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How do you get your quarter cow/calf?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created September 10, 2010 at 7:02 AM

Yesterday I got my quarter grassfed calf from the butcher, 60kg. 25kg of those were roasts, 4kg ground beef and the rest... was cut, torn and sawn into pieces. A huge pile of, how they called it, boiling meat. I was lucky enough to get the liver which they otherwise would have thrown away.

Upon closer inspection at home I found some huge steaks (like 20x40cm in size), smaller steaks and really good chunks of roasts in that pile. I don't know what these people were thinking (if they did think at all) but I can't imagine this to be the "right" way to cut up a cow.

Granted, there are many ways of doing it but "right" for me implies to use as much meat as possible. Fortunately I was able to save a few steaks from the boiling meat pile but everything was covered in bone meal and sorting, cleaning & cutting through the pile took me 6 hours (which I gladly spend on my food - if I it BEFORE). As a result, I added another 5kg of sliced meat to the balance, also 2kg of steaks and it looks like I will get another 4kg of boiled meat. I have taken a look at some of the ProteinUniversity videos but could not really find a coherent video on this, so could you help me? What would be proper way(s) to cut up a quarter cow?

(And yes, the neighbour's dog has not been happier his whole life.)

590987831dd6f6542829e69bb9ea6a48

(508)

on November 19, 2010
at 01:02 PM

There is a lot of work to cutting and wrapping the meat and more chance of freezer burn with the smaller pieces. What I have started doing with the deer that we get is to either roast or pressure cook a whole quarter of deer with the bone in and then freeze the cooked meat with broth in glass wide-mouth pint jars. Mom used to pressure can deer in the jars and that makes for an even quicker meal later.

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 11, 2010
at 11:04 AM

That's exactly what I am planning for next year: Have the animal slaughtered as close to the farm as possible (15 minutes in this case) hang it for as long as possible and get the "whole quarter". I will do the cutting either all by myself (did it with a deer two months ago) or get a neighbourhood butcher to do it in my kitchen. It turns out that the other customers only want roulades. Roulades, roulades, roulades - and discard the rest. Wow. -- Spending another two days in the kitchen, I've salvaged some wonderful broth and the expected stew meat. Thank you all for the feedback!!

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on September 10, 2010
at 08:49 PM

@DaveG ---- FYI the EU (along with Japan and the USA) is among the worst, if not the worst, when it comes to government subsidies for agriculture.

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 10, 2010
at 01:57 PM

#1: Indeed, butchering is the same - but he might as well have given me any piece of meat (he didn't, though). #2. Cattle in Germany is mostly fed corn, corn silage, grass silage and grain. That's true for all our "organic" brands as well. "Premium" beef is marketed via Galloway cows which are easy to feed and raise in general. But on my trips through the Netherlands I always wonder about the thousands of cows I see on their paddocks - those look healthy. It seems to me that France has a higher standard when it comes to certain foods, they also don't have a problem with raw milk.

0e0a1536e729f7e769bf193fa1204e1b

(175)

on September 10, 2010
at 01:43 PM

Just out of curiousity, is beef corn fed in Germany? I know that the butter we use is from France (Presidente) and Ireland (Kerrygold) because they are only grassfed. American cows are corn fed due to government subsidies for corn which make it an extremely cheap feed. I don't think the same circumstance would apply in Germany, but I could be wrong. I would check into it. It may be that all beef is grassfed in Germany. I'm not sure, but it's definitely worth checking into.

0e0a1536e729f7e769bf193fa1204e1b

(175)

on September 10, 2010
at 01:40 PM

In terms of processing or butchering, grain fed vs grass fed would have no impact. That dog next door is one very lucky canine. For your sake, I hope this is the last time he gets such a generous bounty :)

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 10, 2010
at 12:38 PM

Thanks, Mark - see my comment to DaveG. This was a "professional" butcher but I must admit that I have yet to meet a butcher who really loves his work. The price was around 9,30$ per kg of pure meat. Amazingly low, but standard for this kind of deal. I guess I will keep my eyes and ears out in the look for a passionate butcher now.

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 10, 2010
at 12:34 PM

Thanks, Dave. The farmer himself is a very nice and passionate guy, he also raises Galloway calves. The cow was sent to a "professional" butcher and I got it there. The very few words I exchanged with them was about the amount of stew meat but I have the feeling they did neither understand what I was talking about, nor the difference between this cow and the grain-fed animals they usually process. And that might be the heart of the problem: "Grassfed" is not even a term here in Germany. No one knows what and how valuable it is. I'll talk to the farmer next week.

