And three reasons why you should.
Nice to Meat You
It’s important that I start by telling you this: I stopped eating poultry and red meat in 2006. I spent more than a decade on veggie burgers, beans, lentils, soy products, tofu and just being hungry. I’ve passed on pepperoni pizza, steak tips, chicken barbecues and ball game hot dogs.
Then in 2016, after the birth of my second son, I learned that I had become fairly anemic. I started taking iron supplements and trying to eat more dark green leafy vegetables with my tofu-dogs and Quorn brand meatless meat. I stuck to my guns and continued to steer clear of the meat aisle.
But in the decade or so that I had spent shopping for and feasting on alternatives to meat, I noticed a slow but steady shift. In the early years, there were one or two veggie burger brands and two or three types of tofu. In more recent years, those numbers have grown from single digits into the dozens.
It used to seem like the non-meat alternatives were a healthier choice, compared to animal protein. But over the last year, as I sat at dinner with my family — all meat eaters — watching them eat organic chicken breasts, as I ate a meatless veggie burger with 35 ingredients, most of them unpronounceable and chemical sounding, my thinking started to shift.
So earlier this spring, I started eating little bits of meat. Aside from one hilarious incident that involved sprinting out of my classroom to the bathroom, I haven’t experienced any negative side effects.
In fact, I feel great.
Except for the fact that I am now a participant in the troubling world of factory farming. While I am happy about the not being anemic, qualifying for the super-platinum level of life insurance and running faster than I have since my early 20s, I feel a lot of guilt about the terrible agricultural practices I am now supporting.
Which is why I decided it was time for me to buy a cow. I wanted to purchase and eat a whole cow, so that I could stop worrying about the animal abuse, contamination issues, environmental degradation and human rights violations that are related to factory farming.
It has been an eye opening process and one that I highly recommend. If you’re interested, follow the steps below.
How to buy a cow
Step 1: Find a cow
I am lucky to have a lot of insider connections in the world of grass-fed beef. Growing up, my parents were dairy farmers and they continue to dabble in livestock production on their 100 acre farm in upstate New York.
My dad has three grass-fed beef cows grazing on his property right now, but they are already promised to other people.
When I explained to him that I had started eating meat again, he was so excited for me that he started making some calls.
As it turns out, my dad’s friend Ray has two heifers (young, lady cows) that he was planning to send to auction. They have been living on pure pasture for the last ten months, but he didn’t want to have to buy them hay for the winter, so off they go. Such is the way of old farmers.
Ray agreed to sell one of them to me. My dad’s cows already had a date at the slaughterhouse, so we all agreed that one of Ray’s cows would just join them for their date with death. Dark.
If you don’t have connections like I do, I would recommend asking around at a local farmers market or checking craigslist in the nearest rural location.
Step 2: Do a lot of math
Ray has offered to sell his cow to me for 3.00/lb hanging weight. The standing weight of a cow is how much it would weigh if it stepped on a scale today. The hanging weight is how much it weighs after its head, legs and skin have been taken off.
Typically, the hanging weight is about 65% of the standing weight. From there, the meat is cut into useable chunks. The total weight of those usuable chunks is called the cut weight. Usually the cut weight is about 65% of the hanging weight.
It costs about .35$ per pound to have the meat cut into T-bone, porterhouse, cube steaks, minute steaks, etc.
Plus a slight surcharge to have some of it ground into hamburger.
Plus a $35.00 charge to kill the cow in the first place.
Here’s the problem: the cow is walking around out in the field, covered with a big, shaggy coat of winter hair. Nobody knows how much it weighs.
So the total cost, as well as the total take-home amount of meat are unknowns, hidden beneath the gentle demeanor of this big, beautiful bovine whose days of grazing are numbered.
The best I could get from Ray and my dad is that the cow will weigh about 1,300 pounds. If that’s true, her hanging weight will be about 845 pounds. Then her cut weight, or the amount that I would be purchasing would be about 549 pounds.
After doing a lot sidewinding math, I called my dad again and he told me to skip the math — I should plan on paying about $4.00 per pound for my meat. That’s a lot cheaper than the $21/lb for steaks at my local butcher shop, but buying a whole cow would still cost more than $2,000 which was a little out of my budget.
