November 19, 2009

The Beef Has Arrived!

Le boeuf est arrivé! Okay, so right now you’re probably thinking that I’m as crazy as I initially thought people who cow-pool (real term) were when I first read about the concept in Time. “What a funny thing for people who live in the suburbs and have the chest freezer space for such things to do!” I thought. But after mentioning the article to a handful of friends hailing from states far more involved in cattle raising than my own native land (you don’t see a lot cows in the D.C. 'burbs) I realized it wasn’t that unusual at all.

So once I heard via my CSA that Awesome Farm was working with a neighboring cattle producer upstate to make split quarters of grass-fed cattle available for $4/lb (Whole Foods and the sellers at the Union Square Greenmarket regularly charge $16/lb or more), I hardly had to spread the word before I found five other beef-hungry urbanites who were interested in splitting a quarter with me.

Maggie and I examine the goods.

Even though we placed our order in September, it didn’t arrive until just yesterday. The thing about ordering a quarter steer is that the farm can’t exactly deliver it to you until three other customers have ordered the rest of it. Owen from Awesome Farm contacted me a few weeks ago after all four quarters were sold to set up the pickup time and inquire about butchering preferences. Since I don’t know a darn tooting thing about cow butchering, and since it’s hard to execute custom butchering instructions for four different customers of the same cow, we went with the farm’s recommended cuts.

The whole frozen lot, on my living room floor!

We ended up with 150 lbs all together, which meant about 25 lbs per person. There was a chance that the lot would be bigger, up to 175 lbs, since they don’t know how much the steer will weigh until they butcher it. Everything was delivered to The Brooklyn Kitchen’s brand-new (and rather awesome) location, which is conveniently just a few blocks from our place.

Once we picked it up, the matter at hand was getting the six of us in one place and figuring out the best way to divide everything evenly (and civilly!) Some parts divided surprisingly well: we had exactly 42 one-pound packages of ground beef and/or stew meat, and 12 total chuck and skirt steaks. The various roasts and nicer steaks like porterhouse and T-bone were a little trickier because we had only one or two each of about ten different cuts, but we managed to make sure everyone got something good and it all seemed relatively fair.

Each cut was labeled and wrapped in butcher paper.

Personally, I really like the concept of getting all my beef from just one cow for an entire season. Aside from it being reminiscent of ye olde family farm, it’s awfully convenient to have it all on hand. I hadn’t been buying much grocery store beef anyway, but when I did I was usually worried about getting it home and into the fridge in a timely manner. Not to mention the fact that ground beef from multiple cows (as many as 443 in one package (!!!) according to Marion Nestle’s "Safe Food") incites a major, major ick factor for me.

Freezer space to spare! The only thing I cleared out was our ice cream maker bowl, which we won't be using in the winter anyways.

I haven't cooked any of it yet, but when I do I'll likely do another post - Awesome Farm helpfully included some information on how cooking with grass-fed beef differs from cooking with conventional due to the lower fat content. Now if I could just decide which cut to make first!


  1. that sounds awesome (and not just because it comes from awesme farm). would love to be included next time!

  2. No problem! I've been hearing that from a lot of people and we're definitely going to do it again. We'll probably have to get at least a whole side next time!

  3. this. is amazing.

    what an incredible deal! i definitely would love to do this sometime. i checked out their site, but i'm guessing it's a small producing farm since their only two options were sold out right now? i told tristan about it though the other night. he started asking all these questions about specifics i couldn't answer, but he definitely liked the sound of it. i would for sure need to clean out a good portion in my freezer though, because there is certainly not enough room for the likes of what you girls all got...