Category Archives: Grass Fed Beef

Buying Bulk Meat – What you Need to Know

I’m so excited to bring you this first guest post by reader Auburn in southern New Hampshire.

Buying Bulk Meat – What you Need to Know

There’s a lot of info online about “freezer meat” or “bulk meat” and many people blog about their experiences buying 1/4 or 1/2 cow, though most focus on the meat itself (quantity and quality), having to buy a second freezer and the many “new” cuts they get to try by purchasing meat this way.

So I thought it would be useful to write about the buying process, from my own experience.

I started reading FAQs on freezer beef, pork, lamb and goat and, while some of the information was very useful, some of it was also inconsistent and, at times, downright misleading.

So I decided to contact the beef and pork farmers in my area (Southern New Hampshire), asked a lot of questions and, surprisingly, most of them took the time to reply with the answers and an invitation to visit their farm. Nice. :)

Then, when I was sure I knew everything I needed to know about buying bulk meat, and was about to place an order with the “farmer” who offered the cheapest deal for pastured beef ($3.25/lb hanging weight) and pork ($2.40/lb hanging weight), by chance, I happened to find out that she was a middle person. Aha! And this lady is not the only one who does this in my area – a greedier middleman wanted $4/lb for the beef and $3.50 for the pork!

Guess what? The farmer these middlemen buy from also has an internet presence but he doesn’t list the prices. You have to call, which I did. He charges $2.50/lb for beef and $1.80/lb pork, hanging weight, butcher fees included. See?

Also, the hanging weight the middlemen “estimated” was 50 pounds higher than what the farmer quoted me – they both claimed that a side of beef would be about 350 pounds. This is very important for you to know because when you deal with a middleman, you may not get the invoice from the original farmer stating the actual hanging weight of the animal.

So be sure to do your homework and ask the right questions because that can save you a lot of money and headaches.

Buying from the cheapest middlemen, a side of beef would have cost me $1,137 ($3.25/lb) with an “estimated” hanging weight of 350 pounds and about 210 pounds dressed weight (what you take home).

Buying directly from the farmer I paid $750 ($2.50/lb) for 300 pounds of beef which yielded 240 pounds of dressed weight.

The middlemen “cut” would have been almost $400 plus 30 pounds of dressed weight. Yep. :(

And how do you know when you are dealing with middlemen? When you land on a website and read something like “I purchase steers from another local farmer who also raises his animals humanely and naturally” or “I raise my own lamb and chicken here but I do not have the facilities or hay fields to raise beef and pork. I buy from a friend who raises them the way I would if I could.”

Buyer beware.

Other things I’ve learned:

You will get a lot more for your money if you tell the farmer that you want:

- All cuts “bone-in.” This will get you plenty of roasts and steaks with bones that you’ll then use to make wonderfully nutritious stock.

- A thick “fat cap” on all cuts. You want them to trim as little fat as possible. You can use that fat to cook with or you can feed it to your birds, chickens and other animals.

- No ground meat. Instead, you’ll want all scrap meat packaged in 1 lb or 2 lb packages. This way you don’t end up with 80 pounds of hamburger but with scrap meat that you can grind yourself as needed or shave/cube it for use in dishes like quesadillas, stir-fry, etc.

- Flank and skirt cuts whole. You can make delicious recipes with them.

- All bones: dog bones, lower leg bone/heels and tail which you will use for stock (braised beef tail is exquisite, by the way).

- All organ meats. If you don’t cook these, you can feed them to pets or give them to people who appreciate them.

If you decide to buy half a side (1/4 of the animal) ask if they’ll include cuts from the front and also the back of the animal, otherwise you’ll end up with all roasts or all steaks.

The standard thickness, at least in this area, for steaks is one inch. If you happen to like thinner steaks (say, 3/4″) you can ask for this at no extra cost.

This is very important: Be sure to ask if the meat will be vacuum packed and if it will be fresh or frozen. This you really need to know because 200+ pounds of fresh meat is a lot more than what you can safely freeze at once in a regular freezer. Non commercial freezers can only adequately freeze no more than 3 pounds of fresh meat per cubic foot of freezer space within 24 hours.

