April 25, 2008

Where does steak come from?

“No, steak comes from the grocery store in plastic-wrapped styrofoam trays. We don’t eat cows.”

(By the way, Jackson is about 2 months old and doesn't understand a word of it.)

UPDATE: While I'm linking to cool things, this "motivational poster" is outstanding.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in linky at 07:35 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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Back when my niece was ten, she was given responsibility for taking care of the pigs on the farm one year.  Pigs being likeable critters, she soon had them all named.  Of course, the time came for the pigs to do their duty, and later that year, the freezer was filled with tasty wrapped pork. 

At a dinner I attended, BBQ pork chops were on the menu.  My grandfather tried to get my niece wound up by teasing her: "So, who do you think this was?  Gopher?  Pickles?  Biter?"

She looked at him with complete exasperation.  "Grampa, it's all just PORK, now."

Heh, heh.

Posted by: Toren at April 26, 2008 03:44 PM (iuLy1)


I'm a city boy, myself, but my cousins grew up on a farm. My uncle drove a cement mixer, but he also had about 20 acres. They had a pretty big section where they grew vegetables, and their front driveway had a row of crab apple trees along it, and maybe a third of it they used to grow and alfalfa. The rest they used as grazing for a small herd of whiteface, maybe 15-20 animals.

They had a deal with a local butcher, went on for years. Every once in a while they'd take him one of their steers. He'd slaughter it and butcher it. He'd return half, cut up and wrapped and labeled, suitable for freezing, and he'd keep the other half, and no money exchanged hands. My uncle had a big freezer in his garage and they'd load it up each time.

Hell of a lot of work for that butcher, of course, but he came out of it with a couple hundred pounds of good meat each time.

Between that and all the canning my aunt did, they were able to raise 5 kids on his wage as a truck driver. Of course, my cousins had no illusions about where their meat came from.

That was in the 1950's and 1960's. If you wanted to do something like that now, I wonder how you'd even find a butcher that knew how to slaughter an animal, and was willing to do it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 26, 2008 06:19 PM (+rSRq)


I grew up in the country as well, and I remember the first pig we had we named Wilbur of course. Pigs being as friendly and as sociable as dogs we all became quite fond of it; it loved being scritched behind its ears, and always wanted to play. But after we killed it and put it up in the freezer mom always had a hard time cooking it, just opening the freezer and seeing "Wilbur sausage (links)" or "Wilbur bacon" on the white paper-wrapped packages teared her up. So the later pigs we named "Sausage", "Pork Chops", etc. Which meant that the white packages in the freezer were now labeled "Sausage sausage (links)" or "Sausage bacon" or "Pork Chop ham (whole)". She didn't seem to mind that as much, though she was also careful not to get as attached to them after Wilbur.

We always butchered our own animals, whether pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits, as well as squirrels and deer that we hunted. One day dad decided the rabbits were getting out of hand, so we killed and butchered them all - I think there were over 150 of them. We filled up a whole freezer with rabbit, and ate it for years till we were sick of it. I can't stand it to this day. We also froze and canned stuff from the garden, so about the only thing we needed from the store were sodas and milk. Between the meat we raised and the deer we all killed we rarely ate beef, and it took me many years after I left home before I developed a taste for it. A couple of men in our church were really good at fishing, so sometimes we'd swap fresh vegetables for fresh fish, and dad also made molasses syrup from his red ribbon cane and that was also good for trading since most of the old variety of ribbon was wiped out by mosaic virus back in the 20's and the new varieties just don't have the taste.

Posted by: mparker762 at April 26, 2008 08:05 PM (vE4qX)

4 "That was in the 1950's and 1960's. If you wanted to do something like that now, I wonder how you'd even find a butcher that knew how to slaughter an animal, and was willing to do it."

You can, and we do.  Got a gentleman farmer in the family; we usually end up with half a steer each year.  Never can get it all eaten up before the next one comes along.

Posted by: ubu at April 26, 2008 08:24 PM (xS64s)

5 Most serving-the-general-public locker plants (read:  deer processors) would probably be perfectly happy to take a cow outside of deer season.  Of course, locker plants are a bit expensive these days--it costs about as much to get a deer turned into steaks as it would to buy hamburger steaks off the shelf now.  But again, for a cow offseason, you might get a better deal.

We butchered our own deer for years, but we simply took our cows to market and bought meat off the shelf for the most part.  We did raise a pair of steers for our own meat once, but that was twenty years ago and I have no idea how much that cost between better feed and locker plant costs.  We never did it again, so I suspect it wasn't that great a deal, and locker plant prices have gone way, way up since then.  If you want to really save money... you have to do the messy part yourself.

Posted by: BigD at April 26, 2008 10:54 PM (JJ4vV)

6 That's why what my uncle did worked. The cattle ate alfalfa he grew himself. Getting the animals butchered cost him half the meat, but no money. The only real expense was taxes on the land, I think.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 26, 2008 11:16 PM (+rSRq)

7 When my Dad took early retirement from Rocky Flats, we moved to a 40 acre farm where I spent the last 3 years of high school. We raised pigs, goats, chicken and cattle, which we all named for the first few years. As far as butchering we would haul the pigs and cattle to two different meat processors. One interesting bit is that with the cattle, you would never get the hide back, the processor would keep the hide and it would usually end up getting exported to overseas to places like Italy which would then tan them and sell them back to the US via fancy leather covered goods.

We did butcher the chickens ourselves but I was involved only once with that when we decided to do seven roosters at once. It took a very long time for me to get rid of the imaginary smell on my hands from plucking and cleaning all those birds. As far as the goats, we had some sort of arrangement with the local animal vet, not sure of the exact details but I believe she got some of the meat after she killed them.

Now my parents have a deal with a local rancher that they sold their much expanded ranch to earlier this year that they would get a half beef every year as part of the contract. They have donated a whole cow every year for a county fair BBQ for many years. The ranch family does all the butchering themselves so my parents just pay a little for the meat processing which is done by the rancher's dad, a retired butcher.

I always saw plenty of butchering of antelope every year when my dad was still active in hunting.

Posted by: ColoradoJim at April 28, 2008 02:51 PM (Xb9rh)

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