Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buying a grass-fed cow share

My husband and I discussed last night the possibility of buying a 1/2 cow and splitting it with my foodie brother. We have the chest freezer and the interest in integrating more lean, grass-fed and finished beef over other sources of protein. The cost savings when buying, literally, in bulk are much more than buying a little at a time.

Interestingly enough, when I was discussing exposure to toxins in food sources with the environmental medicine physician I am working with for my book, he suggested that I eat less butter and dairy and more grass-fed lean meats. The reasoning behind this is, toxins are stored in body fat, cows and other animals included. When you eat high fat animal products, you are ingesting those accumulated toxins, mostly PCBs, DDT, DDE and the like. Contaminants that are known to cause health problems.

I was somewhat surprised at the fact that, even during an intense toxin depuration program they designed for me, it was still recommended to eat grass-fed beef, mostly because of the high levels of omega 3 fatty acids which are important in ridding the body of toxins during a detox. Of course, organic vegetarian sources are the best (as far as toxins go) like beans and legumes for protein and olive and walnut oils for fats. I'll be eating a lot more of both since I'll be seriously limiting the amount of white flour based products like bread and pasta that I'll be eating for a while.

Anyway, I'll be hunting down a local source using the fabulous Eat Wild website, which lists all the pastured meat products available in our area.

Have you ever gone in on a cow share? What did you think?


ruchi said...

What about non-fat milk? Since the milk is skimmed off does it still have toxins?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Ostensibly, non-fat milk would have less toxins in it since the fat is removed (although there's some question about the processing of non-fat milk), but I don't know how tightly bound the toxins are to the fat at that point and how much gets removed during that process or if homogenization affects it either.

There's also a link between non-fat milk consumption and increased risk of advanced prostate cancer versus the reduced risk of prostate cancer with higher fat milk, which isn't exactly a problem for you, but there's something going on there.

I'll have to do some research to answer that more definitively.

Hippy Goodwife said...

We did this for the first time this year and are enjoying it. We really only eat beef once a week or so and are hoping our half a cow will last until tax return time next year!

Kate said...

We've done this for several years. It's a great deal. We found our beef through

LuckyLeilani said...

Yes, I have "shared a cow" ~ with a distant relative. The relative is the one who owned/raised/fed the cow and arranged for the butcher. Somewhere in the process, I ended up with a lot of the "junk" part of what WAS supposed to be 1/2 a beef. Nothing is truly HALF and I later found out that a butcher can be dishonest. Whatever the reason, the "owner" (who was paid a handsome share) and the butcher (who was paid an even MORE handsome share made out like bandits. Majority of my share was burger and I was left saying "Where's the STEAK" because I got a lot of 'beef' in the form of lip service and burger.

I don't eat a lot of meat ~ period. So, half a cow seemed like a lot. I still had three roasts left over in a year's time.

Lesson 1: Because I don't eat a lot of meat, it is a better option for me to buy EXACTLY what I NEED and not pay for a lot of meat I DON'T "typically" consume. I can also SEE what the meat looks like BEFORE I buy it. When it was butchered, it was frozen and wrapped in a nice white paper with a rubber stamp saying what it was ~ after 3 months, the ink smeared and I couldn't tell WHAT IT WAS... except small=burger, large=roast :)

I really like Laura's (Brand name) and I'm VERY PICKY about the meat I buy.

Lesson 2: I think the "relative" was looking for a "partner" to pay A LOT of his share of the costs (Hopefully your brother is an honest person) and take the "junk" meat off his hands. "Meat mafia" comes to mind whenever I think of my 1/2-cow experience because the relative and the butcher knew each other in a really, really small town and I was the gullible 'outsider'...

Having said all that, I've just moved back to Seattle (Eastside) and I'm looking for a really, really good source to buy (prefer direct) Hutterite chicken from. Know any?

You can follow me in Twitter under same name but be warned I tweet a lot... and talk to anyone and everyone... and I look forward to spending more time here (found you through Plastic Fish ~ whom I'd like to talk more with too! As I work on my personal 'plastic addiction') ~ Please stop by and say Hello...

