Money Matters

How to buy 1/2 a cow?

I've read on the Nest that instead of buying meats/milk/cheese, you can actually purchase the cow (or 1/2 a cow).

How does someone do this? How do pick 1/2 a cow?

Is the meat/milk/cheese cheaper? Does it taste better?

I live in Cincinnati, OH- how can I look at farms and determine how to do this??

Re: How to buy 1/2 a cow?

  • I've never done the personally, but my parents did when I was a kid.  (We were lucky, my grandfather was a farmer and we got our beef from him). 

    Check a local food co-op or a local butcher and see if they have any info on farmers that sell beef.  I do have to warn you, you will pay less per lb initally, but you are paying for the pre-butchered weight.  Meaning that you pay for the pounds that are not usable.  You will also need to find a butcher that will process it for you. 

    The upside is that you will still probably end up paying less overall and will have the opportunity to dictate where the beef comes from (organic or not) what cuts, how large of packages, fat content, etc.

  • My parents and DH and I split a cow each year.  We get it from a local farmer in my parents town.  Although I don't think I'll be much help because we butcher it ourselves (my grandfather used to own a butcher shop). 

    But, I would start with trying to find a butcher.  He may be able to make recommendations or have someone else that wants 1/2 a beef.

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  • In our area, there are some small farms where you can purchase a cow. They butcher it for you, though. You don't get any milk or cheese from it, just the beef.
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  • Google worked for us, also many farms sell 'packs' of meats, so you know what you are getting.  If you buy, you will get all the cuts of that 1/2 cow, not just stuff you typically eat.  Also, it's a LOT of red meat - several hundred pounds.  Unless you eat that much in a typical winter, it may not be a good deal for you. 

    Some of my family (not DH and I) went in on 1/4 cow - ended up being about 25 lbs of various cuts per family plus a few extra lbs.  Universally, they all didn't like it.  The taste was different, and not in a good way.  So if you are going to do it, I highly recommend seeking out a farm where you can buy smaller portions to see if you like it.  Don't just go blindly - imagine having to eat 300 lbs of something that wasn't very good. 

    Personally, DH and I have sought out local farms for our milk, cheese, and meat.  My sister just raised 10 chickens for us that were butchered and we'll get them next weekend - and I know they taste fantastic, because I've had her chicken before. 

    Buying in bulk like this can be a good deal if you have your eyes wide open, but be careful.

    Also - grass fed cow milk is way better.  DH and I have converted completely, and recently had regular store milk at his parents - we both thought the processed store stuff tasted AWFUL after months of local farm  milk - it was literally nearly inedible to us. 

  • also, just to clarify, you get 1/2 a butchered cow - no milk, no cheese.  Dairy cows and beef cows are typically not even the same breeds, much less the same cow.
  • I am a beef cattle farmer, from Ohio even, so I'm going to chime in here.

     First off, THANKS Grrly for noting the difference between beef and dairy breeds. HUGE difference -- and chances are if you got yourself a butchered dairy cow, you'd hate it. Just personal experience -- less tender, less marbled, and therefore lots tougher. Think shoe leather.

    As far as finding a farmer near you, that would probably be the best bet. You could check here:

    Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Good Earth Guide:

    http://www.oeffa.org/search-geg.php

    or

     Local Harvest (works nationwide)

    http://www.localharvest.org/

    I'm not sure what county you are in (Hamilton?) but another option is to call your county Farm Bureau office -- it is a farmer-run organization and no doubt they can direct you to someone pretty close to you (and someone who may not be listed at one of the above links). Plus, I always like to talk to a real person anyhow!

     If you build a relationship with this person, you'll have your own personal farmer for life! (Provided he/she can stay in business.)

     How it would work is that you call the farmer, say you're interested in buying 1/4 or 1/2 or a whole beef, and they'll tell you if they have anything ready and/or when they will have one ready. (It's ready when it's fat enough and big enough to give YOU a good product.) They'll deliver it to the slaughterhouse for you, and the butcher there will call you to see how you want the animal processed and cut (Do you want all hamburger? Or do you want steaks and roasts too and how thick do you want them cut? They'll do all the processing and call you when it's ready to pick up. It's usually frozen at this point, so you'll have to be sure to have a pretty big freezer to put it all in when you get home.

     I can guarantee if you buy beef from a local farmer, you'll *never* want to eat store-bought ever.again!!!

    Let me know if you have other questions -- as you can tell, I"m long winded and very willing to help! Us farmers need all the support we can get, especially from local customers who can  actually draw that line between farm preservation support and good, local food.

     

     

     

  • We bought 1/4 of a cow this year. We'll be getting it in November. I found the farm that we are getting ours from on www.eatwild.com

    The farm will have the meat cut up and frozen for us, we just have to pick it up. Price wise its not reall ymuch cheaper to do this, its better though because we know where the meat is coming from and the cows are grass fed. Also its local so its nice to know we are supporting a local farmer.

