Last week I mentioned I'm helping out our family grocery budget by investing in a 'side of beef'. This is something we've always talked about doing but hadn't had a chance to due to not knowing where to start, not knowing anyone with the beef to sell, living in parts of the country where this isn't regularly done and of course... not having the money.
It's a big chunk of change to put out at once - hundreds of dollars. But my brother moved to an acreage a few years ago and my nephews have started to raise cattle and pigs (among other things) to show at the fair. At the end of the season the animals go to butcher and he asked me if we wanted to buy half a cow this year.
At about $.85 per pound verses the $3 - $15 per pound the same cuts of meat were costing me at the grocery? YES. And it just so happened I had been paid the day he called me so I could ear-mark that money for the meat.
Not knowing what I was doing I asked him what I had to do to get it. He gave me the number of the meat locker he was using to do the processing and I was to call them and 'tell them what I wanted'. Which is fine, except as a beef-buying-virgin, I had no idea what I wanted!
I found a chart online from Iowa State University that helped me with the cuts, how much to expect from a side of a beef and right terminology to order. I called and a grandmotherly woman quickly went through the list asking: "Do you want any short ribs in the order?" Umm, yes? "What size do you want your hamburger packaged in?" Two pound packages please. And the real stumper; "How many steaks to a package?" She laughed when I said five so I told her three. This way I only had to pull 2 packages of meat out when I wanted to make a family dinner of steaks on the grill. I get the feeling she thought three was too much as well - so I'm thinking 'Why don't you just package them two to a pack and not ask me?'.
She told me they would call when it was ready and hung up.
Hmph. That was easy I guess. I didn't get to make any real decisions except whether or not I wanted them to make some of the steaks into beef jerky and if I wanted to spend $.35 extra for the ground beef to be made into hamburger patties already.
Yesterday a woman called to say our order was ready.
She told me the hanging weight was 337 lbs. and that the processing fee would be $178. Since I was paying my brother for the meat there is no extra cost to the locker.
The problem is that she seemed in a hurry and I was taking too much time with my questions so I opted NOT to make her tell me how many of each cut I got. I'll have to wait until I make the 3 hour drive this weekend to go pick up the meat.
I'll let you know what I got.
Edited to add: The update and cost total post can be found here.