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6 Answers

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5
0e0a1536e729f7e769bf193fa1204e1b

(175)

on September 10, 2010
at 11:14 AM

That is definitely not right. We have been ordering a 1/2 cow every year for the last three years. We get a variety of steaks, roasts and ground beef, with some stew meat (the less desirable/tough cuts). When you order the cow, the butcher should walk through a variety of options with you: fat ration on ground beef (70/30 beef to fat IMO is best), rib steaks vs ground beef, keep or discard offal (keep), thickness of steaks, how many cuts to a package, etc.

We have never received "boiling meat". Assuming "boiling meat" is stew meat, you should never receive the quantity you are describing, maybe 10 - 15 lbs (4 - 6 kgs) or so. It should certainly be "clean" and not covered in bone meal and also cut into small pieces for ease of stewing.

My best guess is that you are dealing with a newbie butcher or more likely a farmer who is doing his/her own butchering and doing it extremely poorly. I would certainly have a conversation around some sort of partial refund, unless you got an extremely low price to begin with.

While it is certainly significantly less expensive to get grass fed beef by the quarter or half, it is still more expensive than corn fed and what you are describing is simply unacceptable.

I would also speak with the farmer if they were not the butcher and let them know the problems you have had.

When done right, grass fed beef in quantity is absolutely fantastic. Our family can never go back to getting SAD beef, nor would we want to!

Good luck with straightening this out.

Regards, Dave

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 10, 2010
at 12:34 PM

Thanks, Dave. The farmer himself is a very nice and passionate guy, he also raises Galloway calves. The cow was sent to a "professional" butcher and I got it there. The very few words I exchanged with them was about the amount of stew meat but I have the feeling they did neither understand what I was talking about, nor the difference between this cow and the grain-fed animals they usually process. And that might be the heart of the problem: "Grassfed" is not even a term here in Germany. No one knows what and how valuable it is. I'll talk to the farmer next week.

0e0a1536e729f7e769bf193fa1204e1b

(175)

on September 10, 2010
at 01:43 PM

Just out of curiousity, is beef corn fed in Germany? I know that the butter we use is from France (Presidente) and Ireland (Kerrygold) because they are only grassfed. American cows are corn fed due to government subsidies for corn which make it an extremely cheap feed. I don't think the same circumstance would apply in Germany, but I could be wrong. I would check into it. It may be that all beef is grassfed in Germany. I'm not sure, but it's definitely worth checking into.

0e0a1536e729f7e769bf193fa1204e1b

(175)

on September 10, 2010
at 01:40 PM

In terms of processing or butchering, grain fed vs grass fed would have no impact. That dog next door is one very lucky canine. For your sake, I hope this is the last time he gets such a generous bounty :)

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on September 10, 2010
at 08:49 PM

@DaveG ---- FYI the EU (along with Japan and the USA) is among the worst, if not the worst, when it comes to government subsidies for agriculture.

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 10, 2010
at 01:57 PM

#1: Indeed, butchering is the same - but he might as well have given me any piece of meat (he didn't, though). #2. Cattle in Germany is mostly fed corn, corn silage, grass silage and grain. That's true for all our "organic" brands as well. "Premium" beef is marketed via Galloway cows which are easy to feed and raise in general. But on my trips through the Netherlands I always wonder about the thousands of cows I see on their paddocks - those look healthy. It seems to me that France has a higher standard when it comes to certain foods, they also don't have a problem with raw milk.

2
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 11, 2010
at 01:09 AM

Something I didn't know when I first got into paleo was that butchery is an art and what cuts you get from an animal depends on the butcher. There is no part of an animal called t-bone, that's an invented cut that can be other cuts as well. I was a veg*n and had never even cooked meat before, so it took me some time to figure it out. Now I know cuts well enough that I can request that. What you get from your cow/pig/lamb/whatever share is pretty dependent on the butcher and/or slaughterhouse, so shop around. Also, I've requested things and then have had the slaughterhouse mess up severely and throw things away I wanted. I've even heard of people getting the wrong animal back...this supply chain thing is tough!

One thing that's really really really dependent on these people is charcuterie. Many slaughterhouses have a standardized bratwurst "mix" they use that suuuuucks/has crap ingredients and they won't use your own recipe unless it's USDA approved or some bullshit. In that case have them give me the stuff that would normally go into the sausage and I have my own butcher make it. If I were more skilled/had the equipment I would do it myself. NYC Paleo Meatshare has been extraordinarily lucky to have skilled butchers advise us in the process.