Here’s a nice beef cuts chart, very helpful to have at hand when you are going over the cut sheet with the farmer over the phone.

Thanks Auburn for the great meat buying tips!  We saved a lot of money by buying a local 1/4 cow and 1/2 pig this year as well.  And now I don’t have to frantically check the freezer for bar codes every time there is a meat recall.

This also popped up in my google reader today about buying in bulk.

Beef Tacos

beef-tacos1

We eat these quite a bit – in tortillas or on nachos. If you had the forethought to thaw your hamburger this recipe is done in less than twenty minutes, making it a great choice for a busy weeknight dinner. You could also use leftover roast chicken and have it on the table even sooner. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
3 medium cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 pound organic, grass fed ground beef
1 8 ounce can of organic tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Rockridge Orchards apple cider vinegar

Technique:
In a skillet, brown onion in oil about 4 minutes until just beginning to soften. Add garlic, spices, salt and ground beef. Cook, breaking up meat until just beginning to brown. Add tomato sauce, sugar and vinegar. Simmer five to ten minutes until meat is done and flavors are melded.

Beef Bone Broth

One of the things you can never have enough of in the long winter months is bone broth of any kind because you simply can’t buy it. It comes from hours of slow simmering bones and extracting all the minerals and gelatin that are essential building blocks for the human body.

There is a reason you heal faster when consuming clear bone broth. Your body needed it. It happens to be one of the most frugal things you can make and helps ensure that no part of the animal goes to waste as well. Broths you buy at the store have additives, even the organic brands. They don’t have the stuff that comes from simmering bones. They may add flavor but they are certainly not feeding you and won’t nurse you back to health from illness.

The world of bone broth is new to me this year. In the past I have made stock from turkey carcasses but that was the extent of it. I didn’t do it correctly and the broths were never full flavored. I usually ended up throwing it out or adding bouillon to it which defeats the purpose.

This year I’m obsessed with bone broth in any way, shape or form. It can turn the simplest of soups into a grand affair and it’s also an elixir tasty enough to sip plain from an old coffee mug.

Beef Bone Broth

4 pounds organic beef soup bones
1/4 – 1/2 cup Rockridge apple cider vinegar
3 medium onions, in 1/8ths
3 carrots, chopped in 1″ pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped in 1″ pieces
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons of dried nettles

Roast the soup bones in a 350 degree oven until browned.

beef-soup-bones

Place the bones in a stock pot and cover them with the vinegar and enough enough filtered water to cover for about an hour to aid in the removal of minerals from the bones.

After an hour add the vegetables, peppercorns and nettles and bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer the stock for 24 – 72 hours, being sure to add more filtered water as needed. I leave mine simmering overnight, being sure it won’t run out of water. If you need to leave you can choose to leave it on simmer or turn it off while you are gone then turn it back on again when you return. As long as you bring it back to a boil again before consuming it should be fine. This is the old fashioned method for meat stock – the USDA will tell you if it’s been out for two hours to throw it away but if you ask your grandmother she will probably back me up here.

simmering-beef-bone-broth

When the stock is cooked as long as you want to let it cool, then strain the broth. Cool it in the refrigerator overnight and in the morning remove the beef fat that has hardened and separated. Reserve the beef fat (tallow) and freeze for frying potato chips and other things.

At this point you can choose to freeze your broth or can it.

canned-fish-stock

To can, bring the broth back up to a boil for 10 minutes and can it following the directions for beef broth in the pressure canner booklet.

What do you do with beef broth?

Beef Pho

My friend Charlotte suggested using this for Pho which was a huge hit in my household. To make it I simply cooked some Rose brand egg noodles made in Seattle or Udon noodles would do nicely as well. I put those at the bottom of soup bowls. I heated a quart of beef broth and added some ginger, a pinch of allspice to mimic star anise, a large splash of fish sauce and soy sauce then added hot broth to the bowls of noodles. I quickly topped that with thinly sliced flank steak but any super thin cut of beef would do – the fattier the more flavorful generally. To that we added some grated lime zest that I had frozen from our winter key limes, some fresh sliced jalapeno and some cilantro. Ground peanuts would be great on this as well.

