Bring On the Beef

The sirloin steak on the left is in a vacuum-sealed bag. The hamburger on the right is just bagged.

One of the greatest blessings about raising cattle is having good beef to put on the dinner table. It’s a wonderful thing to know where your beef comes from, what the steer is fed, that it is disease-free, that it is pasture-raised, and that it is free of antibiotics and artificial hormones. In short, it’s nice to know you are eating healthy meat.

I’ve heard some people say they can’t bring themselves to eat their own cows. They say they “know” their cows, and it would be like eating a pet. My thought is: Then what’s the point? Why have cows? Either you have dairy cows for the milk or beef cows for the meat or both. I don’t see any logic in a “pet cow.” Thankfully, there aren’t too many people that are sentimental about their cows. I’m not.

Besides, I don’t know anyone who butchers their own cows. The process is fairly easy. You bring your cow to the butcher by trailer, drop it off, and then you pick it up in nice little packages when it’s done. 

Some butchers will use vacuum-sealed bags for the meat (which is what I would recommend). Others have different packaging like bagging the hamburger and putting paper around the steaks and roasts. Costs of butchers can vary widely, and they usually charge by the pound. 

You can tell the butcher what cuts of meat you prefer out of whatever cow you bring in. In most cases, we butcher steers that are around 18-24 months old. However, there are times when an old cow or bull is worth more butchered for hamburger meat than at auction.

Here’s a seasoned, grilled T-bone steak from the last batch of butchered beef.

We like to get a variety of cuts from the steers such as: round steaks, sirloin steaks, ribeyes, T-bone steaks, filets, different roasts, liver, ground beef, and brisket. You can get beef bacon instead of brisket, but you can’t get both. My father-in-law will even eat the tongue and heart. In my opinion, the filets are the best, followed by the ribeyes. This isn’t surprising if you’ve ever ordered steak at a restaurant and seen how pricey those cuts are compared to hamburgers or roast beef.

When we have a steer butchered, it’s always split between family members and their freezers. (Butchering a whole steer can take up a lot of freezer space!)

The steers usually weigh between 1,000 and 1,400 pounds when they are butchered. They “dress out” at about 60 percent of that weight. That means that once the head, legs, skin, etc., is gone, their hanging weight is about 600-840 pounds. How the meat is cut and the amount of bone/fat left determines your final packaged meat weight. Our butcher charges 60 cents a pound for vacuum-sealed bags, a little less if you are okay with paper. Thus, if we get 600 pounds of meat, the butchering cost would be $360. 

If you are wondering how the cost adds up in the end: Is it cheaper to raise a steer and pay for butchering than to buy all that meat in the store? The answer is that not only is it a lot cheaper for us to butcher our own cows, but it’s also much healthier meat. It’s especially cheaper if you compare the cost to grass-fed beef sold at health food stores.  

I like to say the old beef commercials got it right: Beef. It’s what you want. Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

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