By Rose McAvoy
Several months ago, friends of ours sent out an invitation to join them in purchasing a cow. Luckily they were only buying the meat and not a live animal. After a little discussion, we decided to go in for a 1/8 portion of the butchered cow. Historically I have not eaten much beef for both cost and caloric reasons. Over the previous year, I probably cooked 5 pounds of beef at home. Recently I have been thinking more and more about how we choose the food we eat and the potential ripple effects of our choices.
Reasons we decided to make a bulk purchase of beef:
- Taste and nutrition – We would rather not eat greasy food. Compared to factory raised grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef is extremely lean. We prefer the more meaty and slightly gamey flavor of grass fed beef. Studies have shown grass fed beef to be higher in nutrients, minerals, and “good” fats.
- Supporting local small business – The cow came from a family farm not far from our home so the money supported our local economy. We were able to visit the farm, meet the family, and see the other cows they are raising.
- Environmental – grass fed cows and small farming operations have a far lower impact on the environment than large commercial operations. Buying local means less travel to get from farm to table and a further reduced impact to the environment.
- Storage Space – We are fortunate to have a second freezer to accommodate large quantities of frozen foods.
The Little Helping and I had a great time meeting our meat. From our house, it is a short drive to the Mukilteo ferry dock and even though it was early March we were treated to a stunning spring day. The smooth boat ride through Puget Sound was just long enough to share a little snack before arriving at the south end of Whidbey Island. Our 40 minute drive to 3 Sisters Family Farm was picture perfect. The meandering highway lead us between quaint pastures framed by luscious fir and cedar trees. Above, bald eagles brushed the freshly washed marine blue sky. This was nothing like my usual grocery run.
I wasn’t sure what we would find when we arrived at the farm. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a massive pig pen perched over the water with a panoramic mountain view – but that’s what we found. From every angle the farm matched the day in its picture perfection. The Little Helping and I were greeted by the friendly resident felines and enjoyed their curious company and a picnic while waiting for our friends to arrive. One of the 3 Sisters and her mother were ready to load us up as soon as we gave them the signal. The errand could have been completed in minutes but we opted for a more leisurely timeline.
The kids peeked at the sheep in the barn, and sought out a very noisy but well camouflaged turkey. We spent a good bit of time watching the pigs vie for the best spot at the water spigot and root around in the resulting mud. I couldn’t get enough of their cute little tails. The Little Helping and I also went around to the back of the barns to get a good look at the cows. He observed right away that “meat cows are not very loud.” We hadn’t spent much time discussing the reason for our visit to the farm so I was pleased that he made the connection so quickly.
This being my first time purchasing an eighth of a cow, I wasn’t sure how much meat we were picking up. Our share turned out to be about 78 pounds and averaged $4.20 per pound of meat. I was happy to find the meat was beautifully butchered and vacuum packed in small portions. The family clearly takes a great deal of pride in their product. My medium-sized cooler was filled to capacity with ribs, top sirloin, London broil, ground beef, roasts, and soup bones. After loading the meat we reluctantly packed ourselves back into our respective vehicles and headed back toward the ferry dock. My anticipation of the stunning drive back to the boat made leaving the idyllic landscape of the farm only slightly easier.
It will probably take us close to two years to use all of the meat we now have stashed in our freezer. In the two months since our purchase we have made use of a few pounds of ground beef (see: Beefy Mushroom Stroganoff). I also rolled up my sleeves and got creative with some short ribs – stay tuned for that recipe, it was fantastic! The meat is as delicious as the farm was charming. We were very lucky to have the resources to make this purchase.
For more information about 3 Sisters Beef in Oak Harbor, visit their website: www.3sistersbeef.com
Here are a few articles discussing the nutritional content and possible health benefits of grass fed and grass finished beef: