Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where's the beef?

Earlier this week we got a phone call from Potlatch Pack saying our meat was ready to pick up.

This is the meat from butchering our steer Nebuchadnezzar a couple weeks ago. Once the butchers take the carcass away, they hang it in a cool room for at least a week before cutting and wrapping the meat. Hanging makes the meat more tender.

I always enjoy the drive down to Potlatch. It's early spring on the Palouse and the winter wheat is not even a green haze yet. Everything's still brown, but the snow is mostly gone.

(These photos were taken by holding up the camera randomly and snapping a shot through the car window while going 60 mph.)

Chance (left) and his uncle Mel (right) keep the facility squeaky-clean. Here they were just hosing down and tidying up at the end of the day.

The bill for the butchering, cutting, and wrapping came to $269.06 for a hanging weight of 374 lbs. "Hanging weight" means the carcass halves, minus the hide, innards, head, hooves, etc. Subtract about 20% of that for the final weight (the discarded bone, fat, etc) which means I came home with about 300 lbs of meat. This comes to a bit under $0.90/lb. for homegrown grass-fed organic beef.

The men salvage boxes from the local grocery store to pack meat in, but they ran out just before I got there. I offered to dash over to the grocery store and get some empty boxes, but then we decided just to pile the meat into the back of the car. Keep in mind this meat is frozen rock-hard solid.

We get a combination of steaks, roasts, and ground beef, with a few bits of things like stew meat and cube steak thrown in for good measure. The nice part about butchering a steer is you get the super-dooper expensive cuts like filet mignon and rib eye along with the common cuts, all for the same price.

At home, we shuffled things around in our chest freezer the best we could and packed it absolutely to the brim with meat.

As it was, we simply couldn't fit it all in, so we called a neighbor and asked if we could "rent" some of her freezer space in exchange for some roasts or steaks. She was already getting the heart and liver, the three packages you see on the lower right-hand side.

Needless to say, this is enough meat to last us a long, long, long time! Thanks Nebuchadnezzar.


  1. Thats a nice load of beef!! We should get ours in another week or so from a local farmer. I am trying to make room in the freezer beforehand but I too may have to rent some space for a meat trade

  2. Patrice - I noticed, when you did your math, that you didn't include feed and vet costs. I'm wondering what the total cost per pound for your beef is, when all of that is factored in. Have you done that math?

    We're raising a few cows right now (here's a picture of my little herd: ), and while we don't have winter here, we do have a dry season, so we do have to purchase feed for them during part of the year. We haven't butchered any of them yet, and I'm kind of curious to find out how much this meat is actually going to cost us.

    Thanks! I enjoy your blog very much!

    1. You're right, Trish. We had no vet fees with Nebuchadnezzar, but we did have hay costs, probably $3000 over two years (two winters). Here are two blog posts on hay:

      Amortized over our 13 animals, that comes to about $231 for Neb's share of costs, which amounts to an additional $0.77/lb, raising the cost of the meat to $1.67/lb. Still a bargain, IMHO. Plus, as I said, it has the added advantage of being organic and grass-fed, and we know what kind of life he lived before he filled our freezer. Definitely the way to go!

      - Patrice

    2. Thanks so much for your reply, Patrice!

  3. This is the way my parents bought beef when I was growing up--in San Diego. During my teen years we had steak so often we would get tired of it. At school I heard the other students complaining because beef was expensive (early seventies) and all they got was a little bit of hamburger. My parents knew how to provide for all of us and still stay within budget. Good job!

  4. Patrice,
    Wow, what a deal and you know exactly where your meat came from. There's no fillers and crap inside these packages. That is the best part of the entire deal, your steer, the real stuff!!! Sounds like you have some great and hightly recommended butchers.


  5. And NO "pink slime" included! AMEN

  6. Save the Canning JarsMarch 11, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    Have you thought about asking the butcher for some bones suitable for making your own beef broth? (I know it is too late for Neb's bones but since you're a great customer they might cut and wrap you some other cow's bones?) After using A. McSp's recipe for chicken broth using chicken bones, I'm contemplating doing the same with beef bones. Beef stock is rather expensive in the grocery store. I'm just thinking...and wondered if you had given any thought to this too?