We finally reached the end of the seemingly boundless cornucopia of beef that Doug and Buddy provided a few years ago. Luckily our tax returns coincided with butcher day and we were able to refill the freezer with a side of beef.
Buying meat on-the-hoof, and having it custom butchered, adds a bit of mystery and suspense to carnivorous life. The initial cost of what is essentially a share of a live cow is based on hanging weight – the weight of the dead cow minus innards, head, skin, feet, etc. When you commit to a side of beef, you have a general idea of cost, given the average size of a beef cow, but it isn’t until slaughter day that you know for sure. We chose to buy from Squaw Creek Cattle Company, based in Everson with Hereford/Angus cross cattle pastured near Lynden. Since some of their beef is butchered under USDA rules (they are also part of the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative) we were able to try some test cuts which were very tasty.
Once the cow (usually a steer) is at the butcher’s, aging for a couple of weeks in their walk-in cooler, you get to decide some finer points of butchery such as thickness of steaks, how much hamburger per package, size of roasts, etc. This is where cut & wrap fees come in. There is a per pound fee charged by the butcher for processing your side of beef into little plastic and butcher paper-wrapped parcels of retail cuts. In our case, Lynden Meats did the slaughter and butchering, charging $0.58/lb.
Many people don’t bother with the offal (heart, tongue, liver, tail) and soup bones from a cow, but we make use of every last bit, and even though these bits & pieces are part of the cut & wrap fee, we will more than get our money’s worth evenutally. Coming up on our culinary calendar is a day of charcuterie – rousting all those hoarded offal bits out of the freezer, through the meat grinder, and into salted pig intestines – transforming them into delicious braunschweiger and liverwurst.
For the economically-inclined we thought it might be helpful to share the breakdown of just how much meat comes from a side of beef:
275lbs. hanging weight at $2.75lb.
224lbs. in the freezer, including offal and soup bones
- 47.25lbs. roasts (rump, sirloin & pot roast)
- 48.5lbs. steaks (sirloin, T-bone, tenderloin, round, rib & cube)
- 59lbs. hamburger
- 6lbs. stew meat
- 5.25lbs. heart
- 2.5lbs. oxtail
- 13.25lbs. short ribs
- 2.5lbs. tongue
- 12lbs. liver
- 3.25lbs. brisket (where corned beef comes from)
- 23.25lbs. soup bones
It works out to about $4.39lb ‘retail’, which isn’t too bad for locally-raised pastured beef.
In other news, the Oliver experiment is coming right along. Tonight we’ll inspect the 50+ eggs in the incubator, culling any that aren’t developing. We took a sneak-peek the other night and were pleasantly surprised at how many of the cross-country-travelling eggs were in good shape. Only 2 more weeks until hatch day.
We don’t usually treat our flock like pets anymore, but one little pullet has consistently made herself known as more than just another laying hen.