Seven Quick Takes: Side of Beef
Yesterday afternoon I picked up a side of beef in a hardware store parking lot. Whenever people find out we buy our beef by the side, they have lots of questions. Here are some answers!
1. Where do you buy it from? We buy our beef from a fairly local farm about two hours outside of St. Louis. This is the second side of beef we’ve purchased through them. They have it processed at a small business about an hour outside of St. Louis and then deliver it to the metropolitan area.
2. Why bother? There are two main reasons: it’s grassfed beef, and it’s from a small local farm. I believe that grassfed beef is better for the cattle, for the land, and for us. Also, it tastes really good. I also like to know and support the farmer who raised our beef. Knowing the slaughter date and processing steps and being aware that one beef is feeding our family has led me to be a more thankful and careful consumer of our meat.
3. Do you get the weird parts? Almost all of them! I asked for everything but the liver both times. The bones make great broth and I learned that we actually really like oxtail soup. Some of the other parts aren’t necessarily weird but I had never purchased before, so I have learned a lot. For example: we prefer to use our sirloin tip steaks for stir-fries, not grilling. I’d also never had a bone-in chuck or arm roast before, but now those are among my favorite cuts of meat.
4. How much beef is that? It’s about 120-150 pounds, depending on the side. Because we got almost all of the “weird parts” our total was 169 pounds this year. Of that, we got 39 pounds of ground beef and probably 20 pounds of soup bones.
5. Isn’t it really expensive? It seems really expensive when you see the grand total of around $1000, yes. But it’s a lot of food for the price! Kind of like our CSA: that $600 pricetag seems steep too. But we save well over that amount by participating and increase the quality of food we’re eating. We could never afford to buy grassfed beef in any other way on our current grocery budget.
6. Where do you keep it all? We bought a small chest freezer and keep it in our basement. It’s pretty much just for meat, especially right now! I use small baskets to organize the freezer and make it easier to access everything. I’m still searching for the perfect freezer inventory system, though.
7. How long does it last? We finished our last side in about two years. Because we stored it in a chest freezer that’s rarely opened and paid the extra fee for vacuum packaging, it was still totally fine at the end of that period.