For the past 2 1/2 years we have been raising a grass fed cow on pasture with the intention of having it butchered for meat for our family. Before you get upset with me about killing an animal let me start by saying that we do not take this aspect of farm life lightly. It is a huge responsibility to eat meat and most of us never give it a second thought when we go to the grocery store to pick up those neat little packages of meat that have already been prepared. Every time we eat meat for our own nourishment we are taking the life of an animal. I believe that if we are going to eat meat then we should feel the weight of that burden by understanding what it actually means to take that animals life. It makes me think about the preparation and use of that animal more appreciatively and with more respect. It makes you think more about how the animal was raised and what it ate. All these things make the responsibility of raising our own meats feel greater than before. We want our animals to be raised out on green pastures and not on concrete, with fresh forage and hay and bugs to eat and not GMO grains and corn. We want to see the pigs root around in the dirt and the chickens hunt and peck the ground. They should be living an unstressful life doing what they are naturally designed to do. So if we can provide that type of life for the animals we raise then that is what we will do.
Now getting back to the topic at hand. Our cow had been on our farm for the past 2 1/2 years. We purchased him when he was almost weaned and he was bottle fed for about 2 months. Once getting over the emotional side of butchering day it was time to deal with what we raised our cow for in the first place.........the meat! We were planning on keeping half of this cow for ourselves and then splitting the remaining half between two close friends. We live in an area that we have access to several butchers within an hour drive of our farm. We called them and asked a lot of questions about how everything works and what we needed to do. Whatever butcher you use should be willing and able to answer all questions that you may have and be willing to let you see where they are working. You want to use a reputable place since this is an investment into the food for your family. You have spent several years a many dollars to get to this point so don't necessarily go the cheapest route when it comes to the quality of your meat. The place where we took our was so helpful throughout the entire process. I made many phone calls to him prior to bringing in our cow and he spent a lot of time guiding me through he process and then also sitting down with me for almost an hour and helping us decide on our cut order for the different cuts of meat.
Learning about all the cuts of meat we would be getting from our animal was a whole new learning experience. I am so used to going to the store and picking out specific cuts of meat like a few steaks, or some ground beef or ribs, and now I would be getting every part of the animal so I would have to learn to utilize all the cuts of meat. There are the main primal cuts of meat known as the chuck, rib, brisket, plate, flank, round, loin, tenderloin, and shank. It is from each of these primal cuts that you get your different cuts of meat that you are used to seeing in the store. For instance the loin part of the beef will give you cuts like porterhouse steak, T-bone steak, strip steak, loin roast, and filet mignon. So each of the primal cuts will then give you many different individual cuts of
different types. There are also many options to get plenty of ground meat as well as stew meats and cubed steak. Our butcher also gave us the option to get any bones that we wanted, which we will use for beef bone broth the future. When we took our animal to butcher he weighed a little over 1200lbs and we ended up with 734lbs of packaged meat in the end. We then kept half and then sold the remaining half between two friends. After selling the half beef we were able to recoup some of the cost involved in raising the animal. We have enough beef to last about 2 years and during that time we will already have another cow that is being raised for the next round. We keep our meat packaged an in one of our deep freezers where it will stay fresh for up to 2 years.
I would say that overall raising our own meat has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had. It is very emotional at times but I have never felt more freedom from the grocery store than I do right now. As of 2020 our family raises 100% of its own meat to include beef, chicken, pork, eggs, and venison (hunting). I can go to any one our freezers and select any cut of meat that I desire and I know that it is the best quality meat that I can get for my family. If you ever have the opportunity to raise your own meat animals then I would say jump in and do it! You won't regret it!