Is It Cheaper To Buy The Cow?
In a weird twisted way, I believe Covid was one of the best things to happen to us as a nation. Disregarding the loss of jobs and the many people who lost loved ones, I believe going through that tough time opened many people’s eyes to the dark reality of how unstable our food system truly is. Whether it’s whole animals or toilet paper, buying in bulk is the most cost-efficient and affordable way to buy essentials and even goes for meat. So let’s run the numbers.
First, the cost of a cow will vary based on many different factors, quick example, the weight of the cow, age, male or female, and the source of where you purchase. To make things simple, let’s start with weight. When buying an animal for butcher, you will purchase it by “live weight,” which is the weight of the live animal before harvest. Next, you have the “hanging weight,” which is the animal’s weight after being eviscerated and prepped to become food for consumption. You typically figure the hanging weight is roughly 60 to 67% of the live weight, and the difference aredue to the loss of blood and other inedible parts of the cow. Such as Intestines and organs.
The “final weight” is the meat’s weight after the animal is butchered into specialty cuts such as steaks, hamburgers, etc. This weight will vary depending on the amount of fat on the cow and the specific cuts of meat the customer wants. Basically, you can think of these weights decreasing in pounds by the more processes the animal goes through to become food.
On average the breakdown is:
- 50% ground beef
- 30% roasts
- 20% steaks
Now let’s calculate the cost to acquire an animal. If you’re buying directly from a farm, this price will vary in cost. Based on the time it takes to raise the animal, grass-fed or grain-finished, what the particular farmer believes his cattle are worth, the cost of slaughter and preparation, and finally, the cost of the butcher, who you pay to have the carcass cut and wrapped. Each animal differs because each animal will weigh a different amount. Let’s say the cost of half a cow costs you $1,000. After factoring in the butcher fees, which could be anywhere between ($300-$600) you can expect to pay between $1,300 and $1,600. This seems like a lot of money, but in the grand scheme, it’s not. Let’s say a half a cow will feed a family of 4 for a whole year. If you set aside $125 x’s 12 months, that’s $1,500. Maybe you have a large family or group of friends or work colleagues. You all could chip in to buy a whole animal and split it. Though we’re talking about beef in this blog, but buying meat in bulk works for lamb, pigs, and goats as well. You could expect those prices to be less on average because of smaller carcass weight. The main benefit is the economies of scale you will be save buying in bulk. Not to mention the time saved and the convenience of having a constant meat supply in your freezer where you also know the farm and farmer from which your food comes.
When you purchase a cow, the choice of specific cuts is entirely up to you. Maybe your family loves quick meals, so you get half grind for hamburger meats and packaged in 1 pound bags for quick burgers or tacos. Perhaps you love steaks and choose to get as many steaks as you can. This process is totally custom to your liking.
Let’s break down what you’re saving. Let’s say you purchase half a cow. You could expect to receive between 200 and 300 pounds of beef, which averages out to you paying between $4 to $8 a pound. That’s a lot cheaper than the $24/lb for steaks at my local Walmart. If properly stored, the meat can last 1 to 2 years when stored and the vacuum-sealed packages.
Where Do I Even Buy A Cow?
Even if you didn’t grow up with parents in livestock, there is still hope. Now I don’t recommend stopping at a random farm you pass on the interstate, walking up to the door, and asking the farmer to purchase the biggest steer on his property. This is a bad way to approach it. First, ask around your friend group may be one of your friends went to high school with is a farmer; reach out on Facebook; there are tons of Facebook farm groups. Next, visit your local farmers market, Craigslist, and go to where the farmers are. Local feed stores are a great place to look. Ask the guys that work there. They may know someone personally or have cattle themselves. Go visit your local salebarn. Find out when cattle sales are held and speak with the auctioneer. Make conversation with people who look like farmers. Honestly, if I didn’t have connections, I would recommend going the salebarn route.
Support Local Farmers
Buy local! Not to mention the pollution of land, air, and water buying local would solve. It would end factory farming. Overcrowded feedlots and poor concrete confinement living conditions are a cruel way to live an unnatural life. So why not keep your local food dollar in your community?
Buying your whole, half’s, or quarter animal allows YOU to take control of where and who grows your food. This will enable you to see the conditions your food is being raised. It makes it profitable for the farmer as well. Finally, it brings the community together as well as prevents your food dollars from supporting large factory farms 2,000 miles away.
This post isn’t to get everyone and their momma to run out and start buying up cows, I know the reality of that happening for some is impossible, but I wrote this to get you to think. Some people enjoy the ease of purchasing meat from the superstore. In a way, it detaches them from the life taken in order to put food on their table, and you know that’s completely ok. Buying food only on a need-to basis will cost you more over the course of a year. Spending 50 dollars here and 20 bucks there, but the real question is, what happens when the store runs out? Then what? All I’m saying is consider taking your food dollars into your own hands and buying local could save you more money long term and it tastes way better!