Friday, March 6, 2015

Benefits of Buying A Whole Side of Beef

Adam Frick - West Ridge Farms - Premium Beef

So you're thinking about buying a side of beef, but is there really a benefit? Is it a cost savings? Will you be able to use it all?

I know there are a lot of questions when making this type of decision, but I can tell you from my personal experience, buying a side of beef, and splitting it with another couple, was the best decision we ever made.

But first you need to do your homework. Find out what farms in your area sell directly to consumers. Make an appointment and physically visit the farm, get to know the farmer, learn about their husbandry practices, and see it first-hand for yourself.

Cathy Taylor - Seldom Rest Farm

Ask questions! Is it grass-fed and grain finished? Or is it all grass-fed? If grain finished, what type of grain is used? If organic is important to you, ask if it's organic! Most farmers are more than happy to have you visit and talk to you about their farm, and I would stay away from any who are not.

See my trips here to West Ridge Farms - Premium Beef  Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville and Seldom Rest Farm

To find local farms near you check out Local Harvest, Farmer's Pal, or Eat Wild.

John Rogers - Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville

Here are a few reasons why buying meat in bulk makes sense:
  • More economical! A side of Grass-Fed Angus Beef from a local farm runs around *$6.59 lb. which includes all cuts of beef from roasts and tenderloins, to stew beef and ground beef, plus lessor known cuts such as Hanger Steak or Skirt Steak (the cost per pound varies depending on your location)
  • You know what you're eating! When you buy your beef from a local farm, you know how their livestock is raised:  
    • humanely on pasture
    • grass-fed
    • no antibiotics or added growth hormones
  • It's a lot of beef! A side of beef yields around 230 lbs. of meat 
  • It is freezer ready! It is already vacuumed sealed by the processor and ready for your freezer 
  • It lasts a long time! Depending on family size, a side of beef lasts up to a year or more
  • You make the "cut choices!" When you order a side of beef from a local farm, you can chose the cuts you want from a "cut sheet" typically provided by the farmer. This is also based on the processor used. So many choices, and they're yours to make! 

  • It's all "prime" beef! If you have ever savored a USDA Prime Graded Steak you know it is delightfully tender and juicy with a buttery flavor which makes it distinctively superior to any other steak. Of all the beef produced in the US, less than 2% is certified as USDA Prime. Typically you will not find USDA Prime in the supermarkets since its limited supply is gobbled up by fine meat purveyors that retail it to upscale restaurants and affluent consumers.
    • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meticulously grades beef at the request of a meat packer. Only beef that is USDA inspected may carry the USDA shield of authenticity. The grading system determines the quality rating of beef based upon a very complicated inspection system which measures the amount of marbling (fat specs) in the rib-eye muscle (lean) portion and combines the maturity (age) of the beef carcass to determine the inspected grade.
    • The higher the ratio of marbling and the younger the beef, the higher the grade. It is the fat marbling which determines tenderness, juiciness and flavor. The age of the beef determines beef texture and also effects flavor. Younger beef produces a finer texture and a lighter red color.
    • Therefore USDA Prime Grade has the highest rating of a combined high ratio of marbling with the youngest maturity of beef. That's why prime is the most flavorful and most tender with the finest of texture. (Source: USDA)
  • It's better for you! Grass-fed beef generally comes from cattle that eat only grass and other foraged foods throughout their lives. Often, conventional beef cattle eat a diet that includes grains, such as corn, at some point. The difference in the diets of the cattle changes the nutrients and fats you get from eating the different types of beef. 
  • Grass-fed beef may have some heart-health benefits that other types of beef don't have. When compared with other types of beef, grass-fed beef may have:
    • Less total fat
    • More heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
    • More conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that's thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks
    • More antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E
    • Lean beef that's 10 percent fat or less (Source:  Mayo Clinic) 
    • See more here why grass-fed beef trumps grain-fed
  • Do the Math! When we purchased a side of beef, the price was $5.89 lb.* (in 2014). We split the side of beef with another couple, each of us receiving equal amounts of ground beef, steaks, ribs, and roasts. Our total cost was $1,300 so each couple paid $650, making our monthly cost $54.16, and our weekly cost $13.54. While the cost per pound for the ground beef might be higher, the costs of the prime cuts of steaks and roasts are many dollars per pound cheaper which equals a win to me.
  • Use it all! You may receive some beef bones with your side of beef. If you do, use them to make nourishing Beef Bone Broth and anytime a recipe calls for beef stock, use the bone broth. Use it as a beef base in soups, braising meat, gravies, stews, sauces, and reductions. It can also be used to saute' or roast vegetables. 
Grass-Fed Angus Beef  - Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville
I am thankful we have an abundance of local farms doing it "right" for you and me right here in South Carolina. It's tireless hard work, but without our support, they wouldn't be able to continue to do what is their passion, producing a great product for you and me. Does it cost more? Maybe. Is it worth it. Yes!  

Don't have the freezer space yourself for that much beef? Consider what we did and going in on it with other friends or family members, dividing it up between all participants. 

The BEST thing you can do for yourself and your family is just EAT REAL FOOD! Buy it from your local farm, get to know your farmer, and support your local Farmer's market.  I think you'll be happy you did!

* Note - The price per pound quoted here is based on the 2015 price list received from Hill Creek Farms - Hartsville. Your price may vary.