Cost aside, that’s also more meat than I can handle. If I plan to use up the meat in a year, I’d have to eat a little more than 1.5 pounds per day.
Considering I’m only a beginner in the meat-eating game, it seems like I would be biting off more than I could chew — figuratively and literally.
Step 3: Find Friends Who Want To Buy A Cow
I learned that it’s common to buy a quarter of a cow instead of a whole cow. So I started asking around.
It didn’t take long to find three other people who were interested in buying a quarter cow. A quarter of a cow would be about 140 pounds of meat, a much more reasonable amount of animal flesh to store and eat.
I got a ‘cut sheet’ from the butcher and checked off the boxes for what cuts of meat I would prefer. Since I haven’t cooked or eaten meat as an adult, I kind of relied on an ‘every-other-box’ pattern. I did select the box for tongue, because I have fond memories of my grandfather slicing up meaty ovals of cow tongue and eating them with mayo and pepper. And I selected the ‘Dog Bones’ box because I’m tired of paying $5 at the pet store for some lousy old pig femur.
Step 4: Feel Great, Not Guilty
This is a hard one that I am still struggling with. As I write this, my pretty little cow is eating, sleeping, pooping and peeing. On December 4th, she’ll be slaughtered. It will be quick and painless, and I’ve studied enough biology to know that her thoughts aren’t complex enough to feel an impending sense of doom or regret that she never sent that draft of her novel to an editor.
But still, I’ve spent most of my adulthood excusing myself from this type of guilt.
It’s hard to rejoin the masses.
But steak tastes great, and makes me feel great. And I’ve done my best to find the best, most humane steak I can find, so shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it?
Again, we’ll see.
Finally, Here Are Three Reasons Why You Should Buy A Cow of Your Own
1. Health Benefits of Grass Finished Beef:
Cows are ruminants. They evolved to eat grass. Modern factory farms feed grain to cows, which they did not evolve to eat. Although cows can live on grain for a short while, it changes their body chemistry.
Grass fed cows have a much healthier balance of Omega6 and Omega3 fatty acids than grain fed cows. This helps us, because Omega3s are good for our eyes, our brains and other body parts that we need to keep healthy.
Red meat has a bad rap when it comes to saturated fats and cholesterol. But grass fed-grass finished beef that has never been fed grain — as nature intended — is a healthy source of protein and a good source of the ‘healthy fats’ that your body needs.
2. Support Small Farmers:
Meat is cheap in the grocery store because big factory farms do anything they can to cut costs and raise animals in the least expensive way possible. This includes feeding cows low-quality, unhealthy food. It includes polluting the land air and water, and it includes crowding animals into filthy, unnatural confinement areas. It includes paying workers at every level of the food chain the absolute minimum, and treating them as a replaceable commodity.
If you’re still not sure what I mean, check out this video.
Buying your own whole cow allows you to see the conditions your cow was raised in. It makes it profitable for guys like my dad and Ray to raise a few cows under the best conditions possible.
It prevents your dollars from supporting factory farms, where top heavy decision-makers focus on profits, not people, the planet or animals.
3. Don’t Be a Mystery-Meat-Eating-Coward
I’ve heard people say that they could never eat an animal that they had met. Or they could never eat an animal that had a name.
If you are one of those people, consider this: your willingness to eat faceless, nameless animals is what allows factory farms to exist.
Sorry to throw shade your way, but the good news is this: You can change. Today. Those animals that you’ve never met but you happily chow down on definitely had a worse life than the ones that you can visit at your local farm.
Animals die. We eat them. It’s a cycle that has repeated itself for tens of thousands of years. Lean in to it and maybe it will awaken your inner caveman.
And you know all those cavemen — and women — were jacked and lookin’ hot in their loincloths and bone jewelry.
Why wouldn’t you want to be like them?
As it turns out, I really like writing about animals. Check out these articles for more:
How Did All These Cows Get Here?
It’s time we all learned a little more about how bovines bang uglies.