From Field to Freezer: Feeding Out for Butchering

Chuck eats out of his feed bowl before he was brought to the butcher.

Do you know the best part about raising beef cattle? Eating the beef. The other night, my husband and I ate our first ribeye steak from our recently butchered steer, “Chuck.” Not only was I happy to have steak in my freezer again, but also to have Chuck in nice, little packages instead of in the pasture. 

Chuck spent the last three months as a pasture-mate with Sienna, our family milk cow. Every morning and evening, while I milked, Chuck would eat his feed. After you start feeding a steer twice a day, they get too friendly. Chuck was no longer afraid of me, and, unlike Sienna, was not broke to lead. Thus, sometimes Chuck was a pain — like any time I wanted him in one location, and he wanted in another. Also unlike Sienna, Chuck was a finicky eater. Sienna will eat anything I put in her feed bowl. Chuck, on the other hand, would sometimes leave most of his feed or not touch it at all if it were leftovers. This was frustrating, since the whole reason he was separated out from the herd was to be “fed out” before his butcher date. 

These cuts are from Chuck: sirloin, ribeye, and T-bone steaks with some hamburger.

It’s customary to “feed out” a steer before having it butchered. This is supposed to not only fatten up your bovine, but also add flavor and marbling to the meat. So, Chuck would come up to the barn with Sienna twice a day and eat his feed, not at all suspicious of his special treatment. I gave Chuck about five pounds of screened chops (corn) in the morning and five pounds of cattle cubes in the evening. Sometimes I would sprinkle some sweet feed (which contains molasses) in with his corn to make sure Chuck would eat it.

However, now I don’t have to worry about Mr. Picky-eater anymore. Nor do I have to worry about an 800-pound shadow following me around each time I go to the barn. We took Chuck to the butcher on a Wednesday and picked up all the frozen packages of him the following Thursday. (The butcher lets the carcass hang for a week before cutting it up.)

After looking over the “cut sheet,” I gave a locker employee my meat preferences. There are a few options when it comes to meat processing.

How thick do you want your steaks? Do you want to keep the liver, heart, and tongue? Do you want more steaks or more roasts? Do you want your two briskets or would you rather have them as hamburger? Do you want soup bones? How many pounds do you want your hamburger packages to be? 

The carcass weight was 518 pounds. The processing bill was just over $400.

Not every locker does things the same way. I definitely wanted vacuumed-sealed bags for my meat. I think it protects it better from freezer burn. The locker I used this time uses vacuumed-sealed bags for everything except the hamburger, which it puts in packages called “chubs.” Some butchers will give you the option of turning your brisket into bacon. I did not have that option at this locker, which is a shame. I like beef bacon, and it’s hard to find. 

Truthfully, I was fortunate to get Chuck in when I did. All the butchers in our area are extremely backlogged. When I called last September to make the appointment to bring Chuck in, the butcher gave me a date of the following September! I took the date but knew that was far too long to wait. Chuck would be too old by then. However, my father-in-law had an earlier date at the same butcher to bring in two cows. He gave me one of his slots. (The other he used for a cull cow that was turned into hamburger.)

Seasoned and grilled, this is another ribeye steak from Chuck.

It’s a huge blessing to have your own beef (and know what goes into it). I’m very happy to have Chuck in my freezer or on my plate as a sloppy joe or cheeseburger. That’s right, I’ll take my Chuck with cheese, please.

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