How to have a cow and eat it too…

In response to my very first (ahem) and only topic request thus far I’m going to ramble a bit about the logistics of purchasing beef in bulk. And bulk means anything from a whole cow down to 1/4 of a cow.  I’ll share what little I’ve picked up from our particular experiences.

First of all verify the quality of the (hopefully) Steer. Breed plays an important part in meat tenderness and flavor. Angus are the long touted golden standard in beefy excellence but there are some really fantastic European/American beef breed crosses now that is the absolute best beef I’ve ever sunk my teeth into. This is something that should be discussed with the source of your cow. If it is a steer from a home farm situation with a sketchy genetic history it might be worth passing over in favor of a more tried and true gene pool.

Here are a list of questions that are personally great things to know. I probably sound like a blithering idiot but I choose to think of myself as an educated consumer thank-you-very-much.

Farmer Questions:

  • How old is the steer?
  • Has this steer ever been on antibiotics?
  • What for? How long ago?
  • What has it’s diet been like?
  • Has it been finished off on grain?
  • How long?

(If it is a home operation without much experience in growing out beef cow’s the following can be important to verify)

  • Will this be a steer or a bull? (Word of friendly caution here: You do NOT want bull meat! Gross gross gross)
  • How old was the calf when he was turned into a steer? (Ok so that one might be just a little bit dumb, however, if he got his full on adult hormones in gear before the snip snip took place it could mess up the flavor of the meat)

Butcher Questions:

  • How long do you let it “hang” for? (I’ve received conflicting reports about hanging time lengths and flavor/tenderness variances. Some say the bones give it a stronger flavor and that hanging it longer is wasteful due to how much meat has to be scraped off. This is something to do some personal research on and decide what you really want.)
  • Is there any extra charge for the bones, cracking the large ones and cutting them down to soup pot sizes?
  • Do you offer sausage or pre flavored blends for your ground beef?
  • Are they MSG Free?
  • Do you have an ingredient listing that can be reviewed?
  • How much extra is the cost for the sausage, or pre seasoned mixes?
  • Can I get the hooves and internal organs?
  • Will there be any extra charge for them?

The most recent 1/2 a cow we got was a new experiment for us. It is a grassfed Jersey steer. Very tiny. Was not not finished off on grain. The taste is different and a bit wilder and well…I guess “grassy” than what we have been used to. The jury is still out. The previous steer’s we have gotten were usually 3/4 misc. American Beef Breeds and 1/4 to 1/2 a really fascinating Italian breed Marchigano. What makes this such a great breed is that it exhibits double muscling occasionally. This supposedly accounts for exceptionally tender, falling apart meat with superb flavor. I cannot speak as an expert only as a consumer of approximately 4 of these cross bred cows and they are without a doubt the best meat we as a family have ever put in our mouths. These cow’s were finished off on a few days of grain at the Butcher’s feed lot before they were processed. Even so the amount of fat was approximately the same as the little Jersey.

Can anybody else add any helpful information to someone new to the concept of “bulk” beef ordering?

Coming soon photo’s, descriptions and reports from my very first venture into the world of uncooked meats. My friend Liz and I began our first attempt at it with the Raw Korean Beef Recipe from Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. We didn’t quite have all the correct ingredients so improvised a bit…Ok, well, a lot more than a bit. 😀 If the modifications are successful we’ll post the details incase anybody else wants a successful variant of that recipe. The thin strips of beef are currently marinating in it’s highly flavored and acidic bath. This little venture has me particularly nervous because I am bringing it to serve to some 50 individuals at our local Weston A Price Chapter Meeting tomorrow night.

This is violating my normal pot luck rules on multiple levels. First of all the inviolable “Never EVER under any circumstance serve a brand new, untested dish to strangers” and the second one that I didn’t even realize I had until tonight as I poked a stray piece of raw meat below the surface of the marinade is “Don’t serve raw meat to strangers.” Maybe it should actually be “Don’t serve raw meat to anybody.” Without testing this on a dog, or a cat or some other living thing it is rather a nerve wracking thing to contemplate. I am hoping and doing more than a tiny bit of praying that nobody get’s food poisoning from this tomorrow! Hmm. Thinking I should perhaps bring my every handy canister of activated charcoal and Peppermint Essential Oil with me. Just.In.Case. One really can’t ever be TOO well prepared!

To anybody attending tomorrow you have my advance apologies for any indigestion suffered. And yeah, I’ll have a glaringly obvious warning, I mean, label for the dish so nobody has to venture into such scary realms unwarned.

Until Next time!

Steph Tallent

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