I'm Having a Cow!


Don't you love it when the thing you've been looking for, or procrastinating getting, just comes to you? A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune kicked up my anxiety about finding a good source of antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cruetly-free beef.* Later that day, my mother called from work.

One of the nurses she works with had told her that her father was a farmer up in Wisconsin and he could sell us a half cow for $500-$700, under $2.50 a pound.

"It's organic," my mom said. Organic meat for $2.25 a pound? I was dubious.

Not one to take information about my food from the grapevine, I asked if I could call the farmer. My mom got his phone number for me right there, and two diaper changes, three spill wipe-ups and two baby nursings later, I finally got a chance to dial up Farmer Lars in the 608 area code.

* The editorial said there's a law in Congress to ban abuse of antibiotics in livestock. That's great news!

I was very pleased with our conversation. As I suspected, he is not a certified organic producer, but that doesn't really matter to me anyway when it comes to meat. The farmer was obviously a very kind man who was fond of his cattle. After reading in Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" about how eating corn is bad for cattle, I was hoping to find a producer of an entirely grass-fed herd. Lately I'd been buying at our farmer's market, who do graze their cattle but "grain finish" them. I'd only been buying ground beef or the occasional stew meat, because at $6 a pound it was the best I could afford in my $80 weekly grocery budget. I knew I could pay a little less than that if I bought a portion of a cow upfront, but I hadn't gotten around to calling around to local natural farmers about it.

The more I read about the life of an American industrially-raised beef, the less I wanted my family eating any. There's the cruelty, the food-born illnesses, the environmental damage. Sure, going vegetarian would be the best option for health and environment, but we didn't want to. This is why I was so excited to speak with Farmer Lars.

Lars does feed his little herd corn, which he grows himself without pesticides. But he also pastures them every day on 8 acres. He told me a little about their day, how they come meet him for their breakfast of corn, then lie down in the "lounging parlor," a shaded area, or walk out to pasture at will.

He said he "lets them take their time." He doesn't use growth hormones, steroids, or prophylactic antibiotics.

His daughter confided that he even names his cattle, something that the farmer himself didn't volunteer.

So, as soon as one of these guys is ready for slaughter, my parents and I will be splitting half a cow. Or steer. We'll also be visiting the Sears scratch and dent store to look for a small extra freezer for the basement. (Which will come in handy anyway for all those Catalina deals I do with the free ice cream.)

I'll take $5-$10 out of my grocery budget every week for the next year to pay for it. Then we just have to talk to some other farmers about getting some similarly well-farmed chickens and bacon in that freezer, and my meat problems will all go away.

I'm not spilling Lars' contact information. He's only fattening up seven calves right now. But I urge anyone concerned about the meat industry in this country (but not willing to give up hamburgers) to find your own Lars.

Photo by JelleS, used via Creative Commons license.



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Leah said:


We're doing the same thing this year! We have a friend that is raising his cattle hormone/antibiotic free, pasture-fed. He isn't certified organic, but his practices are the same. We're paying around $2.50/pound.

Emily,Ronnie,Carri,Sarah said:

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Well my father is a farmer and he gives me a cow every year for my family of 10. We pay 1.00/pound do to the fact that he is my father. He is certified organic. He sells cows to peopl for about $2.00/pound contact me for more info if you want

Carrie Kirby said:


$2 a pound for certified organic, that's great! I'm glad to hear that the price we were quoted isn't all that unrealistic. I'm pretty taken with Lars but if it doesn't work out I'll be in touch.

Corissa said:

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Is that $2.50/lb hanging weight? I ask because we looked into this when we lived in upstate NY a few years ago. Once you do the conversion from hanging weight to what you actually take home, it isn't quite as amazing a deal. I think the conversion was something like take-home weight was on average less than half hanging weight. So $2.50/lb would be a little more than $5/lb if you were comparing it to what you get at the store. And you have to look at what the breakdown of ground beef vs. steak that you are getting, since you're paying the same price regardless of the cut of beef. I agree that it is still probably worth it though.

Carrie Kirby said:


From what I understand we are talking about $2.50 a pound of meat, not of unbutchered animal. My husband asked the same thing.

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