Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Our first half of grass fed beef

Good morning. I’ve got t-bone steak in my refrigerator. I have no idea how to cook it. But I am SO thankful for it. I'll probably be using this book a lot while I learn about all the cuts of beef.

Some in the main freezer.
More in the stand up freezer.
We got a half a cow’s worth of meat on Monday. We paid by the hanging weight (the most common way to buy a half). I had a moment of shock and panic as the finished, packaged meat was less weight than I expected. I thought for sure that we didn’t have it all – but alas, we do. It is still a ton of meat for us.

You never know how many pounds you’ll end up with. It will be from 50%-70% of the hanging weight. Although, I went into the purchase thinking the norm was 60-70% and basically expecting it – so 50% was the shock.

We cooked up some of the ground beef in our cast iron skillet and it was divine! The best meat I have ever tasted. I’ve heard there can be a learning curve cooking grass fed beef – so we’ll see how the steaks turn out.

You know what’s awesome? I would never have a fillet mignon/tenderloin in my freezer before buying the whole half a cow. We pretty much only bought ground beef, stew meat, and the occasional roast for making roast beef for the past 2-3 years. That was fine, but it is so nice to have this huge variety of beef in our freezer. It is really nice that we paid one price for all of it which means the average price/pound is much lower than what it would cost to purchase the grass fed beef otherwise (even with a lower percentage of packaged meat from the hanging weight).

But having this huge variety meant I didn’t know what I was looking at! I had to look up what all these cuts were. Here are a few shockers:

  • I thought sirloin was the best cut of steak. Nope. (You are laughing, aren't you.) Here is the price sheet for grass fed meat from a farm in CT: I love steak, but we don’t eat it often, and I didn’t even know there were so many different cuts (more than what is listed on that sheet too).
  • I couldn’t believe how many Delmonico steaks there were. I thought they must be subpar steaks, so I set them aside. Turns out Delmonico Steaks are also called Ribeye. AKA - good stuff.
  • I had thought Porterhouse must be like chuck steaks… wrong again. They are T-Bone Steaks when the tenderloin section is 1 ½ inches or wider.
Okay. Stop laughing. Here is the helpful article on 4 high end steaks that taught me a thing or two:

It is really nice to have experienced this with a purchased half before we potentially have our own in 18 months. I’m going to learn how to cook it all, and I got to experience just having the cuts that are there – not a special selection.

I’m looking forward to – hopefully – raising our own beef to butcher and doing that ourselves too. I know that what we purchased has the value of hay, time, and land factored in. It also has the butchering fee worked in. If we can only pay for the hay – the resulting beef will be much cheaper for us. We don’t necessarily go by “time is money” here when it comes to what we produce for our family.

The deal is, we’d rather be spending the time to reduce our food costs at our own home, if we can, than spending it elsewhere. If it became absolutely necessary to our budget, wouldn’t it be so much better to work at home than get another job outside the home to buy the same food we could have produced at home? We’d rather farm together as a family, than separate our family any more than it already is.

Oh, for the love of family, farming, and food. Good food.

So thankful for this freezer full of food. In this picture: home raised chickens,
local grass fed beef, zhucchini and summer squash.

And here is: chicken broth, more chickens, chicken feet and organs, rhubarb,
cranberries, and more beef. We are so grateful for all these provisions.

And as a bonus and an extra - why do we want grass fed beef and beef that is pasture raised? Here is just a simplistic explanation from the way I understand it: 

Cows are ruminant, so they don't need grain or digest it as well. Grain is used because it is usually cheaper and faster to fatten the cow and is also an easy way to provide the extra energy a cow could need for the winter. But with good quality hay and possibly baleage/silage/haylage, you might not need grain or another energy source at all. Different breeds make it more possible to grass feed and overwinter them with hay alone. Having a legume like alfalfa in your hay is extremely helpful as well.

They sometimes need the extra energy (like in winter) to free them up to convert their hay into meat and fat (and milk when they are mothers or a milking cow). But the easiest way to know what you need to feed your animal is to watch the animal’s condition.

Forage converts the way it is supposed to into meat in the cow. Omega 3 is higher and at a more natural level in grass fed beef. A cow on pasture is getting the freshest and most natural diet to its design. For all these reasons (and more), when it is possible, we’d rather have the grass fed cow, milk, and meat.

But, of course, we would rather see a healthy animal, than an animal that is starving for the sake of the no-grain diet. Some cows will not be good milkers on grass alone because they need much more extra energy to free them up to convert their grass and hay to milk – that could mean you supplement or get a different cow. You could grain them or supplement with alfalfa grass, or other fodder.

I learned a lot of this from the Keeping A Family Cow book and a few other online sources. There is a lot more to it than this. Keeping A Family Cow is written by Joann S Grohman who has been gardening and farming organically since 1950 and currently lives in Maine. She and her family have over 6 decades of experience with dairy and beef cattle. I highly recommend the book!

I shared this at:
The HomeAcre Hop
Simple Saturday Blog Hop
Simple Life Sunday Blog Hop
The Homestead Barn Hop
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1 comment:

  1. We are picking up our beef tomorrow!! Since we do not have a farm yet we purchase ours from a local farm. Home grown meat really is the best!

    Have a great weekend!




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