Beef butchering is over for another year. My cellar is empty of hanging quarters, once again, only having been empty a day between elk and beef. All that’s left as evidence of the beef is the reducing pot of stock on my stove and the high population of magpies in my back yard cleaning up the remaining bones. Two things are top of mind for me about this experience this year: quality, and economics.
Quality. This cow is this year’s calf, having fed on milk and grass only, so the meat nearly looks like pork when cooked it’s so light in colour. The copious fat has an exceptionally clean flavour. I harvest moose at this same age, and find similarities in that nearly every cut is tender and delicate in flavour. This stuff’s a joy to work with.
This is a drug-free cow. A cow that actually grazed on grass rather than having eaten trucked corn or some other feed it’s not built to eat. It wasn’t stressed by being trucked around to auctions and feedlots prior to slaughter. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the pasture where this cow lived, and know the farmers well. I’m not sure what else I could ask for when it comes to quality of product.
Economics. Here‘s my beef-onomics from last year. This year, same asking price from the farm per pound of hook weight: $3. Worked out to $2.40/lb for front quarter, $3.51 for hind quarter. 81 lbs front, 95lbs hind. A big difference this year is that they used a different processor and rather than $76.13 for kill/chill cost, it was $26.25/quarter. My all-in cost for the front quarter was $220.66 for 81 lbs, or $2.72/lb hook weight. Last year’s numbers were $263.63/75lbs = $3.51/lb. I had to look at that math a few times…23% lower cost. Most of that is simply lower processor fees, but part is due to an error in assuming 50% of the side was front quarter, when in fact this year it proved to be 46%.
Weight of wrapped/packed cuts: 64.4 lbs. $220.66/ 64.4lbs = $3.43/lb, not including bones. Including about 5 lbs of stock bones, the total’s about $3.18/lb. Substantially less than last year. Interesting. Yay for lower processing costs.
There’s a point here beyond simply understanding what my food costs are when butchering it myself. The point is this: local, antibiotic and hormone free, stress-minimized, milk and grass fed beef bought from a farmer that sells at a farmers’ market can COST LESS than conventional box-store meat. People often tell me: ‘yeah, but‘ and cite the high cost of local food as a barrier to eating local. I have a ‘Save-On Foods’ flyer in front of me, beef outside round oven roast is $3.49 a lb for meat that is from ‘Western Canada’, conventionally raised and fed, likely finished at a feed lot, and shipped here and there. For the cost-senstive would-be-ethical-eaters [this was me at one time], the big question is this: do you care enough about the meat you eat to buy raw ag product from a farmer and process it yourself? If yes, welcome to the world of high quality AND lower cost. If not, please don’t complain to me that local food is expensive – it certainly can be if you choose, but doesn’t need to be.