Hope what I've said has helped. Basically, it's better if you know what you're really getting into. You didn't say whether a family member is raising the beef and if you know who/when/how the animal will be 'processed' ~ those are critical pieces since how long the cow "hangs" in the meat locker to "age" and a diet of corn/oats right before (3mos) "processing" can make a WORLD of difference in the taste of the meat. Marbling in meat is a GOOD thing (tender).

Best of luck,

Leilani (@LuckyLeilani)

LuckyLeilani said...

Oh Geez! Sorry, It kept giving me an error message and sending me to a blank screen in Internet Explorer.

I thought the comment wasn't posting...

I return to the site only to see a multiple post. Can you delete that other nasty one? LOL!

Thanks! :)

Robj98168 said...

When I was younger, my aunt and uncle who owned a "gemtleman's farm" in sumner would butcher a bull or cow every year and mom and dad would buy a share of it...I always remembered that it tasted different- not bad just a little well I don't know gamier. These were mostly grass fed beef and mostly friendly cows. One year a someone left the barn door open and my uncle was yelling for me to stand there and when his bull came running through to stand there and and wave my arms. Sure nuff bull came through running at full force and head down and horns sticking straight at me. I wave my arms but did a little side step. My Uncle asked me why I didn't stand down the stupid bull- "Hey, I said- Anything that big running that fast at me with horns gets a free pass! (my dad didn't raise a complete fool!) Anyway, they butchered that bull and gave me a Large T-Bone steak cause my aunt felt bad my uncle yelled at me- Honestly I don't know when I enjoyed a steak more. Also when I decided I wasn't the farm type.

Brad K. said...

@ Robj98168,

Um, backing off from a running bull doesn't mean you can't raise cows - just that you are reasonably aware of the livestock around you.

For those that may not be aware, bulls usually close their eyes when charging; cows keep their eyes open. That means that a visual cue may cause a cow to change direction (she might be bluffing) where the bull won't be looking - or changing his mind. Horns only affect the amount of damage; a neighbor is still in rehab for a shoulder a non-horned bull tore up two years ago. Impact and trampling are always going to be injury-type contacts.

I like using a fiberglass stock "rod" for working cows. For a visual effect, only. I have seldom seen a cow change directions because someone whacked her across the face - where I have gotten them to double-back for a stick that I move in circles in front of her face. Tapping the beastie with a stick or something merely teaches them to kick - they stay visually aware of every move around them, all the time. It takes little time to teach them to watch for cues, or to learn from them when they aren't able to pay attention.

@ LuckyLeilani,

A couple of thoughts about sharing a beef or pork. One is about selection. In general a "half" or "quarter" is a division by weight, not a literal "slice the animal" division, with you getting the parts from your division.

Many people prefer the flexibility of the hamburger. Unless you convey to the butcher that you want which cuts, his easiest approach is to grind everything. Be sure whoever arranges things with the butcher understands which you want. Usually the butcher prefers to do what is desired.

@ Crunchy,

My folks butchered a cow or hog whenever the freezer got low, and usually left half with the butcher as partial payment for the processing. I don't recall any problems with the ink smearing on the packages.

You might check with butchers in your area - they may know someone interested in splitting a carcass, that you can check out for how they raised the animal they intend to eat.


Unknown said...

We've done this for awhile for all of our meat and have been thrilled. Usually the farmer has you pick what cuts that you would really like thus avoiding the huge amount of burger that sometimes occurs.

If you are unsure what to order check out Jennifer MacLagan's books and blog

it'll really open your eyes to what you can do with all the pieces and parts.

Judy T said...

We got half a grassfed beef from a local Amish farmer a few years ago and went back again last year. There is nothing like it.
Make sure you have access to talk to the butcher. Our local meat locker called and asked us exactly how we wanted it cut. We got to determine the size of the roasts, the thickness of the steaks and whether we wanted things like tongue, tail and soup bones.
I've also never had trouble with the ink smearing on the packages.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

We visited the ranch of a lady we know to check out the conditions of the cattle before we bought our first half. We plan to order a second half this fall because now is the time to get them - when they're fat and happy after eating green grass all summer.

Greenpa said...

just a little more homework- I'd ask the farmer to sell you a bit of their pre-existing beef, and be sure you like the flavor.

