Country Living Series

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

500 pounds of meat

We got the call from the mobile butchers that our meat was ready. This is the combined beef from butchering Ruby and Chester a couple weeks ago, cut and wrapped and ready to pick up.

This is the best time of year to drive to the town of Potlatch because the scenery is so beautiful with all the winter wheat beginning to green up. It's like driving through Ireland.



Here's the inside of the butchers' walk-in freezer, with trays of meat neatly wrapped and labeled.


These folks keep their facility squeaky-clean. We like doing business with such an ethical family-owned company.


Here's the meat, loaded in the car.


On the road again...





I zoomed in on this kestrel from quite a distance so it's a little blurry, but they're such handsome birds.


While I was gone, Don had the unenviable task of cleaning out the chest freezer in an effort to fit all the meat in. He did an impressive job.


We ended up with one section completely full, and one section three-quarters full. We also put 70 lbs. of ground beef in a neighbor's freezer.


The exact total came to 510 lbs. Figuring in feed costs and other expenses, we estimate it costs us about $1.40/lb for our beef... and that's for ALL cuts, from ground beef and cube steak up to T-bones and tenderloin.

This much meat is quite timely, because lately I've been collecting a few depressing headlines, to wit:

Fruit and Vegetable Prices Are Rising
- The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday.

Soaring Food Inflation Full Frontal: Beef, Pork And Shrimp Prices Soar To Record Highs, which included a charming graph:


Why Meat Prices Will Continue to Soar
- The average price of USDAchoice-grade beef has soared to $5.28 a pound, and the average price of a pound of bacon has skyrocketed to $5.46. Unfortunately for those that like to eat meat, this is just the beginning of the price increases. Due to an absolutely crippling drought that won’t let go of the western half of the country, the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has shrunk for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951. But back in 1951, we had less than half the number of mouths to feed.

Beef prices hit all-time high in U.S.
- Come grilling season, expect your sirloin steak to come with a hearty side of sticker shock. Beef prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. and aren't expected to come down any time soon. Extreme weather has thinned the nation's beef cattle herds to levels last seen in 1951, when there were about half as many mouths to feed in America. "We've seen strong prices before but nothing this extreme," said Dennis Smith, a commodities broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago. "This is really new territory."

Why Meat Prices Are Going To Continue Soaring For The Foreseeable Future
- [T]he supply of meat is going to be tight for the foreseeable future even as demand for meat continues to go up. This is going to result in much higher prices, and so food is going to put a much larger dent in American family budgets in the months and years to come.

A Perfect Storm for Higher Beef Prices
- The price of beef has been rising ever since the Great Plains drought forced ranchers to reduce their herds. The price went up even more this winter because cattlemen did not want to transport livestock to market during the coldest part of the winter.

For the last few years, we've been striving with greater effort towards food self-sufficiency on our farm, and these headlines illustrate why. I don't know if anyone can ever be truly self-sufficient (our "circle" of self-sufficiency isn't closed by any means), but at least we can work toward that goal. And meanwhile, I urge everyone to try their hand at food production of some type. Any type. Prices aren't coming down any time soon.

These prices increases are going to hit a lot of people hard. As it is, I know a lot of people who are simply unable to afford beef. At least now we have lots of ground beef we can donate to our church's food bank.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Patrice, I think I read where you don't use the heart, tongue or liver. We always boiled the heart and tongue and sliced them for sandwiches(skinned the tongue). Or ground them into the burger. As for the liver, if you don't like liver and onions, it's always good fish bait. Several pounds per animal of good food. Jeff

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    1. Our neighbor takes the liver and tongue. She's crazy over liver in particular.

      - Patrice

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    2. Tongue goes great in a soup too. I have never had the heart before. I think I would use it for feeding our dogs.

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    3. Oh Patrice! You are missing the most prime part. The tongue when cooked and skinned, is the most delicious tender beef you will ever put in you mouth! I promise!

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    4. When I was a child - (long before I became a semi-veggie) - my mother served us tongue. I was never so grossed out in my whole life. I wasn't allowed to leave the table until I ate.

