The Beef Project
Well we have officially ventured out into the direct marketed beef business. I am really excited to offer our homegrown meat for sale. The tricky thing is how to convey to people what we have and why they should try it. Luckily, we are not in the beef business to make a bunch of money. We love cattle, green pastures and the lifestyle we lead. We are very blessed to be a part of the Crestview Angus family farm and to have access to the high quality of meat that we are raising. We are looking forward to selling to our local community and providing them with healthy, sustainably raised beef.
In 2008, Joe and I moved back to Rome, Georgia to get back to work on Joe’s father’s farm. Joe had invested a lot of time and sweat equity in the cattle over the years and it was time for him to get back to developing the herd. You see, he had left Rome to chase this gal out to Texas, convince her to marry him and then drag her back to Georgia. He managed to do that in less than two years. When we got here, we arrived with grand plans and high hopes. While we still have them, we are also more and more aware everyday of the current economy and the reality of paying bills while raising a family and trying to keep the farm running.
About a year after returning to the farm, we realized something about the groceries we were purchasing. We were buying beef in a store when we had direct access to some of the best beef-making genetics out there. We raise registered Angus cattle and Joe has been selecting sires and cows for years to make the best breeding animals that would raise the best beef calves. So why weren’t we eating our own beef instead of the stuff you find in the grocery store? Why were we buying ground beef that came from who-knows-where, was fed who-knows-what and traveled who-knows-how-far to get here? Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with grocery store beef. We have an extremely safe food supply in the U.S. Measures are taken each and every day to ensure that Americans can confidently buy safe food in our stores. I just want to talk about the benefits of local food and why I am so grateful that we are able to eat our own beef.
In the late fall of 2010, Joe partnered with a friend of his that had a custom deer processing facility to process a heifer for us. Of course, custom processed meat cannot be sold to the public, we just wanted to get some meat for our family’s freezer. We were extremely happy with the meat we got back from our friend. We had plenty of ground beef to get us through most of the coming year and some great other cuts to work into our meals as well. He also made a pretty awesome summer sausage that we enjoyed as well. We learned a little bit from that first processing too. We worked with the same friend the next fall to process two more animals. We decided to make the cuts a little thicker and let the two heifers grow out a little longer than the first one to try and get the size of the steaks up. Again, we were very happy with the outcome. The flavor and tenderness of our beef far exceeded what we had been buying in the grocery stores. And Joe perfected his burger and steak cooking skills along the way so that I cannot even hope to get a restaurant to cook either of those as good as he does.
So basically, we love the beef we are growing. We no longer buy ground beef from the grocery store since we have been able to keep a steady supply in our freezer. You might be thinking, “yeah and it doesn’t cost you anything to get it.” We don’t have to go to the store and spend money when we want to grab some beef to cook but it is definitely not free. We have the cost of raising the beef animal from calving to somewhere between 18 and 24 months of age, we have the opportunity cost of not selling the animal at market and we have the processing fee as well. But we feel that it is well worth it to know that we are eating top quality beef. Our cattle are raised on grass pasture their entire lives, they are treated humanely, they are not given hormones, and they don’t leave the farm they were calved on until we haul them to the processor.
The next part of the story is about the processor. We received several requests about purchasing our beef and so we began researching where we could have our animals processed and federally inspected to make the meat legal to sell. We found a retired meat scientist that had re-opened a processing facility in Blairsville, Georgia called Mountain Meats. In October we took them one of our fine bovines and we were extremely impressed with how spotless their entire facility was. While all federally inspected facilities must be clean in the meat cutting areas, sometimes the live animal pens can be messy (you know where cows pee & poop & eat & drink before going inside to the slaughter floor). But even the live pens were spotless. We were also very excited about the knowledgeable staff that talked with us about all the meat cutting options we had. Their packaging is great and their steak cutting turned out really nice product.
We currently have several freezers full of frozen beef from this processing in October. The animal dressed pretty heavy which means we carried home over 700 pounds of beef. Of course, that is not all steaks. I’m sure most people realize that a cow is not made of all steak but did you know that almost half of the carcass is ground into hamburger?
This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the meat. It simply means you only get a limited number of cuts from a carcass. There are only so many filets (we had 15 cut from this animal), so many ribeyes, so many roasts, etc. You can then make stew meat or ground beef with the rest of the meat. The major benefit of buying our ground beef is you know it came from one animal and that we did not add anything to the meat. It is purely and simply beef ground into hamburger. And it is delicious!
Again, we are excited about our new direct marketed beef project. Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in giving Crestview Angus Beef a try!