We once bought a half-beef (grass-only fed) from a neighbor; and I'm not at all sure what it was, breed or exact grazing patterns; but I really couldn't stand the stuff. We wound up swapping it to someone who had different tastebuds.

On the other hand, the very tastiest stuff I ever ate was grass-range fed bison, thinned from the Custer State Park herd. Incredible.

So, taste before you leap, if you can.

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

We buy our meat from grass fed organic farmers 20 miles away from us. We raise our own chickens though. It is the easiest thing in the world to just buy a huge box of meat knowing it's quality and happy life with our friends. I asked if we should start ordering quarters or halves of animals and they said it was ok to keep up with the mixed box whenever we run out.

I'm not sure how much we actually go through, but I do know that a single cow by itself does not have very many steaks. We don't get very many steaks, just like we only get 2 thighs per chicken. I kind of miss having a whole tray of thighs, but I'd rather have the quality of eating my own animals and using all the parts as they are naturally distributed instead of buying processed packaged food injected with things.

Anonymous said...

Actually, grass-fed beef has waaaaay more Omega-3s than feedlot beef. See .

In fact, as salmon are now fattened on soy, they are getting Omega-3-to-6 ratios that look more like feedlot beef. Neither salmon nor cattle evolved to eat corn and soy.

Anonymous said...

A side of beef is a lot of meat. If you don't eat much meat, and if the other family doesn't eat much meat, you might want to consider getting one or two more families to go in on the cow.

We're talking a couple hundred pounds of meat in your freezer. (per side of beef!) Envision a hundred packages of ground burger and a big pile of steaks and roasts and soup bones and ribs and such.

We are a family that eats meat (3 adult-sized meat eaters) and even so a side of beef lasted us close to two years. It would have been eaten up sooner except we also hunt. We like to use about half & half wild game/beef. Game tends to be very lean and the beef adds a little fat.

At the very least be sure the packages are wrapped for long-term cold storage and not just plastic wrap or butcher paper. It will help offset freezerburn if you end up having it in your freezer for a long time.


Adrienne said...

I so wish I had a chest freezer so I could buy half a cow! As it is, I only buy local, grass fed beef (or lamb, or bison) and it's really pricey- ground beef is about $6/lb and it goes up from there. Good thing I don't mind eating a low-meat diet.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw an ad (on Craigslist of all places) for a place an hour and a half from here that offers grass fed beef and, um, whatever you call sheep. You go there and pick out you own animal. You can take it with you to have it butchered or pay the butcher they use.

I remember some comic asking, "If god didn't want us to eat animals, why'd he make 'em out of meat?" Me? I like my meat to come in paper. If it came in fur I'd have to eat beans instead.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Good suggestions to try a sample first - to many people (even the ones who advertise on eatwild) grassfed means access to some burnt up, short pasture, and butchering the animal in the fall. Fall butchering is an old carryover from days of no refrigeration. Ideally, you want to buy an animal that is at least 2 because once the frame is grown the cow can then put energy into fat. An animal butchering when it is not losing weight (fall into winter) will be the most nutritious and tastiest. Even a slight amount of grain will alter the Omega 3 content. In short, at least in the PNW buying a beef in the summer is the best insurance for nutrient dense beef, much later than that, it would be a gamble.

Azure Standard raises their own livestock and sells by the cut, if you are looking for a clean source to try out.

Aimee said...

we are lucky enough to have an across-the-street neighbor who raises fully grass fed, grass finished beef (grass finished is important - often, cattle are grass fed until a couple of months before slaughter and then taken to a feedlot to fatten up on corn. Grass finished means they were out on pasture until the day they got shot in the head).

We buy a half-steer every year and split it with my sister's family. We find that a quarter steer is a year's worth of beef. It's approximately 200-250 pounds of beef, various cuts. With one hog and one or two goats, that's our yearly meat consumption.

Grass fed beef is awesome, and I personally love it, but it does take a little getting used to. It has a stringer beefy flavor, and it is quite lean, which requires some adjustment to cooking. For example, we have to put a little oil in the pan before we fry hamburger.

