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cow-share or bulk beef buying process question

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

This turned out to be a rather long post, but I would really appreciate hearing from you experienced cow-share or bulk beef buyers!

 

I recently bought my first cow-share and was so excited. The farmers are the parents of a person on a local listserve, and I was happy to find a local, family-run, all grass-fed beef source in my community. The buying brochure said:

 

"From the hanging weight you pay for, shrinking, trimming and deboning occurs...[A]ll that trimming and cutting results in the final weights about 35-40% less than the hanging weight. The great thing is that for the price of really good hamburger, you are getting filet, steaks and roasts, plus organs and long bones if you want them."

 

So I paid $4/lb for 85.125 lbs of beef at hanging weight (1/8 of a steer). I also asked for long bones and organs at the time of the order. According to the ordering info above, I calculated that I would receive 51-55 lbs of meat, plus bones and organs. We are on a very tight food budget, and I figured I would get some variety in cuts of beef for the same price as the grass-fed ground beef we are usually limited to buying.

 

When I picked up the meat, the very nice and friendly farmer had it packed up into boxes for me. I asked about the bones and organs, and she said "Oh, I forgot to get those from the processor this time." I was disappointed, but didn't want to make a fuss so I took my boxes and went home. At home I unpacked the meat and found I had only 43 lbs of meat- a full 10 lbs less than I expected. I mailed the farmer asking if I had misunderstood the ordering information, and she replied that she had given me some higher-priced cuts and that "[m]any customers were especially appreciative of the filet, which goes for $25 per pound in the store, as a special treat in their bulk purchase." As if I were rude and ungrateful to expect the amount of meat I paid for. But she did give me a few more roasts (8 lbs total) and about 10 lbs of oxtail for soup after my email.

 

So, I thought that the main point of buying a cow share is that you pay one price for all parts of the cow, from filet mignon to bones and organs. And I really wanted those bones for stock! Was I wrong about how this works? Is it normal to divide the meat by retail value of the cuts instead of by weight? Is it normal that bones and organs are not available? Was I out of line to complain, or next time should I look for a different, more professionally-run farm? Thanks for any words of experience you can provide!

post #2 of 7

We are on our second half a steer from a local farm so I am certainly not an expert but I will share my limited knowledge.

 

Your question is a valid one and it was not out of line to ask why you received less than what you expected. I also think it is nice that the farmer sent some extra roasts your way.  Sounds like she is trying to meet your expectations after the fact. 

 

I don't know how much weight you should give to the % estimate yields because if you are getting only an 1/8 of the cow, your portion may have more bone weight that someone elses depending on which 1/8 your share came from. 

 

Also, how long the beef hangs (and sheads water weight) will reduce the overall yield.  

 

It is possible that the processor just butchered the entire cow and divided the meat into 8 shares?  If so, I can sort of follow the farmer's line of thinking that she was doing you a favor by giving you the better cuts.  Now that I know how few filets a cow yeilds, I would have been thrilled if that happened to me!  Sounds like her intentions were good. 

 

A cow only has so many steaks, roasts, etc. so if there aren't an enough flank steaks, for example, to go around, someone is going to get a substitution - 6 shares gets a small piece of flank steak and the other 2 get half a brisket each plus the short ribs - KWIM? 

 

I guess what I am saying is it is likely rather difficult to exactly divide a cow into 8 equal boxes with each box weighing the same amount with the same quality cuts of meat.

 

As far as the bones and organs go, if you requesetd them, you should have received them but based on my experience, I am not surprised they didn't make it to you. 

 

It is possible that someone else also wanted them and the butcher saw their request first and threw them in with that order.  Doesn't make it right but I have had similar experiences with the processor who does our beef.  I had to sort of beat it into their heads that I wanted certain cuts whole and not made into hamburger.

 

post #3 of 7

I have run into this problem with a few farmers - I think that many of their customers don't want weird stuff and so they keep it to sell on the side. I understand this "convenience" from their POV, but I agree, that if you are paying for hanging weight you should get every.darn.speck of that cow that you ask for. As for buying only an 1/8 - that is harder for it to get broken down equitably, one of the farmers I spoke to about this issue said that if I really had certain things I wanted then I need to buy at least a 1/2.

post #4 of 7

If you asked for the bones and organs up front, she should have either gone out of her way to find you replacement bones & organs or tried to "make nice" somehow.  That's a substantial amount of food to casually forget.

