Let’s start with the basics. Cows make milk and beef; but it’s not all the cows that get taken to the house.
Which is Which?
A heifer produces milk but only after birthing a calf. After birthing a calf, a heifer becomes a cow and this female cow is what becomes dinner on the table. To become a dairy cow, a calf must be birthed every year to continue milk production. This period of milking lasts for about 300 days and then the heifer is dried out for 45-65 days. This allows the body to rest before breeding and birthing again. Single births are most common; making twins a rarity as the body goes under extreme duress to support two calves. Most cows will have 2-4 calves in their lifetime; and live from 4-6 years. Mature females weigh between 800 - 2,400 pounds
The bulls are adult males and many are castrated to reduce their aggressive tendencies. Mature bulls weigh between 1,000 -4,000 pounds. Bulls do not make milk. There are neutered males that are raised for beef and these are called steers; unless it’s being raised an oxen for draft purposes. Every animal has its rightful place and serves a purpose on a farm. Oftentimes folk mistakenly call a cow a bull because it has horns; this is a mistake as both cows and bulls can have horns. Depending on the breed some horns can be shorter or larger like the Texas Longhorn.
Go to a butcher The beef we consume, buy, and freeze come from bulls and cows. If you haven’t grown up with a local butcher or experienced a farm life; ordering beef can be daunting. It’s really not. The most common cuts are depicted in this picture of a cow and the way the beef.
Let’s not forget about ground beef which is NOT hamburger meat. Ground beef comes from the gleaned trimmings of other, larger cuts of beef and is most commonly cuts from chuck, sirloin, round, and brisket. The main difference comes down to the way the fat is added. Hamburger meat can have added fat to the lean mix giving it a ratio percentage. Example: 75% fat free means that there is 25% fat in the product. All ground beef can only be made using fat from meat trimmings; no additional fat may be added.
How to order
You don’t have to buy at a big box supermarket; go to your local butcher, drive a little further for the better and healthier option. A ¼ cow is a great idea to gift during the holiday season for a family in need of food. Or to keep at home for your holiday season!
Every family has different eating habits. For a family of six, the following list lasts us about 6 months but I can make it go to a year by adding in different varieties of meat (such as wild game and fish) and generous helpings of fruits, veggies, and beans. This is especially important for breastfeeding mothers who are still helping their babies get that liquid gold known as colostrum. Support breastfeeding mothers and encouraging a well rounded diet is so important.
Food Intelligence starts at home.
Heritage starts at home.
A quarter cow is about 80-100 pounds. A good steer will last us a little over a year (approx 15 months).
This is what a 1/4 cow beef order can look like: This is based on a hypothetical animal and the actual weights may vary
- 40 lbs Ground Beef
- 3 lbs NY Strip Steak (about 4 steaks)
- 3 lbs Top Sirloin Steak (about 4-5 steaks)
- 4 lbs Rump Roast (2 roasts)
- 4 lbs Sirloin Tip Roast (1 roast)
- 2 lbs Flat Iron Steak (about 2-3 steaks)
- 1.5 lbs Filet (about 4-5 steaks)
- 4 lbs Stew Meat
- 5.5 lbs Short Ribs
- 4 lbs brisket
- 5 lbs Ribeye Steak (about 6 steaks)
- 4 lbs Kabob Meat
- 5.5 lbs Chuck Roast (2 roasts)
How Much Freezer Space?
A 1/2 beef needs about 8 cubic feet. A 1/4 beef needs about 4 cubic feet. You should plan for at least 16-17 cu.ft. freezer space for a whole beef A good rule of thumb is one cubic foot of freezer space for every 35 – 40 pounds of packaged meat. A quarter of beef will easily fit into a 5 -7 cubic foot chest freezer. A half beef needs about 8 cubic feet. You should plan for at least 16-17 cubic feet of space.
What to Make
The options are endless and when you unleash your creativity there is no ending what can be made to feed your family and friends.
- Ground beef - burgers, meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, cowboy casserole, beef lentil, meatballs, and beef with rice
- NY Strip - grilling, eating for breakfast with runny over easy eggs and potatoes
- Top Sirloin Steak - cubed for stew, juicy steak with mozzarella and tomatoes, cubed with honey garlic and sesame sesame seeds
- Rump Roast - garlic encrusted oven roast or put it in the crock pot with vegetables for a faster more tender cook
- Sirloin Top Roast - Herbed Rubbed Sirloin Tip Roast, great for kebabs
- Flat Iron Steak - Fajitas or stir fry vegetables or on top of salad
- Filet- cubed and mixed with fettuccini alfredo, smothered with mushrooms and gravy potato, or done with garlic butter
- Stew Meat - cubed for stews and soups
- Short Ribs - Garlic braised with red wine pairs great with long green beans and mashed potatoes
- Brisket - tacos, sandwiches, corned beef, pastrami, or BBQ it outside
- RibEye Steak - great with eggs chopped up into omelets, with chunky home fry potatoes
- Kabob Meat - orange peppers, red onions, meat, mushrooms and roast it over an open fire
- Chuck Roast - shredded with onions and cheese on a bun or covered with mushroom gravy paired with potato side
The possibilities to beef are endless; but the benefits to our local farmers, butchers, and families are immense. There is in-between 22 - 72 grams of protein in one pound of beef. For this reason alone we should be eating clean beef from our local farmers and ranchers. Feed our bellies, live with full hearts, and be happy with our commitment to our communities.