      I sat at that table for 5 hours - never ate a bite. I was ready to sleep in my chair if I had to. I was finally sent to bed with my empty stomach. It 's the only food fight I ever won with my parents. LOL!

      Just Me

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  2. this may be a silly question, But I notice you have wafer board dividers in the freezer. are you concerned at all about the fumes it releases?

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    1. It's actually OSB (oriented strand board) and no, we have no concerns about fumes, especially in freezing conditions.

      - Patrice

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  3. Yes, Patrice, I think this pain party is just getting started.

    Grow some food, Americans.

    A. McSp

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  4. Did you have to make special arrangements with your food pantry to donate meat? Everything I have seen from food pantries asks for non-perishable items only.

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    1. No special arrangements. The first time we donated, we talked to the person in charge and asked if frozen meat was an acceptable donation, and she nearly fell over in excitement. No one donates meat because of the cost. Our beef is hard-frozen and the church made sure they had sufficient freezer space, but that was all the special arrangements needed. Presumably the people seeking food donations have the ability to store the meat until needed.

      - Patrice

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  5. Due to drought conditions here in Texas (almost the whole very large state) cattlemen have reduced their herds by anywhere from 20 to 60%. Don't expect prices to get lower for a long time as they will rebuild their breeding stock before they start selling the normal number of head.

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  6. Pardon the pun, but, Holy Cow! That's impressive!

    I know there was some heartache that preceded this, so there was some cost there, too, but wowwie, that's a lotta food for $1.40 a pound!

    Bless you for the food contribution to the food bank. Your recipients will be so very grateful, I'm sure!

    Good work.

    Just Me

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  7. The only meat I'm still buying in the store is salmon and bacon. We've raised our own meat chickens and ducks the last couple years, and will add rabbits this summer. Next year, we'll add a couple pigs. We hunt deer and turkey on our own land, and feral hog on other folk's property. The price of groceries keeps going up and my bill is not shrinking as much as I want (need) it to, so there's a bunch of berry bushes and fruit trees being added to our expanding garden. It would be nice if my bees survive. We cannot be completely self-sufficient here, but we're working to get as close to it as possible, because this mess is going to get worse before it gets better (if it ever gets better).
    XaLynn

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  8. Patrice, do you grain feed any cattle intended for the freezer or are they purely grass fed? If you do not mind me asking, how did you figure your cost per pound? Do you take into consideration the replacement value of the livestock? Or is that just how much it costs to process? Thanks and enjoy your yummy food!

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    1. They're purely grass-fed. We figured in the cost of winter hay, the age of the animal, any vet bills, and the processing costs. We did NOT figure in any infrastructure improvements, i.e. the cost of the barn, awning, squeeze chute, etc., since those items will be with us (hopefully) forever.

      - Patrice

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  9. What a beautiful sight! I can't wait till we have the space for our chest freezer.
    I don't worry too much about total self-sufficiency, because humans have always lived and relied on each other in communities. I do think every step we can make toward making our local community supportive and resilient is a step forward. By patronizing a local, family owned business you are making your community self-sustaining and stronger. We need more diversified small businesses, rather than large industrial conglomerates! Look at the car-towns in the midwest that are now ghost towns because the one employer everyone depended on went bust.

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  10. from what i've been reading there has been an overall reduction in beef supplies before the droughts because the bureau of land management has been denying ranchers their traditional grazing rights for some years. it seems the blm has destroyed many family rancher businesses.
    they claim states' lands are federal.
    now, at gorge's grouse i read that the epa want to control farm lands that have dry ditches on them, claiming ditches to be navigable waters.
    even if you have land you are not secure from incursions of Constitution-busting federales.
    we are told by the emergency management people to have supplies on hand meanwhile anyone with supplies is now a terrorist.
    go figure.the country is a shell--literally--
    of its former self and an act of God is the only thing to save iti read something written by a man who was a rancher. he had the epa rep and a forest ranger type together on his land demanding that he do diametrically opposing things with the land. damned if you do, damned if you don't.
    caught between scylla and charybdis.
    deb h.

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  11. Do you sell beef shares? Half the cost of the cow and the costs of everything else, plus shipping? My dad had an agreement with a gent like this back in the day, I would love to be able to do that...

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