Beef Vegetable Soup – yet another simple and quick soup

To a quart of beef broth add sauteed chopped onion, carrot, celery, frozen beans, home canned tomatoes, nettles or chiffonade hearty winter greens, chopped potatoes, home canned corn, a hearty splash of Rockridge apple cider, pilsner or red wine, thinly sliced cabbage, turnip, parsnips or other root veggies. Really anything you might have overwintering in your garden or stored in your root cellar or pantry would do. If you have frozen cooked barley or other grain some of that would be great as well. I love to serve this with quick barley biscuits instead though.

French Onion Soup (or Freedom onion soup?)

Carmelize 1 pound of onion crescents slowly in butter by first putting them in a covered pan for about 10 minutes with a pinch of salt and thyme, then removing the lid and continuing to carmelize for about 25 minutes until they are dark and caremlized.  Stir in a quart of beef bone broth, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add pepper and adjust the salt and thyme.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.  To serve this in the French manner ladle the soup into oven safe ramekins or bowls.  Top with a slice of crusty baguette and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of local Gruyere style cheese.  I love the Mutschli from Pleasant Valley Dairy in Ferndale and they have a wholesale buying club program to keep your costs on local cheese down.  They also make a farmstead cheddar and lovely gouda.

Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned and bubbly.

Also think mushroom risotto made with Lentz emmer grains and lovely fall mushrooms from Foraged and Found.

Meatloaf that Makes the World Seem Better

Meatloaf has always been a comfort food for me. Even when it was my stepmom making it from some grocery store kit and fatty corn fed hamburger it was still one of the few things I looked forward to eating.

Then when I discovered Market Street Meatloaf in a Silver Palate Cookbook as a young adult I was hooked. I’ve been tweaking this recipe for twenty some years now and it never fails to please. I like it better than any meatloaf I’ve eaten in a restaurant and even better than the Cook’s Illustrated meatloaf – where they try a recipe every which way, vote on it and make the ultimate of any given thing.

Tonight’s meatloaf meal was even more satisfying when I realized that most the entire meal came from my hands. I grew the carrots, onions, garlic, celery, red pepper, baked the bread from local grains for the breadcrumbs, made the ketsup and bought local grass fed beef, eggs and apple cider vinegar. The only thing not local was the brown sugar that went into the glaze and the spices. Even the mashed garlic potatoes and creamed kale were mine. The cream was from Everett. The blackberries for the cobbler were picked at Magnussen Park and the ice cream once again made from local eggs and cream from Everett.

You know when you can make a meal of that scale and have 95% or more of all the ingredients from local sources, let alone be able to trace most every ingredient in the meal, that you have reached a certain level of sustainability.

I celebrated by washing it down with a bottle of Columbia Valley Sinner’s Punch from the Giant Wine Company in Woodinville. Sweet victory.

As I settle into fall and see the end to my canning days, my pantry full of staples, bins full of local grains and the freezer filling with local pastured meat and poultry, I have a serene sense of food security. And it’s nice to know that most of the year’s groceries are paid for and ready to eat from the pantry or harvest from the garden.

My Market Street Meatloaf

Sautee in 2 tablespoons butter:
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup diced celery
1 large onion
1/4 cup red or green pepper (or roasted pepper out of season)

While sauteeing mix together:
1/2 cup ketsup
1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or cream from the top of your raw milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (or kryddpepper if you have it)
2-3 chopped cloves of roasted garlic from your freezer (if you only have raw then sautee with the veggies)

Place in large mixing bowl:
2 pounds grassfed hamburger
1 pound pork or chicken sausage (Italian sausage is ok but will change the flavor)

Combine sauteed veggies, liquids and spices with 3/4 – 1 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs and meat.

Form a free standing loaf in a small lasagna pan. Place that into a larger lasagna pan and fill the outer pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the smaller, inner pan.

Mix 1/2 cup ketsup with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of Rockridge Orchard apple cider vinegar. Spread over the meatloaf and bake at 375 until it reaches an internal temperature of 175 farenheit. Immediately drain any fat from the pan.

Like most meatloaves, this tastes even better the second day and makes stellar meatloaf sandwiches. This does make quite a bit of meatloaf but it freezes beautifully. You could even form two smaller loaves and freeze one but I just freeze any extra slices. They don’t last long in my household!