20 April 2010

Having a Cow

This is rather off-topic, but I thought the subject so quirkily New Yorky that it was worth blogging about.

I have a friend who like to grill meat. So much so that he goes in with a dozen or so friends and acquaintances to buy a bespoke cow from a farmer upstate. This ensures them quality product, as well as the peace of mind of knowing where your meat is coming from. When the animal is butchered, the meat is driven down to Brooklyn where the investing parties gather in my friend's backyard and divvy up the shares.

I always thought this would be an interesting ritual to observe, so I asked my friend to let me know the next time his cow came to town.

First of all, I have to say I was stunned at how much meat one cow could produce. There were boxes upon boxes of frozen meat wrapped in butcher paper. There were more than 150 one-pound packages of hamburger alone. It never ended. Even divided among 16 people, each participant walked away with enough beef to last them four months.

Every cut was divided into piles. What couldn't be evenly distributed in 16 shares was debated over. This took a couple hours. The backyard became a bazaar, with people bartering over briskets, sirloins, flank steaks and porterhouses. The size of the cut, whether it had a bone or not, how much the meat would fetch in the supermarket—all these factors and more had to be weighed in order to execute an even trade. I would have been bilked for sure had I been involved in the negotiations. I like beef, but don't know one cut from another, and know nothing of the more expensive pieces because, frankly, I never buy them. Someone would have stuck me with ten extras pounds of ground meat and made off with my sirloin.


~*~Lilly~*~ said...

This is exactly how i grew up. (granted on a cattle ranch in the middle of america)But every so often when the beef supply was low, my father went out to the pasture & picked out the best new candidate (highly likely it had a real name & was sorta a pet)it was taken to the butcher & would came back in tons of these packages. In which would stock our two large deep freezes in the basement to supply the family for ages.

Sometimes my parents would trade beef with my grandparents for pork, lamb or chicken - all of it we could account for where it was raised, by who & what it was feed. Truly a pretty awesome thing - when i sit back and think about it now. (rather then that overpriced crap you buy at gristede's)

Ken Mac said...

this looks like bags/blocks of coke

MyMyMichl said...

Ken is right; it does sorta look like a police photo of a drug bust.

MM9U said...

A pot(roast) bust.

upstate Johnny G said...

Or, re the first photo, how about a cannibalistic serial killer whose last victim was a person named "Hamburger"??

Mr. Fourway said...

The folks you observed (I dont know if it was Rich's group down below the heights or Joey's bunch up in Williamsburg) (I brought them each a steer) would absolutely not have bilked you...
I know these groups very well and I'm sure other meat share groups are similar, they are very invested in seeing to it that the shares are fair, often they will be setting aside shares for someone who was not able to attend and a great deal of attention is always paid to fairness.
When you think about it it makes sense, by making sure everyone who comes has a good experience the group gains vitality and works better, attracting new members and increasing the buying power of the collective.
The other thing to keep in mind is that even if a mistake or oversight were made in the split up and someone were to end up with a share that was suboptimal... while it certainly would be unfair that others got more, it would be almost impossible to screw up so badly that your less-than-fair share was actually poor economy.
For example, this most recent beefening folks paid a little under $200 for a share that left the meat-up weighing over 40lbs.... so everything in the bag from the hamburger to the porterhouse costs a little under $5 a pound for pastured, grass fed, corn finished naturally raised, humanely slaughtered prime usda angus beef from a family owned new york state farm.
A popular upstate ny meat purveyor who will deliver your order to NYC and offers very comparable meat charges $5.99 for their ground beef. 40lbs of just ground beef from them would cost around $250 with the delivery charge.
If you didn't leave the event you observed with a sample of the meat, you might be missing the point a little. I urge you to contact your friend who brought you along and ask him or her to hook you up with a package of the burger.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Oh, I was just joking, Fourway. I'm sure they wouldn't have bilked me. The seemed like excellent and interesting people, and I really like the idea of getting together on shares of a cow. I would ask about getting in on it, but I think they have enough people as it is.

Mr. Fourway said...

Please ask! we'd be thrilled to have you.
The more people the more often we are able to do it.
The more frequently we buy the better.

Join the FB group to stay in touch... you can initiate an order just by weighing in and seeing if other folks in the group want in.