Saturday, January 16, 2010

Buying Good Beef in Bulk

On a whim I decided to buy a quarter of a cow.  Even though I didn't have all the facts before committing to buy I did know these three truths.
  1. If it was good for paleolithic man, with which everyone in my immediate family shares blood type, than it is good for us.  
  2. Most cows are processed through large factory farms where they are injected with tons of pharmaceuticals to make them grow big and grow fast and fight off infections caused by their crowded living conditions.  
  3.  Everybody seems to get cancer or heart disease nowadays. 
What I didn't know before I tried to make up for in research into organic grass fed beef after I made the purchase but before I took delivery.  I'll try to pass on as much information as I can remember from that research.

Where and How Much?
Last October a woman that works in my building posted a ad on the digital bulletin board stating that for $400 I could buy a 1/4 portion of a cow from a farmer she knows, a guy by the name of Kevin Diehl in Pennsylvania. The ad further stated that the cow is not treated with any hormones, antibiotics, or any other chemicals.  It's just a cow in a field doing it's thing.  Those are my words, not from the ad.  
A 1/4 portion equates to 200lbs of meat "on the hoof".  Awesome! That's $2/lb however by the time you get it "in the freezer" it's more like 120lbs which comes out to $3.48/lb. 
"On the hoof" basically means they weigh it while it's still a cow.  It includes the head, tail, bones, hair, hooves, teeth, and everything else that makes up the cow.  When you strip away all that you're left with just meat, fat and some bone all cut to your specifications and wrapped in pretty white butcher paper.
You can learn more about buying grass fed beef at or this article on eHow.  

Why Buy Organic Grass Fed Beef? 
My wife and I decided a while ago that we were going to eat healthier foods and generally be more aware of the quality of food we consume.  Neither one of us has any desire to be a vegetarian and we don't want the kids to skimp on animal proteins.  Muscles, brains, organs, these things need protein. Our goal is simply to reduce the amount of artificial food stuff that we consume.  So when I saw the ad for organic beef I jumped on it.
What I found out after I committed to buy the quarter cow is that grass fed organic beef seems to be just about the healthiest source of red meat you can buy.  It's much more healthy  than the meat you get from factory processed grain fed cows which are confined, overfed, and pumped full of chemicals.
For example read the list below that I stole from
A 2009 study by the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina determined that compared with grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef was:
  1. Lower in total fat
  2. Higher in beta-carotene
  3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  6. Higher in total omega-3s
  7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
Kevin Diehl, the farmer who raised the cow, delivered the meat to my office building last week.  The four of us beef buyers met him in the parking lot and took possession of our quarters.  
Did I mention you will need a lot of freezer space?  I got the 14.8 cubic foot Frigidaire Energy Star model
It was a little overkill for this much meat but I intend to use it to store a bunch of other frozen food.  The economics of frozen food is a whole other blog post.  Suffice to say you can save a lot of money by getting a freezer and buying food in bulk.
For my $400 I got 120 pounds of meat consisting of:
  •  7 or 8 roasts
  • a half dozen or so 1 1/4in. steaks of various types
  • a dozen or so 1 1/2lb packages of ground beef
  • 5 boxes of hamburger patties
  • a bunch of cubes for stew.
But How Does it Taste?
The short answer is: it tastes really really good.  The night after I took delivery I pan fried a sirloin steak with a recipe I got from the Cook with Jamie cookbook. The steak was delicious as was the ground beef we had tonight in tacos.  Both had really good flavor and texture.  I can't wait to grill a porterhouse next week.

Pan Fried Sirloin Steak. Cook with Jamie pg 158
Originally uploaded by michaelb1
I bought a huge portion of grass fed organic beef.  It saved me some money. It tastes really good. It's healthy for me and my family.  
After only two meals I can say that I will buy another 1/4 cow when this meat runs out.  By my calculations my family of five eating two or three red meat meals per week should go through the entire 120lbs in about..........I have no idea.

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