The way it works is a few families get together to order enough beef to slaughter a cow, called cow-pooling. Each buyer pays a flat rate of about $3 to $5 per pound, which is much less than you would pay for grass-fed beef anywhere else, according to Time magazine, which has a story about cow-pooling in its June 15, 2009 issue.
“That price includes ground beef and stew meat as well as tenderloin and filet mignon, not to mention beef tongue and a cantaloupe-size heart,” the story says. (Note, heart is apparently a good substitute for bacon?!)
Jean Edwards, a woman interviewed for the story, has an extra freezer to preserve the side of beef she purchased (about 250 lb ) as part of her cow-pool. The meat lasts about a year.
Assuming you can eat that much beef – about 2/3 lb each day for a year – how much does it cost to freeze? If you don’t have an extra freezer, how much does one cost?
Let’s look into this because these costs are a real part of buying “cheaper” beef. Home Depot has a 7.2 cubic freezer for $219. Shipping is an extra $149, which brings the freezer cost to $368.
How much electricity does this freezer suck up in one year? Hubby suggested I check EnergyStar.gov, which has an easy-to-use calculator to determine how much you can save by either upgrading an appliance or by getting rid of an extra one. (Look for an upcoming blog post about this.) Energy Star says running the Home Depot freezer would cost $57 bucks a year.
That means the total cost of buying a side of grass-fed beef is:
250 lb x average of $4/lb: $1,000
Cost to buy freezer: $368
Cost to run freezer: $57
Total: $1,425, or about $5.70 per pound of meat in your first year. In your second year that drops to $4.20/lb, assuming your freezer is still working.
Is $4.20 – $5.70 more or less than you pay on average for beef? It’s much higher than I usually pay, though we never buy grass-fed beef. Apparently once you eat grass-fed beef, it’s hard to go back to the regular (corn-fed) stuff.
LocalHarvest.org helps you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area if you want to buy produce and grass-fed meat.
EatWild.com has information about grass-fed meat and links to farmers who sell grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy and other wild edibles.