I don’t think my parents lived in constant fear of a catastrophe that would exterminate all grocery stores and hold us hostage in our home. But, they certainly stocked the kitchen pantry and basement deep freezer as if Armageddon could come at any moment. There was a never ending supply of canned, boxed and frozen goods ready for turning into a meal at our house. Or a meal for ten. Maybe even twenty.
I’m pretty sure it’s that aspect of my upbringing that makes the current state of my freezer so satisfying to me. Because it’s packed to the gills with seventy pounds of local, grass-fed beef.
About a month ago, one of my radio station co-workers asked me if I was interested in going in on a cow with her. It was being raised in Hugo, Minnesota, about a thirty minute drive from my Minneapolis home. It would be butchered just down the street. We’d pick it up and be set for the winter. Or until the apocalypse.
Naturally, I agreed right away. The last time Jay and I spent time with Alexis and her husband Angel, we went to a hip pizza place. This time, we met them on the farm for what we later dubbed “our meat date.”
Leo Lutz is the man behind this sign. He showed us where his cows live, just steps from where they are processed into beef to eat. There’s no massive truck hauling the cows to slaughter. There are no terrified cattle being brutally pushed and prodded into an assembly line of death. There aren’t hundreds of slaughterhouse workers forced to work faster and faster with no personal investment in the quality of their product.
There’s Leo. A man who raises cows and butchers two at a time.
Each cow is shot with a .22 right where it’s standing. There isn’t a panicked moment for that bovine before it dies and Leo says the lack of terror means the cow’s meat isn’t tough or bitter. The cow bleeds out where it falls to the earth. It is skinned and quartered just steps away.
And the split sides of beef hang in this cooler until they are butchered into steaks, roasts and ground beef.
The meat is wrapped in butcher’s paper, stamped by cut and labeled with the customer’s name. The ground beef in these packages comes from one cow, not hundreds of animals ground together in a massive vat and shrink wrapped.
Leo’s business practices are transparent and his property is open to anyone who wants to stop by. He even invited us to come back on slaughtering day. He isn’t a flashy man. He isn’t a hippie. He’s just a good man who does his work the right way.
Grass-fed beef, you say? Steaks? Locally raised? From a small farm and a one man operation? Ha, some scoff. Sure, if you want to pay and arm and a leg for it. But how can any normal, working class, American family just trying to make ends meet afford your fancy beef?
First, I’d argue that the food we put in the bodies of our families is worth investing in above all. More important than cable TV. More important than the latest video games. More important than new clothes. I could go on…but I think we’re all on the same page.
But I don’t even need to make that argument because the beef we bought from Leo cost a whopping $2.85 a pound. No matter the cut. I just checked an ad for the local big box grocer and found that on sale their store brand ground beef cost $3.49 a pound. A boneless round tip steak is going for $4.49 a pound. The cheapest cuts of corn-fed, industrially produced, grocery store beef can’t compare in cost to buying a nutritionally superior, ethically produced, grass-fed product directly from the farmer. And you can bet those factor farming feedlot operations won’t let you stop by to see what they’re up to at any given moment.
Now…just in case the end of the world does come…do I need a generator to make sure all that beef stays frozen?