Buying the Whole Cow

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Only crazy people buy a whole cow at one time. The people who raise a pig and then slaughter it, resulting in 231 pounds of pork (18 pounds of pork belly included for bacon) are a little touched in the head. That’s something they used to do in the “good ole days” when people kept stuff in the cellar and meat in the smokehouse. Those might have been the “good ole days,” but those same people used the outhouse and used the Sears and Roebuck catalog for its utility, as well as shopping. Sorry, but this is America. This is 2013. I can get my meat weekly at the store, so why in the world would I want 231 pounds of it all at one time? Lame-o, right?

Cows on Meadow

Hello – my name is Stacy…I’m old fashioned. I buy whole pigs and 50 pounds of sucanat at one time. There are two main reasons for this:

1. I like being prepared and hate shopping for meat.

2. I save a whole bunch of money. 

But really, shopping for meat makes me want to get a lobotomy. Have you seen organic meat prices? Or even REGULAR meat prices? It’s like it’s a brick of gold wrapped in shrink wrap. I stand at the counter and breathe deeply to avoid having a panic attack. There is a reason most people just settle for the hot dogs. It feels nicer on the pocketbook. 

Here is an example – I live near my parents farm. My Uncle Bob (bless him) raised a pig for us this year. We paid $100 for the pig and around $180 for all the feed. Then we paid $157 for a friend to do all the processing and cutting for us, including making sausage (I made the bacon myself). Total pig cost = $437. That comes out to about $1.89/lb. That’s for sausage, ribs, chops, etc. Can you really beat that?

pork

But even if you don’t have an Uncle Bob or family farm, you can score a whole pig or cow from a local farmer. Most farmers offer a discount of sorts by purchasing a whole animal at once. One local farmer I talked to charges $1.25/lb. (plus processing) for pork if you purchase the whole pig…but if you buy their cheapest cut, it’s $3/lb. From looking around online, it seems that you will pay around $4/lb. for beef cuts…which is way cheaper than what I see at the Farmer’s Market (most ground beef is $5/lb.). 

Get to know your local farmers at the Market or use localharvest.org to find one. Talk to them and see how you can get the best price. Ask around – get advice – see what other people are doing.

DSC_5225

Now, let’s get real for a minute. Can you get cheaper meat at the grocery store? Yes – you can, sometimes. You can find discounted meat and bring it home to freeze. However, for the most part, the quality of meat from a local farmer is going to be better. You’re also supporting the local economy – which is a huge deal to me. 

Hold the train – I realize that a good deal of people cannot afford to buy a whole cow at once…or organic meat from the grocery store. They’re living paycheck to paycheck and are barely making it. As always, I’m going to tell you to buy what your budget affords. Organic meat isn’t worth going in to debt. After being married over 10 years, Barry and I are JUST NOW starting to think about organic meats and vegetables…and not affording very many of them. If the discounted regular meat is what you can buy now, great. Buy it. But, you should also be learning and gaining knowledge so one day you CAN afford to buy a whole pig/cow at one time. 

Coming up next month: HOW to afford that whole pig/cow. It can be done and I’ll tell you how.

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19 Responses to Buying the Whole Cow

  1. I would love to know how you made bacon! We’ve raised a pig and aim to raise our own cow. We have done our own sausage. But I never dreamed I could make my own bacon without major equipment? Maybe I just don’t spend enough time on pinterest. :-)

  2. Hahaha! Ground beef for only $5 a pound at the market? We pay almost $7. Needless to say, this doesn’t come home very often.

  3. We did the same once we moved from Southern California three years ago. We live in a wonderful county in north Colorado now and have farmers and ranchers for neighbors. For the past 2 years we’ve purchased a quarter of a cow an just recently we bought a half a hog. Both are organic (not necessarily certified) and we actually visit the farms to see how they do what they do. Like Stacy, we are helping keep our purchasing dollars local. We also bought a used vintage chest freezer from the 1960′s that not only works very well, but is in keeping with our mid century sensibilities. :)

  4. Stacy,

    My husband and I raise a heritage breed of cattle on our small, second-generation farm. We’re not certified organic but use sustainable and organic practices. Our cows are on pasture all year around and aren’t fed grain unless it’s a particularly hard winter (like this winter!) because we believe in these principles. We use tools like LocalHarvest and DirectLocalFood to connect with potential consumers.

    I wanted to comment to thank you so much for your encouraging article! It is SO easy to buy direct–even if you live in a large metropolitan area, you can connect with farmers on the web. Other resources are your local Farm Bureau office, Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs in nearby rural high schools, and rural meat processors or butchers. Many states have launched programs and websites to connect farmers to consumers–check with your state’s Department of Agriculture. If you’re looking for a farmer from which to buy directly, don’t give up!! He’s/She’s out here and would love to connect with you!

    Again, thank you for your informative post.

    Signed,
    An appreciative small farmer

    • I second that, as a small family farmer in Minnesota, with added encouragement to research for yourself what goes into your meat, the health benefits of grass fed or pastured animals, and the social issues behind cheap meat (think food documentaries like Fresh or Food, Inc. from your library).
      Thanks a bunch for the post!

  5. For the past two years I’ve bought 1/2 hog and 1/2 beef. It is a big nut to crack but I try to save as I go or even pay the farmer a little as I save. I’m enjoying developing a nice relationship to my farmer AND the meat is so good.

  6. I grew up on a farm and we raised a pig and a steer every year. My mom also raised chickens so we always had chicken along with the beef and pork in the freezer. We even had rabbits so once in a while that was on the menu as well. We also raised potatoes which was a good thing because we were a meat and potatoes kind of family. It would be nice to be able to do that now with my family. What you are describing sounds like a nice compromise.

    • I was raised the same way. :-) Minus the chickens – my mom HATES plucking chickens. I think it was because she had to do it when she was little. Ha, ha! :-)

  7. Greetings from the UK. Over here I don’t know why more of us Brits aren’t doing this. As a leading UK hog roaster I find that the organic Essex Saddleback is great value and good quality meat full of flavour. I have never thought of getting them processed myself. Chest freezer is needed.

  8. LOVE IT!!!! I HUNT AND PROCESS MY OWN HARVESTED ANIMAL. WILD BOAR BACON IS THE BEST, AND I MAKE IT. DER JERKY IS AWESOME. ROASTS AND STEAK AND GROUND AND I KNOW WHAT IS IN THE SAUSAGES BECAUSE I MAKE THEM.

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