For those of you who are new to this, here is the long version
Where do these steers come from? - These are Black Angus steers borne to cows in our herd. We are a fairly small operation, with about ninety head of cows and three bulls. The steers have never had antibiotics - neither as medicine nor as a sub-therapeutic fed supplement. They have never been given growth hormone implants. They have not been branded, which is a crying shame because we have a really gorgeous, single iron brand. It is an old Felzien family brand: Lazy sixty nine. My cows wear it well. These steers have been vaccinated twice with five way and a seven way vaccine. They are band castrated, not knife cut, which will certainly disappoint the traditionalist cowboys out there.
What does 'grass fed' mean? - It means these steers have eaten only the grasses and forbs that grow in our pastures, or alfalfa hay. It more specifically means I have gone out of my way to see that they never eat any grain based feeds. They are not certified organic. Our pastures are not fertilized, nor sprayed with herbicides or pesticides on a broad scale. I do spot spray some small areas in an attempt to control our horrible goat head problem. My steers have been free range in spacious pastures for their entire lives. In the winter, their dry pasture grass is augmented with millet hay. The hay I buy is very high quality hay raised by local growers. It is not organic; it has been fertilized.
Most cattle in this day and age are given growth hormone implants and finished in a feedlot, where the animals are crowded together in small, filthy pens. They are fed a highly programmed diet high in grains, usually corn and distillers grain, which is the leftover corn mash after it has been through an ethanol plant. The grains and grain by-products are mixed with various other materials including straw, ground alfalfa, and even wastes from plants that make processed foods for human consumption. These grain-based feedlot diets, coupled with the cattles inability to move around fatten cattle very quickly and cheaply. Part of the reason that grass fed cattle cost more is the extra time it takes for my animals to naturally grow to their full size.
Grass-fed beef has a lower fat content than grain fed. There is less marbling in the muscle. Grass fed beef can be slightly less tender due to the lower fat content. Also, the fat in grass fed beef is much better for you, with a proper ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. I won't go into more detail here. I'll let you google it and see for yourself.
The beef will be dry aged for at least fifteen days to tenderize it, and to develop flavor.
How big is a quarter? - A quarter will weigh roughly between 85-110 pounds. It will fill three cubic feet of freezer space. A side, or half, is twice as much. If it's too much, find someone to split it with. It is called 'cowpooling', and that is just fun to say.
What does it cost? - For fall 2015, early 2016 my price is $3.85 per pound hanging weight. The processors price is described below. I estimate your entire cost for a quarter, including both my cost and the processing charge to be somewhere between $700 and $825.
Processors base their price off of the hanging weight. This gets complicated, so bear with me, and if you have any questions, call me or Your Choice Meats, and we can explain it. When a live animal is slaughtered and the sides of beef are hung, the weight is reduced by approx. 60%. This is called the hanging weight. It is measured by a certified scale at the plant. You will pay part of the slaughter fee, which is $50.00 per animal, and .70¢ per lb hanging weight to the processor. The final price varies based on the exact weight of the animal, and on how you have the beef packaged. Certain things can incur extra charges, like having ground beef formed into patties, or running round steak through the tenderizing machine.
After the beef hangs (dry aging for fifteen days) it is cut up however you want, reducing the weight again by approximately another 55% thru evaporation and trimming of waste and bones.
For example, let's say I take in a steer that weighs 1100 pounds. After slaughter and dressing out it will weigh approximately 660 pounds. Those two halves, or sides of beef (each weighing 330 pounds) will hang for fifteen days. Then it will be cut to your specifications, with most bones removed, and fat and scraps trimmed off, This will reduce the 660 pounds to approximately 363 pounds. Divide this by four, and each quarter weighs 91 pounds.
Why has the price gone up? There are two reasons for this. First, I have learned that grass fed animals take much longer to fully develop physically, and I was slaughtering too soon. Subsequently, they were underdeveloped, especially in a droughty year like last year. Hopefully, this year my steers will be larger and the poundage on the individual quarters heavier. Second, the cattle market is very high now; actually higher than it has ever been. There are many reasons for this: First, there is a nationwide shortage of cattle. Second, the prices of most feeds are very high due to weather caused crop damage and competition with China. My weaning age calves sell for almost twice what they did just three years ago.
Long story short: You will pay Your Choice Meats for processing, approximately $130 when you pick up the beef. Then, you'll pay me my recent price per pound multiplied by the hanging weight, which will be listed on your receipt.
How does this work? - Please let me know if you are buying some beef, and how much- a quarter or a half. Also give me a daytime phone number. Then call Your Choice Meats at 970-483-7885 and tell them you want to buy a quarter, or a half of Ned Norman's beef. Your Choice Meats will guide you through the beef cutting list to customize the meat however you want. When the meat has finished hanging, they will cut and wrap it and call you for pick up. They can hold it for a while depending on how busy they are. When you pick it up, it is frozen solid at a temperature much colder than your home freezer. Just wrap in a few blankets or tarps and drive home and put it in the freezer. You don't even need to bring coolers. Easy peasy.
This sounds complicated and intimidating if you haven't done it before, but it is really simple. And tasty. And healthy. Please call, text, or email me, or post a comment with any questions, and I can explain the process in more detail. Or less detail. However you like it.