Here is a list from my current lamb supplier: LEGS WHOLE OR HALF (bone in/out) LAMB CHOPS OR ROAST RIB CHOPS OR ROAST FRENCH STYLE CUT RIBS SPARE RIBS THICK CUT SPARE RIBS LEFT WHOLE ON RACK SHOULDER ROAST WHOLE OR SHOULDER CHOPS BLADE SHOULDER ROAST OR CHOPS SHANKS WHOLE OR CUT STEW MEAT OR KABOBS GROUND OR SAUSAGE (BRATWURST SIZE, ORGANIC SEASONINGS) NECK BONES FOR SOUP TONGUE HEAD HEART LIVER KIDNEYS

My last supplier had a totally different list! I wish I still had it, but I wasn't as happy. The money cut here is the organic seasoned sausage because this supplier got a special recipe approved. I also like getting the head. The last supplier threw that out and also didn't give us the bones. Since we have a lot of offal-eaters and some people who feed their dogs raw, we want EVERYTHING. The main thing missing here is the blood. It's hard to get a slaughterhouse to handle that properly. At some point NYC paleo is planning on doing the slaughter/processing in house??? cut out ALL the middlemen. Then we'll get what we want :)

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 11, 2010
at 11:04 AM

That's exactly what I am planning for next year: Have the animal slaughtered as close to the farm as possible (15 minutes in this case) hang it for as long as possible and get the "whole quarter". I will do the cutting either all by myself (did it with a deer two months ago) or get a neighbourhood butcher to do it in my kitchen. It turns out that the other customers only want roulades. Roulades, roulades, roulades - and discard the rest. Wow. -- Spending another two days in the kitchen, I've salvaged some wonderful broth and the expected stew meat. Thank you all for the feedback!!

1
6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on September 10, 2010
at 12:12 PM

When I got my 1/4 cow it arrived in recognizable cuts (chuckroast, flank steak, hamburger, sirloin, etc.). All of the cuts were neatly wrapped in white butcher paper, with the cut written on the outside. In other words, it was professionally butchered.

Your experience makes me wonder if there were other issues with your beef. Grass fed beef is currently a premium product; it's more expensive per pound because these cows do not weigh as much as corn-fed beef. For a premium product, I'd expect that standard butchering practices be employed. Why didn't the rancher send the cow to a butcher?

3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on September 10, 2010
at 12:38 PM

Thanks, Mark - see my comment to DaveG. This was a "professional" butcher but I must admit that I have yet to meet a butcher who really loves his work. The price was around 9,30$ per kg of pure meat. Amazingly low, but standard for this kind of deal. I guess I will keep my eyes and ears out in the look for a passionate butcher now.

0
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 11, 2010
at 02:47 AM

That sounds pretty bad. When I was a kid, my mother went out hunting and shot a deer. Then the whole family plus a family friend (who was more experienced) got together to cut it up into pieces and wrap them up for the freezer. We were amateurs but all the meat was turned into coherent slabs of meat wrapped decently in paper. We labeled them with the part of the animal it came from like butt, flank, etc. Another friend I know does it in a similar way but also takes the less favored parts and has them ground into hamburger (or I guess that would be called deerburger). The only complaint I sometimes have is that the slabs of meat are often larger than I would prefer as there is only one of me and I don't always want to defrost 10 servings of meat all at once. Of course, I realize that cutting smaller pieces would amount to twice as much work so I don't complain too loudly..

590987831dd6f6542829e69bb9ea6a48

(508)

on November 19, 2010
at 01:02 PM

There is a lot of work to cutting and wrapping the meat and more chance of freezer burn with the smaller pieces. What I have started doing with the deer that we get is to either roast or pressure cook a whole quarter of deer with the bone in and then freeze the cooked meat with broth in glass wide-mouth pint jars. Mom used to pressure can deer in the jars and that makes for an even quicker meal later.

0
19ef9c009267f32da2b28b5374792e3c

on September 11, 2010
at 12:43 AM

I'd also be interested in learning about any resources that detail cuts of meat one could expect to get from a cow - i.e. assuming the whole cow weighed 600lbs, what are the roast/steak/stew meat options to be had?

0
04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

on September 10, 2010
at 05:45 PM

A "butcher" or butchering a beef to me would mean, wrapped separately into family size roasts, steaks, hamburger with the all the various cuts ready for you to use at home. All my beef comes this way from the butcher who does like his job. I cannot imagine what the heck happened here but is just plain wrong and NOT standard procedures.

After you get your 1/4 beef the only prep you should be doing is throwing it in your freezer.

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