  • We do pretty much exactly what Mrs.Zip suggested.  We go in and buy the cow from a local farmer, and split it two or four ways with some friends/ family members. They deliver it to the processing plant, and then we contact the plant to tell them what cuts we want.

    I think a good, fresh farm cow has an awesome taste, but it is slightly different. My opinion is skewed though, I grew up on raw milk, fresh meat, and fresh chicken eggs.

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  • Mrs. Zip - Great answer - I am glad that there are other aggies on the nest.

    I have to laugh everytime I hear or see someone say they want to buy 1/2 a cow, it sounds weird to me since I know the lingo.  You most likely want to buy 1/2 a fat steer or fat heifer.  Generally cows aren't the best eating.

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  • image amz05:

    The farm will have the meat cut up and frozen for us, we just have to pick it up. Price wise its not reall ymuch cheaper to do this, its better though because we know where the meat is coming from and the cows are grass fed. Also its local so its nice to know we are supporting a local farmer.

    Pretty much the same for us. Also, grass-fed beef does taste different, but it is MUCH better for the environment and for you. Steers were not designed to eat grain. We've gotten used to the taste, but some people don't like it. 

  • Also, grass-fed beef does taste different, but it is MUCH better for the environment and for you.

     

    How exactly is this better for the environment?

  • image Mrs.Zip:

    How exactly is this better for the environment?

    If you just google "Grass fed beef and environment" or read The Omnivore's Dilemma, you'll find information.

    Consumer Reports: And raising cattle on well-managed pastures can lessen erosion and boost soil fertility, the scientists' group found.

    ETA:  I can't find a source, but I do remember reading that grain-fed beef contributes many many more greenhouse gases (methane) to the environment than grass-fed beef due to digestion issues. Does anyone have a source? 

  • image LizzieB:
    image Mrs.Zip:

    How exactly is this better for the environment?

    If you just google "Grass fed beef and environment" or read The Omnivore's Dilemma, you'll find information.

    Consumer Reports: And raising cattle on well-managed pastures can lessen erosion and boost soil fertility, the scientists' group found.

    ETA:  I can't find a source, but I do remember reading that grain-fed beef contributes many many more greenhouse gases (methane) to the environment than grass-fed beef due to digestion issues. Does anyone have a source? 

     

    On our farm, we raise our momma cows and their calves on grass all summer long, and for part of the winter. Of course, we don't leave them outside to freeze to death when it's really bad, or when they can't get food or water.

    Our animals that are in the feedlot (steers and fats) are on a cement lot that's both inside and outside.

    I challenge your thought that raising cattle on grass to lessen erosion is a PASTURE MANAGEMENT issue, not a "grass-fed beef is better" issue. And as far as soil fertility, that's because the cows POOP and that makes the ground better when the poop lands -- anyone who raises cattle on cement, for example, cleans up that poop and spreads it anyhow, so it's 6 of one and a half-dozen of another. Know what I mean?

    As far as grain-fed animals contributing more methane, I'll say I think that's probably not quite right either. Methane comes from both ends of the animal -- the more grass/hay they eat, the more they have to burp it up to chew their cud, and that produces methane. Not that I've measured, but I think cattle fart/poop about the same amount regardless of their feed.

  • image grrlygirl:

    Some of my family (not DH and I) went in on 1/4 cow - ended up being about 25 lbs of various cuts per family plus a few extra lbs.  Universally, they all didn't like it.  The taste was different, and not in a good way.  So if you are going to do it, I highly recommend seeking out a farm where you can buy smaller portions to see if you like it.  Don't just go blindly - imagine having to eat 300 lbs of something that wasn't very good. 

    What the steer/heifer is finished on makes a big difference. In Canada, beef is finished on barley/wheat/oats. In the States, it's finished on corn. And then there's grass-fed beef, which is another ball game. Although even on our small farm, if we're going to eat one, we fatten it up with some grain first. It gives a nicer marbled meat.

    So if your family got a corn-fed animal instead of a barley-fed one, they wouldn't like it. Or if they got an old cow instead of a young animal, it would be tough and not so good.

    And as for the "fresh milk tastes better", wait until they eat a big patch of stinkweed. Ewwwww.

  • What everyone else said.

    However, make sure you have a big freezer. ?My dad just bought a whole Scottish HIghland beef (steer?). ?He ended up with 500 pounds of meat. ?It's a LOT up front but it's the best beef I've ever had hands down (it was grass fed).

    Another thing to consider is how you want it packed. ?They will either wrap it in butcher paper or vacuum pack it. ?The butcher papered meat is good in the freezer for about one year. ?It's a little more expensive to have the meat vacuum packed but it is good pretty much indefinitely (they say three years, my dad, who's a chef, said indefinitely, either way, it's longer).?

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