Thursday, July 21, 2011
I am reading this book right now and totally fascinated by the art of preparing good meat. "Art?" you say? Yes! When you get really high quality meat from animals that live their lives as they naturally should on pasture the meat is fundamentally different than the stuff you buy in the grocery store. Not only are the animals raised differently but their meat goes through a very different process of cutting, hanging, aging and packaging than you get with meat from your local chain store.
This year I purchased half a hog and a half a steer (which steer I then divided with a friend) from Meadow Run Farm. Last year we bought our quarter from a different farmer and the meat was fine but we didn't feel like we got a good deal. Enter: Offal. Offal is just about everything edible other than the "meat" you are used to buying. By requesting the offal and choosing to eat it we save money because we pay by the hanging weight (weight of the hanging animal before cutting). Also, it seems far more respectful to the animal and less wasteful if we make use of as much of its body as possible.
I wasn't prepared by just how much extra stuff I would be getting. Not only did I get the organs, tongues, tails etc. of the pig and steer but I also got the fat for rendering into lard and tallow and the bones for stock. Learning to prepare organ meats can be challenging but that is why I am reading the above mentioned cookbook.
Now for the nitty gritty details: Our side of pork had a hanging weight of 100 lbs. and cost $325. Of actual cuts we received 15 lbs. of ground pork, tongue, liver, heart, kidneys, about 20 lbs. of fat, lots of bones, 1 tenderloin, 12 lbs. of pork chops, 1 rack of baby back ribs, 4 shoulder roasts, 1 shank roast, 10 lbs of pork belly (bacon), 3 ham roasts, 3 ham steaks and 2 packages of spare ribs. The roasts are all between 3-4 lbs. each.
Our quarter of beef, after being divided with our friend had a hanging weight of 115 lbs. and cost $392. Out of that we got 24 lbs of ground beef, 9 lbs of hamburger patties, 3 chip steaks, 3 lbs. short ribs, 2 flat iron steaks, 1 petite tender, 8 soup bones, 2 chuck roasts, 1 sirloin tip roast, 7 New York Strip Steaks, 4 Filet Mignon steaks, 8 Delmonico steaks, 4 mock tender steaks, 1 Tri Tip roast, 2 sirloin steaks, 2 London Broil, 1 brisket, 2 eye roasts and 1 skirt steak plus probably 30 lbs. of bones and fat. We haven't yet received our offal and ox tail but we will be getting it next week.
Fun stuff! This should last us until next summer but anticipate that we may need to buy more ground beef. It truly is a pleasure buying directly from the farmer and having so much choice in what we get for our dollar. I highly recommend going onto to Local Harvest and searching for farmers in your area. Being able to know where the majority of the food we consume comes from is such a blessing. Even with the high price tag, the assurance that what I am feeding my family is of the highest quality keeps me coming back for more.