-run business and they know their meat.

Buying in bulk is cheaper.  The math of our cow:  We pay an “on the hoof” price of about $1.20 per pound.  “On the hoof” is the total weight of the animal prior to any processing.  Victor is about 1,000 pounds.  We also pay a processing fee of $.35 per pound of processed meat.  Victor will weigh about 650 pounds processed.  So, that means that for all of our meat (ground to steaks to roasts), we will be paying $2.20 per pound.  For grass fed, organic beef.  Sure, I could go to Whole Foods where the meat is absolutely gorgeous.  But you pay out of your butt for just ground beef, much less steak.  Bulk beef is less expensive than anything I can find in local stores, including discount big box stores.  It’s a no-brainer.

Bulk meat is fresher and cleaner than most store-bought meat.  In a two week period, Victor will be slaughtered, processed and flash-frozen.  He hasn’t been sitting on a store shelf waiting to be purchased, taking in the wonder of fluorescent lights.  He hasn’t been covered in dyes to appear more appealing.  He also wasn’t slaughtered en masse.  I’m not an expert but it seems to me that there is less likelihood of getting sick from the meat if I’m only exposed to my one cow.

The downside?  You end up with a sh*tload of meat.  You need to have someplace to put all this meat and, now!  We have a chest freezer that just fits a whole cow.  There might be some spillover into our kitchen frig.  A chest freezer that fits a cow (8.8 cu ft) is about $330.00.  So, even if you factor in the price of the freezer, you are still saving money in the long run.

We’ll be picking Victor up in mid-July.  Wish us luck for the two-hour drive up into the land of cheese.

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