It's that time of year again. Time to defrost the freezer and make space; time to ask your friends if they might want some yummy, healthy grass-fed beef. Or, should I say honeydew-fed beef.
"The Boys," as we call them, have been staying in the pasture next to our barn for about a month. They are curious, entertaining, and a wee bit doofy. We have learned they like to eat many things besides just grass. They like to rummage through the kitchen scraps, which causes great consternation with the chickens. Favorites include potato peelings, melon rinds, lettuce scraps, sweet corn cobs, and even grapefruit rinds. And they really, really like cucumbers. They will chase you across the corral for more cucumber. Who knew?
And if it isn't too much to ask, they would appreciate it if you could scratch their heads. They itch something fierce.
For those of you who are new to this, here is a reprint of last years information. I did update the prices...
Where do these steers come from? - These are Black Angus steers borne to cows in our herd. They 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 shame because we have a really great brand. It is an old Felzien family brand: Lazy sixty nine. My cows sport it well. They have been vaccinated with the standard vaccines. They are band castrated, not knife cut, which may disappoint the traditionalists 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. They are not organic. Our pastures are not fertilized, nor sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. The hay I buy is high quality hay, usually second cutting, and it is fertilized. My steers have been free range in big spacious pastures their entire lives. Most cattle in this day and age are finished in a feedlot, where the animals are crowded together in small, filthy pens and fed a highly programmed diet high in grains, usually corn and corn by-products. These grain-based feedlot diets fatten cattle very quickly and cheaply.
Unlike last year's steers, these haven't even spent any time on corn stalks. They are as pure as the driven snow. 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 fifteen days to tenderize it, and to develop flavor.
How big is a quarter? - A quarter will weigh roughly between 85-105 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? - The price will be a little more than last year, and will come to approximately $5.40/lb, and the payment process will be slightly different also. This year I'll have you pay the traditional way all processors use; this means you will pay the processor the fee for processing when you pick up your share, and then you will pay me my share separately.
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 60%. This is called the hanging weight. It is measured by a certified scale at the plant. You will pay about .70/lb hanging weight to the processor. This price varies based on the exact weight of the animal, and on how you have the beef packaged. Certain things 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.
Long story short: You will pay Your Choice Meats for processing, approximately $125. And you'll pay me $2.30/lb hanging weight for roughly $380. This should work out to close to $5.40/lb.
How does this work? - Please let me know if you are buying some by Oct 12. 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. These steers will be ready for cutting on November 1. 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. 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, or email, or post a comment with any questions, and I can explain the process in more detail. Maybe others who have done it will chime in with answers.