half a cow from Wagon Wheel Ranch

This is our third time buying half a cow from Wagon Wheel Ranch. We split both cow and cost with T and C, our intrepid partners in local eating (they also get half of our CSA share every week). The beef is from a small frame steer, which produces about 125 pounds of meat per half. It’s a lot of meat, but split between two households, it’s manageable.

Each of the roasts and cuts come vacuum sealed into packages, and each package is labeled with the cut of meat and the month and year of slaughter. When you go to pick it up, you’ll get about four printer paper size boxes of meat. (The cat can be used to estimate the scale of this enterprise.)

four boxes of half a cow

We then split the beef in half, first by counting out all of the ground beef (it’s packed in roughly one-pound sacks), and then sorting out the rest of the beef on the table. The kitchen scale is there so we can most equitably split the cuts by weight. What you see is just the steaks and roasts; we left the ground beef in the boxes.

roasts and steaks on a table

After all was divided up, our quarter of the cow consisted of about 75 pounds, 40 of which was ground beef; about 19 pounds were various types of steaks (chuck, sirloin, NY strip, ribeye, filet), and the rest were roasts and miscellaneous cuts. We paid $437.50 counting the initial deposit, which works out to about $5.75 per pound.

This is a trifle expensive for ground beef (other local farms will sell it for $5/lb), but the savings become substantial once you move into steak and roast territory — you won’t easily find free-range, grass-fed steaks for under $10/lb.

After noticing that our take was lacking in organ meats and marrow bones, we asked the ranch and they said we could come by and pick some up. So we went back to the ranch and came back with two big bags of marrow bones, four packs of liver, a heart, a tongue, and a bag of unidentified smaller bones. I suspect they’re probably not from the same cow as the rest of the meat, but I don’t mind.

organs and bones

I didn’t weigh them, but since the beef costs the same whether or not you take the bones and organs, the total price doesn’t change.

We’ve also purchased lamb, chicken, and pork from the ranch in the past. The meat has been very tasty and satisfying overall, and it’s nice not to worry when I hear the occasional news about salmonella outbreaks and E. coli contaminations and the like. I also feel good knowing that the meat I’m eating was raised organically, on local pasture rather than on grain, and lived a happy life before it came to my freezer.

All I’m scared of now is a power outage.