Friday, February 18, 2011

Grass Fed Beef Quarter Cost Analysis

How's that for a dry title? I figured it would be good to share how our experience buying a quarter of grass fed beef worked out. Before we ordered our quarter I had many questions about hanging weight vs. actual take home meat and what the final cost per pound of the finished beef would end up being. Using our farmer's numbers I did a best guess and once I picked up our beef I figured the actual total. The numbers were surprising close. That is what happens when you work with an experienced, honest farmer!

This is going to look a little dry since it was typed up as a document for me to refer to in the future, but hopefully it makes sense.

Quarter hanging weight: 149 pounds, $320 paid to Miller Brothers Farms. We paid $2.15/pound hanging weight. They rounded off as we were told to just send $320. I do see that prices are increasing to $2.40/pound for this next year.

Processing costs paid directly to Cedar Road Meats at pick up. $.44/lb (65.56) + quarter of slaughter charge (9.50) + order charge (3.00) = $78.06

We were walked through cutting instructions once the steer was in, butchered, and we knew which quarter was ours. We simply called Cedar Road and were asked cut by cut what we would like. If I was uncertain she would explain the standard and the options. I asked for things to be left bone in and for all 'other' cuts to be included, 2 steaks/pack, 3/4" cut, 2 pound roasts.

This is what we got when I picked up the order about two weeks later.
Meat type: number of packages, total weight

hamburger: 34, 1 pound each (34)
stew meat: 4, 1 pound each (4)
arm roasts: 2 (4)
chuck blade roasts: 4 (10.5)
sirloin tip roast: 2 (4)
rump roasts: 1 (2)
round steak: 2 (5)
swiss steak: 2 (4)
t-bone steak: 2 (3)
rib steak: 3 (4.5)
sirloin steak: 4 (5.5)
porterhouse: 1 (2)

The next four are things we have never really eaten, but I asked for them and am hoping to be courageous and give them a try. Or to hide them in things if necessary! Since we paid for them I figured we should take them and eat them if at all possible too.

liver: 3 (3)
tongue: 1 (2)
heart: 1 (2.5)
oxtail: 1 (1.5)

Asked for fat to render and large bones to make stock--got about 10 pounds of each (not included in calculations.) Ended up with 7 quarts of beef stock and 7 or so pints of beef tallow.

Asked for soup bones and short ribs, but were not in the order when I got home. Contacted Cedar Road Meats and she checked into it right away after asking me to double check what I had brought home. After comparing my list to theirs they could only guess as to where they went. They were not able to find so replaced with beef they butchered, but wasn't from Miller Farms. They estimate I would have gotten about 3 pounds of each, so am adding those 6 pounds into final numbers. They did give us a bit extra to make up for the trouble and we arranged to pick up at a farmer's market closer to our home as the butcher shop is about an hour away.

Total weight of meat brought home (and estimates of soup/short ribs): 97.5 pounds
Total paid: $398.07

Total paid/pound of meat brought home: $4.08 (Based on Luke's estimates I had figured roughly $4.11/pound would be our final total. I don't think he could have gotten much closer!)

Percent of hanging weight: 65% now in freezer (He had estimated 68%)

So when order a quarter or half of beef it is important to remember that you will not be getting 100% of the hanging weight back for the freezer. I've seen other bloggers suggest that on a whole cow they only lost about 30 pounds of weight total, but that is not accurate. Typically you will lose 40% or (much) more on an average quarter, half or whole cow. Our percentage was 'better' because we asked for bones to be left in and we ordered from a farm that is working to increase the percentage by breeding different genetics. Different breeds of beef cattle have different meat percentages and it makes sense to find one that does a good job of converting grass into meat to maximize your yield. You lose a lot of weight to the large bones. We also would have had a lower percentage if we did not take the 9 pounds of liver, heart, tongue and the oxtail.

Also hanging weight is taken right after butchering. The meat is very wet and weighs more than it will after it ages and drys. Any good butcher will let the meat age or rest for 7-14 (or more) days before butchering. At that point you've lost a fair percentage of weight to evaporation, but it is good because the flavor has improved.

We love the beef we got. Some people talk about grass fed beef as being tough or odd flavored. I can only imagine that they have gotten an inferior product or are not used to the flavor beef should be. Our meat is tender, juicy and really wonderful! Mike doesn't like steak (I know, weird right?) but even he loved the rib steaks I made from our quarter. I recommend working with Miller Brothers if you have the chance. I do not think you will be disappointed.

