Pork, then antelope, then pork, then moose, then pork, now beef. I’m at the point now that when finished cleaning down after butchering I lightly dread the next. Until I’m into the next one, that is – at which point it’s fun again. This one was particularly exciting as I’d long wanted to pick up a front quarter of top quality beef to appease my love for braised beef and big red wine – and Nature’s Green Acres nouveau beef, as they call it, is this year’s calf, harvested at the beginning of November – precisely how I prefer my game: largely milk fed, young, mild, and tender throughout.
What I paid. The price I agreed on was $2.50/lb for the hook weight [hook weight = killed, gutted, skinned, ready to cut] of the front quarter – which is cheaper than the hind quarter which carries the bulk of the prime cuts. A whole nouveau beef weighs in at 300lbs or so on the hook [vs 'on the hoof' = live weight], putting a side at 150lbs, and a front quarter at about 75 lbs [I'm awaiting final figures, will update numbers when I get them]. So I owe the farm $187.50 for my quarter. The balance is meat processing cost – namely having the butcher shop kill and chill the animal, which for beef is $150 at Forsetburg Meat Processing Inc. [farmer's choice of butcher] as well as the cost of dry aging the beef. Paying for dry aging is new to me, at a cost of $2.50/day which I’m fine with as cooler space requires significant capital and operating costs. Consuming the space also could limit their capacity to take on game animals at this time of year. Total processing cost: $76.13. All-in total for the quarter = $263.63.
What I got. I weighed out 14 lbs of ground, 37 lbs of roasts [blade and rib primarily], and 10 lbs of loin and rib steaks for a total of 61 lbs of cut and wrapped meat. A bonus to cutting young beef is that the bones are optimal for stock, and I roasted them immediately and tossed them into a stock pot making 10L or so of stock. I didn’t weigh the bone yield, but will guess 10 lbs. Key to this deal for me is that I got milk and grass fed calf from a farmer whose practices I respect, and had the opportunity to cut it how I want, with me having the final call on quality control in the meat cutting department. I also got a really crappy 2+ hr drive through ice fog in -24C each way to go pick it up, which was not enjoyable. Thankfully the staff at the butcher shop were the best I’ve dealt with anywhere.
The bottom line? $263/61=$4.31/lb of straight meat cuts, not accounting for soup bones. Assuming 10 lbs of bones at their rate of $1.25/lb, I’d adjust the net figure to ($263-12.50)/61=$4.11/lb. Honestly, I was a bit surprised how high this ended up. With pork, a hook weight of $2/lb from the same farm resulted in an all-in cost of $2.39/lb – the net cost being 20% higher than hook weight. With the beef, that increase is 64%. Why the spread? With pork, a kill/chill costs $55 now/animal. That’s it. With beef, the kill chill is $150 [why the spread, I have no idea, as pigs require scald/scraping, and I'd think it be quicker to skin a beef], and the $2.50/day for dry aging for 14 days adds up to $304.50/animal. That’s a big difference. With pigs, my processing cost is 14% of the value of the animal. With beef, that figure’s 33% – quite significant.
So how is $4.11? They charge $14.91/lb for rib steaks, $7.12/lb for blade/chuck roasts, $8/lb for ribs, and $5/lb for ground. Some quick spread-sheeting puts what I got priced at about $525 if I were to buy the same stuff at the market ‘retail’. So my cost at the end of the day is very nearly 50% of market retail cost from the same farm. Not only that, the best bit is that the farmer’s not getting short-changed in the deal – quite the opposite. I’m buying direct and reducing the effort on their end – no middle men, reduced sales hrs per head, reduced transportation costs to markets, reduced freezer capital and operating costs, etc. Good deal.
Oh, and I know – there’s cheaper beef out there. But I’m a QPR guy [quality/price ratio], and in my mind, the quality here for the price is a bargain. Want a look at how my cow was raised? Watch the Nature’s Green Acres ‘From Local Farms‘ episode here.