The implications of buying a cow

When we decided to buy a cow we had no idea it would require so much work, and be the catalyst for a whole series of changes in the way we view food, food acquisition, the environment and more. This has been a long time coming. My strong position on environmental stewardship and conservation has been influencing me for years to buy organic. But the more I learn about the food chain, the food industry and the planet, the further I get from organic as the focus. But this just makes it more complicated. Now I look for:
  • local (to support the local economy and cut down on transportation waste)
  • sustainably grown
  • humane treatment of animals
  • natural pest and weed management practices (to protect water systems)
  • non-GMO foods
  • as little processing as is truly necessary (i.e. grinding wheat to make it be flour) and no more
So, you can see that shopping for food has become a whole political-environmental-economic experience. I actually think that is how it should be, but that isn't how it generally is in our world, so it has taken some getting used to. Reading In Defense of Food (Pollan) and The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan), not to mention Fast Food Nation (Schlosser) all made a big impact on the way I view our food, too. And not in any way that is of benefit to Tyson or ADM.
Ok, back to the cow. So, in our quest for meat that meets all the requirements (see above list) we began to consider buying a whole or half cow, direct from a farmer, specifically seeking a grass fed cow. Well, you can't just find road-stands with a sign, "Buy your fresh beef here!", you know. So began the search. Lucky for me I have found a great website: Eat Wild. Here you can view all the local farmers in your area, so long as they have made themselves public, and find contact information for them. These modern-day farmers even have websites! Oh hallelujah!
But then, I am acquianted with loads of new terms I've never met before: hanging weight, beeves, pounds written as "#" and all sorts of other things that made deciphering these potential transactions very confounding. Thankfully, even modern-day farmers are still very happy to talk to you.
Turns out, when you order a cow directly from the farmer you get a lot of say so in how much meat you get, how it is cut, how it is packaged, how much is in any one package, whether you want it frozen or not and so on. Imagine!! So much input in the product! What an idea.
After calling several farms, we have nearly decided who we want our cow from. I am excited to get it. We are excpecting about 175 lbs of meat. I have NO IDEA what I will do with that much beef, but I bet we'll have more steak than we used to (none). And we'll make lots, and lots of chili. I can't wait.

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