All in all the price per pound is much more than I used to pay for meat. However we got many cuts I never, ever bought before. We also got the added value of beef tallow and lots of stock. And most importantly we have peace of mind as to how our cow was raised, how it was butchered and feel good about the meat we are eating and local families we are supporting. We will eat off this quarter for at least a year which makes the cost that much more affordable. We have already reserved a quarter for next fall to be prepared for 2012 and our growing family needs!

Happy Eating,

Just a note since everyone seems to need disclaimers for everything now...Miller Brothers and Cedar Roads have no idea I posted this. I did send my break down to Luke at Miller Brothers after I figured it out so that he would have something to pass onto other questioning potential customers like me. I did not and do not expect to get anything from anyone for posting this :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy (Belated) St. Valentine's Day

We had a nice Valentine's Day here at home this year. Oh wait, that is what we do every year! I started the morning by making my boys pink heart pancakes. Isn't that what every man and his son want for breakfast? Actually, Little Guy asks for pancakes, waffles and couscous for breakfast every single day. Having me home full time has gotten him out of his oatmeal for breakfast routine a bit more!

So back to the day...we had pancakes that I dyed using a little beet juice. I'm trying to get myself away from artificial coloring more and more and thought I'd give it a whirl. It turned out really pretty, but the pancakes got very golden so they no longer looked pink when baked. The taste was great though! For lunch we had leftovers so nothing special there, but our dinner is a tradition! We had homemade garlic bread, seriously kicked up mac and cheese, roasted broccoli spears, A&W in frosted mugs, and hot fudge cake for dessert. It was a great meal and a nice day all in all.

I topped off the Valentine's Day food the next morning by making eggs in a hole heart style. They turned out really cute and were appreciated most by Mike. I didn't realize that he loves those so much and need to make an effort to make them more often!

Here's hoping you had a wonderful Valentine's Day surrounded by those you love!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What an exciting time to live in Wisconsin! The entire state is having a blast celebrating the Packer's big victory and we couldn't be happier. We were invited to a friend's house to watch the Superbowl, but since Peanut wasn't feeling the best and Little Guy is just on the mend we decided not to chance being out late and around new germs.

Turns out it was a good decision. Peanut got sick during half time. Really sick, scared Mommy sick. She had been warm and obviously not feeling good all day, but nothing too bad and pretty much just par for the course with this yucky cold thing. Then she was really, really warm and just not acting or looking right. Took her temp it was 102.5. Not good news. We called the after hours number at our pediatrician's office and when the doctor called back he wasn't overly worried. He just wanted us to bathe her, give her Tylenol and watch her. If it got above 104 go to Children's ER. And he had to go, he was watching the Superbowl, click. Seriously? I was basically hung up on by the doctor because of the game.

In the end her temp came down to about 100 after a scary period where she got kind of listless and I spent most of the night up with her nursing and comforting and checking temps and such. Yesterday the nurse at the office was much more thorough and comforting, but we may have a while to go with this. And if other symptoms get worse we may still be going in. But she reassured me a ton after she heard that we've never dealt with much sickness other than some diaper rash issues with Little Guy. We've been really lucky.

I'm up early with her this morning and she is doing pretty well temperature wise. She's got a cough that isn't fun, but I'm more hopeful that this will pass without major complications. Here's hoping my response system can quiet down now too. I've been a bit strung out on worry and lack of sleep the last few days!

Woohoo Packers!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Old Man Winter is Roaring!

It appears that half of the country is either in the middle of or just through a major weather event. We are midway through, but the worst is just arriving according to our weather predictors here in Wisconsin. I believe they are forecasting somewhere between 14-18" of snow by noon fun.

The kiddos have been fighting pretty bad colds for a while now. And today I can feel it marching up my throat and across my body. And Daddy leaves very early on Thursday morning for 3 days. Wonder why I ran to the library today during nap time and picked up a slew of new books and a few Thomas videos? I have a feeling we'll be laying very, very low until the weather is past and we are all finally past this cold nonsense. We've been so blessed with healthy kids that it really makes it hard to watch them cough and sneeze and not sleep and just not feel good. Here's hoping we all get through this soon!

Stay Warm!