In our experience, it's a fantastic deal. Just remember you pay for "hanging weight" which is not the same as cut weight. A lot of the hanging weight gets lost as bone and fat. Even so, when we did the math we found we paid about $4/pound. That included everything from hamburger to filet mignon. Go to the co-op and price grass fed beef and you will see that is a steal.

Good luck! I'd be happy to make some recommendations if you like.

Miss Kris said...

The friends that I know who do this in our area buy from Thundering Hooves and have been very happy.

EngineerChic said...

Just a thought on the "toxins stored in fat" comment. This is why I urge my mom to prioritize organic butter (even when it is $5/lb) over organic milk. I buy both products as organic, but when she whinges about the cost I do my best to explain that organic butter represents a better value than organic milk if you're talking about avoiding pesticide and pharmaceutical residues in your food.

It raises the cost of a batch of cookies, but I shouldn't be eating many cookies anyways.

Maria said...

We found Baron Farms on They let you buy shares as small as 1/8. Cost is slightly higher the smaller you go, but still way cheaper than buying organic at the store. They were fabulous to work with - very good customer service. The first year we had them ship our order (they use dry ice, and it came still perfectly frozen). The second year we drove to Yakima to see the farm and pick it up. They gave us a tour, and free 'free range' eggs from their chickens that were probably the best eggs we've ever had. Dark orange yolks.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Miss Kris - We've done Thundering Hooves in the past and it's great (they sell their meat at Ballard Market now - hooray!) but, since they are certified organic, they are very expensive. We also get our turkey from them as well, although this year they had a problem and now we're screwed and scrambling to find a heritage turkey late in the game :(

kmeabassett - We were looking into Baron Farms - they use the same growing practices as Thundering Hooves, except they didn't bother getting certified since they are much smaller. I'm glad to hear that you had a good experience with them!

FernWise said...

We've split half or whole steers with friends 3 times now, and plan to continue this. The quality has been uneven, however. The first one was great, but the second TERRIBLY tough. We switched farm sources and the 3rd steer was amazingly great.

It has been a bit of a challenge to figure out what to do with cuts we ended up with that we never used before, especially for us Pagans of Jewish Origin. Rump roast? What do you do with THIS? OTOH, the other women were happy to take filet mignon off our hands, even trade their big chuck roasts for one little fillet.

Unknown said...

I completely agree that grass fed beef is a much healthier option than grain fed beef. If you have the space and means to purchase a large portion of grass fed beef a reduced cost that is wonderful. However it is important to understand where you meat is coming from and how it is handled. Grass finished beef only means that cattle is fed grass for a small portion of their lives and more then often is grain fed for a majority of there lives. To enjoy all of the benefits of Grass Fed Beef such as increased levels of omega 3 acids and beta-carotene and lower calories and fat, cattle must be grass fed its entire life. I work with La Cense Beef and have personally made the choice to only consume grass fed beef. I can feel good about eating it because I know that it is the healthiest beef option available.

Lane' Richards said...

I had a tour of an Organic Valley farm here in Oregon (just outside Portland) and learned a LOT about the benefits of certified organic milk/beef. It made me realize even more my decision of buying my beef share was the best decision I could have made.

I purchased mine from a fairly well known farm, KooKoolan Farms (in Yamhill). They're great! They offer cheese making classes, have chickens, eggs and other items (I believe lamb as well). They have different sizes/shares to chose from so you can chose if you want hamburger, stew meet or a combination. Or, if you want all hamburger they will try to connect you with someone who wants all steaks, etc.

One thing I learned about cooking with grass fed beef - you cook it at a lower temperature than you normally would. It also has a slightly different taste than what you buy in the store. Some don't like it. I think I'm used to different tasting meats since I was raised on moose, bear, caribou, etc.

Also, I can't say it's less expensive even though you're buying in "bulk". Maybe in the long run it is - you're getting higher quality meat that's better for you which means it's better for your health. But you are paying a premium just like you do when you buy organic. It's not mass produced, grass-fed beef requires a little bit of hand holding. But, it's worth it and I can't imagine going back to conventional beef.

Molly said...

I get my pastured beef from Gradwohl farms in Covington. He also sells at some of the local farmers markets. I buy primal cuts and break them down into portions for our family. It's less of a commitment than half a cow, although his miniature cattle are less of a commitment than a full-size steer would be.