7/29/09

Something New To Us: Buying Half a Cow

As a child growing up in a busy household with three younger brothers somewhere in the heartland of America, there was a portion of the grocery store that I never shopped in with my parents. The meat department.

And when I learned how to brown ground beef there was a step I never had to do. Draining the fat. I never thought about it. Never knew that anyone did. Let me tell you why....

Years later, my new sister-in-law called me one day and in the course of conversation asked me if my family didn't drain the fat from the pan after we browned ground beef. I asked her why she would ask such an odd question and her response was that she and my brother argued over draining the fat from the ground beef. He didn't do it which upset her and he told her we never did that growing up. She, knowing my love of cooking and baking couldn't believe this.

I was never a real fan of ground beef and had sat through many lectures at the kitchen table while a teenager after I picked out the ground beef from my chili or taco salad. A hamburger from McDonalds I could eat, but chunks of ground beef? Not so much. So it's no wonder that I never bought nor ate ground beef after graduating and moving out. It was only after speaking to my SIL and discussing ground beef that we came to the answer together; we didn't drain the fat because there was no fat to drain!

My SIL's family grew up eating ground beef from the grocery store. My family grew up eating beef we bought straight from the farm and had butchered to our specifications. All our ground beef came wrapped in white butcher paper with our name stamped on it in red ink. Their ground beef came in a clear package with a bloody pad at the bottom of it. Our freezer was stocked full of white wrapped packages year round as we continuously bought our beef and ham this way.

We knew no other way.

And our ground beef, when browned, would yield hardly a teaspoon of fat, at that. There was nothing to drain.

Mystery solved.

And now, about 15 years later it's come full circle as I prepare to buy half a cow from... my brother and SIL! Yes, they, still married and with three teen and pre-teen boys raise cows, pigs and sheep and have a few horses in the mix as well. His call this week was to see if we wanted a side of beef as he just took it to the butcher. It had to hang for about 10 days and then would be ready to cut to our specifications.

I haven't a clue what I'm doing. I've never in my life bought a 'side' of beef but with three teenagers and a husband and a love of grilling steaks and burgers I'm anxious to cut down on our grocery bill and feed my family healthy, organic beef - raised by my own nephews and brother. The initial cost will be huge - probably $600-800 total (I have to find out the weight of the cow and decide what cuts of meat we want) but it's a good investment and hopefully we'll be set for beef at least until next Spring or Summer!

I'll keep you up to date as I venture into new territory for me - as I know nothing about the process and will be calling the meat locker later today.
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