Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist or expert. I’m just an idiot sharing what I’ve done. Do what you want with this information.
Recently, I watched the movie Food, Inc. This wasn’t my first time watching it; I watch it every year. Yet, everytime I see it, I am reminded of how broken the North American food system is. Of course, people have food and that is the end goal, but it comes at a steep cost to health, both for ours and the land. If you haven’t seen this movie, I recommend you check it out. Amazon can stream it to you. There are so many important points made in the movie, but it all stems from this central fact: the image used to sell food is one of a pastoral farmer, but really food production has more in common with the building cars than a red barn and a rooster. Recognizing this led me to buy my first portion of a cow raised that “lived a cow life”.
Let me explain what that means. A cow is animal that has historically grazed on grass; it’s a ruminant. These animals are well-adapted for prairies, not feedlots with a diet based on corn. Yes, corn is a grass, but these animals have multiple stomachs that are built to digest blades of grass, not kernels of corn. They can eat grain, but there is reason to believe that doing so results in stronger strains of E. coli. Interestingly, is has been demonstrated that cattle fed hay, or dried grass, are less likely to carry certain types of E. Coli. This, of course, is better for the cow and for the end consumer, us.
So, now for the method of getting grass-fed beef. Like I said, my family bought a portion of a cow from Alpine Ranch in Fallon, Nevada. Doing so is a little different than buying meat from the store. In some ways, it has more in common with ordering something from Amazon. We ended up ordering with some friends from our Crossfit gym. Between the four of us, we purchased a 1/4 of a cow, or 100 pounds of beef for about $700. It was then delivered to a location in Las Vegas, where one of our friends picked it up. Direct delivery is an option too. We ended up buying 50 of those pounds, in multiple cuts ranging from ground to roasts. The ratio was pretty good too, 35% ground, 25% steak, and 40% roasts. Once it got to us, I was surprised at the differences of the meat. It was darker and less red. The taste was a little different too. It wasn’t as heavy, probably because of the leanness. Anyway, it was really good and this is what we’re going to keep doing.
The question is, is it worth $7 a pound? I think so, especially when the different cuts are factored in. Sure, ground beef from the supermarket can be real cheap, half the price of the grass-fed. Remember though, that we received a combination of cuts, some of which cost $9 in the store. So here’s the math for the entire order based on national averages:
- Ground= 35 pounds at $245 or $7/lb compared to a national average of $5.70/lb which would equal $199.5 for a similar order.
- Steaks= 25 pounds at $175 or $7/lb compared to a national average of $7.32/lb which for a similar order would equal $183.
- Roasts= 45 pounds at $315 or $7/lb compared to a national average of $5.35/lb which for a similar order would equal $214.
- $199.5+$183+$214= $596.50 for a similar store bought order
It’s a $100 more expensive to make this purchase, but consider this: 100 pounds of beef lasts a long time. If a family eats a pound a day, that’s three months of meat. I know that I easily waste $100 in that same period of time on things I don’t need. When my family eats out, we easily spend $30 and we eat out a couple of times a month. By simply choosing not to do so, we can easily afford a better quality food. Of course, many people may not be able to afford a large purchase like this. We couldn’t, which is why we partnered up with some friends.
If you’re interested in doing something similar, I recommend that you check out Eat Wild. It can put you in touch with local farmers and ranchers, which I think is pretty cool. If you can, get your food from someone that actually raised it.