In search of a Magical, Mystical Cow

I am in search of a magical, mystical cow, and I am hoping that you can help me.  The magical cow that all cow calf operators and ranchers are looking for is the one that consumers of beef believe exists.  This magical cow is one part T-bones steaks, one part filets, one partNew Yorkstrip steaks, and one part Sirloin steak.  Just think; no ground beef, no stew meat, and no low end steaks.

 Of course this cow doesn’t exist, but there are those that believe in its existence.  I was in the USDA processing facilities, when the young lady at the counter was on the telephone working on a cut sheet.  This individual had purchased a beef from a local farmer and then circulated a sheet among her co-workers.  Her co-workers had signed up for an exorbitant amount of Sirloin, Flat Iron and T-Bone steaks.  The clerk was pulling her hair out trying to explain that it didn’t matter what she wanted, her magical cow did not exist.

 Now don’t get me wrong there is a way to get 60 T-bone steaks out of a cow.  In realty it is easy, as long as you like 1/16” thick steaks (I’m sorry, uncooked lunch meat with bone.)  As Albert Einstein once said, its all relative; the thicker the cut of steak, the fewer of those steaks that exist.  Conversely the thinner the steaks, the greater the number of steaks you receive.

 So where am I going, years ago I was at a Virginia Forage and Grasslands Council meeting and the presenter said that a cow is roughly 20% steaks, 30% roasts and 50% trim.  Trim could be considered ground beef, stew meat, soup bones etc.  The more beef I raise the more I realize the accuracy the correctness of these figures.

 It gets better; do you realize that there is only one Hanger steak per cow?  How about 2 briskets, 2 Flank steaks and 2 Skirt steaks per cow, does that sound about right to you?  And just so you know the last cow that I had processed had 12 1-inch T-Bones, 12 1-inch Porterhouse steaks and 12 1-inch Sirloin steaks these 36 steaks totaled 42.48 pounds.  Great yield out of an 1100 pound cow don’t you think?  Notice there are no filets and N.Y. Strip in the list, you can’t have it both ways.

 My reason for this blog is to open the eyes of those asking about purchasing whole, half and quarter beef.  How do you split a hanger steak four ways, you don’t.  This is why when you want a quarter cow, you have to find your own dance partner so to speak.  If you want Porterhouse steaks, and I want N.Y. Strip we can’t share the same cow.  Are we going to cut the brisket in half, or will I get the brisket in exchange for you getting the Flank steak.  Tough call without a doubt, but the call must be made.

 Then there is the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) factor over which the farmer has no control.  For starters once the cow has been killed the inspector checks the cows teeth, if a given set of molars has erupted, then spinal material can not be present in your steaks.  This means that you might want Porterhouse steaks, but the USDA inspector might say sorry, you have to accept N.Y. Strip and Filets.  I do not control the inspection, and I don’t argue with the inspector, I accept the decision and move on.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the outcome until the cow is dead.

 Then there is labeling; the processor is approved for certain labels and certain names.  It might be minor, but then again maybe not.  As an example my processor has an approved label for Hanging Tender, it does not have an approved label for Hanger Steak, same thing different name.  Same way with Rib Steak versus Rib Eye, the label has to be approved to be used.

 Not to mention that there are two types of labels.  There is the generic Fauquier’s Finest label, and the Walnut Hill Farm custom label.  The generic label does not have the weight on the package, where the custom label has the weight on the package.  Oh yeah, did I tell you that the custom label cost $0.15 per pound.  That’s right if you want the weight displayed you have to pay an additional $0.15.  I have no choice you do, the choice is yours.

 There is more to know, but I am sure you see where I am going with this blog.  To make it easy you can turn everything into ground beef and split the ground beef in half. 

 Most importantly make sure that grass fed beef is to your liking, all grass fed, without the first grain of corn is not the same as corn fed beef.  I suggest before purchasing half a cow from Walnut Hill Farm that you try some ground beef, and a steak or two to make sure our beef is right for you. Most individuals don’t purchase a Mercedes Benz without first taking a test drive.  If you purchased an 1100 pound live weight cow from us this fall, expect a total price of approximately $2200.00 for 325 pounds of finished weight.  Putting it politely that is a whale of an investment only to find out you don’t like locally raised grass fed beef.

 Withering in the heat and drought,