 

The weight is only an estimate, I'm afraid.

 

IME, a 1/8 or 1/4 steer is half of the steer divided up into 2 or 4 comparable assortments, since the front half of the steer is different than the back.  Mixing up the front and back half of the steer and dividing is more fair than buying the front or back quarter or eighth.   I don't think your requests were unreasonable and I think her response was unprofessional.  I wouldn't go back there unless the prices were VERY low and you were willing to risk a repeat.
 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ceiba View Post
So I paid $4/lb for 85.125 lbs of beef at hanging weight (1/8 of a steer). I also asked for long bones and organs at the time of the order.

<snip>

When I picked up the meat, the very nice and friendly farmer had it packed up into boxes for me. I asked about the bones and organs, and she said "Oh, I forgot to get those from the processor this time."

 

 

I was disappointed, but didn't want to make a fuss so I took my boxes and went home. At home I unpacked the meat and found I had only 43 lbs of meat- a full 10 lbs less than I expected. I mailed the farmer asking if I had misunderstood the ordering information, and she replied that she had given me some higher-priced cuts and that "[m]any customers were especially appreciative of the filet, which goes for $25 per pound in the store, as a special treat in their bulk purchase." As if I were rude and ungrateful to expect the amount of meat I paid for. But she did give me a few more roasts (8 lbs total) and about 10 lbs of oxtail for soup after my email.

 

So, I thought that the main point of buying a cow share is that you pay one price for all parts of the cow, from filet mignon to bones and organs. And I really wanted those bones for stock! Was I wrong about how this works? Is it normal to divide the meat by retail value of the cuts instead of by weight? Is it normal that bones and organs are not available? Was I out of line to complain, or next time should I look for a different, more professionally-run farm? Thanks for any words of experience you can provide!



 

post #5 of 7


I'm in the middle of negotiating with a farmer over a similar issue.  He charges by final weight, rather than by hanging weight, which is fine with me.  However, my problem is that it's unfair to me (IMO) to charge me just as much per pound for the "waste" fat, bones and organ meat as the more coveted muscle meat.  If somebody buys pig a and it has 100 lbs of meat and 50 lbs of "waste" and I buy pig b and it has 100 lbs of meat and  50 lbs of "waste", then why should I pay 50% more for the same size pig? Especially since the per pound price of organs, bones & fat are SUBSTANTIALLY lower than the price per pound of the whole critter... I'm actually overpaying by quite a lot that way.

 

Unfortunately, as nice as the farmer is, English isn't his first language, so he's still confused by my objections.

 

Sandra

Quote:
Originally Posted by deditus View Post

I have run into this problem with a few farmers - I think that many of their customers don't want weird stuff and so they keep it to sell on the side. I understand this "convenience" from their POV, but I agree, that if you are paying for hanging weight you should get every.darn.speck of that cow that you ask for. As for buying only an 1/8 - that is harder for it to get broken down equitably, one of the farmers I spoke to about this issue said that if I really had certain things I wanted then I need to buy at least a 1/2.



 

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much, everyone, for replying. I do absolutely understand that dividing a cow into 8 equal parts is very difficult, if not impossible, and I said as much to the farmer. And it's probably true that I didn't communicate clearly enough up front that I really do want all the weird stuff! 

 

But I'm glad to hear that it's not just me, and that others of you would expect to get the bones and organs, and to get more poundage. I feel better about going back to the farmer.  I paid $4/lb hanging weight, and ended up with 61 lbs of meat and oxtail, so about $5.50/lb. Other than the oxtail, all the cuts are boneless. And yes, it is wonderful to have a few fancy steaks to save for birthday dinners! I'm not unhappy overall, but I'd prefer not to have to raise a stink just to get what was promised in the brochure in the first place. I will look around for other farmers, and maybe in the future I will have to buy 1/2 or 1/4 instead. 

 

Thanks!

post #7 of 7

One thing I plan to do in the future is get the contact information for the place that butchers and packages the meat.  If THEY know what I need, I think I've got a better chance of having it done properly.  Not sure if that would work for less than a whole animal, though.

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