We bought a family cow. Not Bessie, my hypothetical cow that I tell Husband we will be purchasing once H is old enough to milk her daily (she wears a hypothetical bell around her neck as well and wonders in the pasture of our hypothetical country estate). No, this is a different cow and will require a lot less work than Bessie as this cow will be lacking moving appendages and the ability to… well, remain living.
For the past few summers we’ve purchased freezer beef with our in-laws and have appreciated the economic advantage as well as the selection of meat readily available in the freezer (we’ve upgraded to a garage freezer AND a fridge/freezer combo). However, with all my nutty reading and the like, we wanted the next cow to be entirely grass fed (see earlier posts on why I don’t believe corn and soy are real food). For major carnivores, think of it this way: if we’re eating so much meat, we’re consuming less veggies. So, we just figure we can let the cow do it for us. Grass fed cow = meat AND veggies. Brilliant. (No, that’s not really the reasoning, but if I started in on that topic, I’ll never finish the post by the time the kids wake up from naps).
So, I called the most resourceful people I know. My parents. (Does everyone’s parents always “know someone” or is it just mine?) “We’d like to find a cow,” I said. As luck has it, they decided they’d share in part of the beef.
So my dad walked into the local butcher shop and said, “we’d like to buy 1500 pounds of your best grass-fed beef.” Ok, I’m sure that’s not the exact phrase he used, but he did stop by Mt. Victory Meats and explained our beefy desires to the owner. So, the owner called a farmer. The farmer sold us a cow. The butcher will process the cow. And we will consume it, starting sometime around mid-July (you know, nothing welcomes home a baby like a freezer full of meat).
The process of buying meat was absurdly simple and completely over-complicated all at the same time. Because we’re so used to the convenience of grocery shopping our meat on a weekly basis, and simply consuming whatever is offered without question of where the animal came from or how it was raised – it was a bit boggling to think of these considerations. But it was also so simple. I mean, really – you need meat? Call the butcher. He works with the farmer.
We are paying a little bit more of a price than the last batch of beef we bought; when you per-pound it and take into consideration the ground beef and the steaks and roasts, it’s not bad of a price – still cheaper than your Whole Foods shelves, but probably a tad more than Meijer. However, after doing my newest reading in Radical Homemakers, I’m excited to know how much more power our dollars will have for both our farmer and our butcher (isn’t it 3x the dollar power? I’ve seen the stat numerous times in numerous places). We’re contributing to the livelihood of more than our own family by keeping purchases local.
The same goes for the $14 [huge] bucket of strawberries I brought home from our Suter’s barn down the road. Sure, they’re pricier than the faux-berries that Meijer has to offer, but keeping the Suter family in business also ensures I can get my zucchini and cucumber later this season (since I didn’t plant any).
The local farm, if you ask me, is stuck between a rock and a hard place of mega-farming and super Agribusiness. How do they keep prices low enough on their produce to compete with the 3 major corporations that control 97% of our food supply? (That figure was slightly made up, but it’s close. I can site Radical Homemakers as a source, but I’m not willing to walk upstairs and give you specifics. Read the book yourself and be awed). And if the farmers offer that price, how do they make a living? They’d have to produce far more. But then we begin wading into the world of sustainability and labor practices.
The long and the short of it, for our family as of late, is we simply expect to pay a bit more for good, real and local food. Yes, I do know that berries are 2/$3 at the supermarket. But you get what you pay for. And, someone else pays for what you get (I’m sure the picker of the supermarket berries didn’t get paid the same wage as the Pandora teenager that told me who to write the check to).
But, as you may be asking… how can you afford to pay more for food? Well, to put it simply, we pay less for other stuff. We don’t eat out often. Our kids don’t get new toys upon trips to the store. And we refuse to buy the “cheap” food altogether, which allows more room in the food budget for real stuff (ok, Husband has successfully lobbied for tortilla chips on a regular basis and crackers semi-regularly. And he sneaks a bag of *bleck* beef jerky every time he buys the dog food. So don’t hunt through my kitchen and call me a hypocrite or a bad Amish). If you don’t buy the Cheetos or Cheez-its or Lean Cuisines then that’s money saved, even if the price tag wants to sell you otherwise.
Many other issues arise when making the break from the cheap food cycle – time to prepare it for sure, and, well, how many ways can you cook a cow anyways?. Those will have to await a later post; for now I say they’re justified questions that require lifestyle change. It’s one that I’m excited about making, but doesn’t exactly make everyone skitter with glee. Then again, I like to run long distances and have babies without drugs and do other things that seem like torment to others. I’m weird. I’ll own that.
All of this to say, “thanks Mt. Victory Meats and Mr. Local Farmer!” Our freezer is getting bare and we’re excited to know it’ll be filled soon.