Food for Thought: I bought a cow.

cow with text

MARCH 2013 – I’m at this BBQ and I overhear my sister-in-law’s father say that he is getting ready to list his two-year-old cow on Craigslist for beef. Wait, what? You can’t hear something like that and not be intrigued, right? So I butt in (gracefully, I’m sure) and start asking questions and it appears to be one of his favorite topics too, because we just keep talking until I realize I just told him I want to buy his cow. And I mean it. And I plan to eat it. How can this be happening?

FLASHBACK to 1995ish – I’m in one of my favorite college elective classes, Earth: The Habitable Planet where I learn that if every American reduced their beef consumption by 10% we could use the space used for growing grain for the cows to feed everyone hungry on Earth. I, being a young, impressionable, compassionate person at a liberal arts college with a banana slug as a mascot, go all in and take out 100% beef consumption for over a decade. See myself doing my part. Oscillate from making uninformed food choices as a vegetarian to making uninformed food choices as a chicken eater. Gain 15lbs on cheese cutlets. Suffer from anemia off and on rather routinely.

FLASH to 2007-2008 – Read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and fall in love with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Fascinated by the question, If you don’t think you could kill a pig or a cow, should you be eating them? Watch Food, Inc. and vow not to support factory farms. My O- blood gets rejected for blood donation due to low iron. Find local grass-fed beef supplier at the farmers market. Eat burger (ground beef fits in the budget) – immediately feel better.

FLASH to 2008-2012 – Consume small amounts of local, grass-fed beef from the farmers market most weeks. Join a CSA and massively increase produce intake. Enroll in Culinary School. Iron levels normalize. Cheese cutlet weight (and baby weight) shed. It doesn’t take much beef for me to feel really good. Good thing, because I can’t really afford much.

APRIL 2013 – I schedule the slaughtering of a cow so my family can have affordable high quality beef from a cow that ate grass and loved leftover squash from the garden. I saw her photo; she is adorable. I turned down a chance to meet her. Just the process of picking up and sorting the 325lbs of beef she provided (I’ve found several other families to share the meat) and being a part of her butchering story brings me close enough to the process to truly feel gratitude for the meat in my freezer.  I know I will do whatever it takes to use this meat and make sure it nourishes my family.  I will make bone broth. I will share burgers with my family and friends. I will plan my menus around all the different cuts of meat my cow provided. My gratitude extends to the hard-working couple who took the time, energy and money to raise my cow, and the butcher who very kindly took care of the butchering process, talking me through all the decisions I had to make. This cow has become an integral part of my intent to eat (real) good food.

I can’t help but think that if everyone knew the realities of the lives and deaths of the animals we eat, our consumption of meat would be honed to the “just right” amount our individual bodies require to thrive. I doubt it would even be close to the 60+lbs of beef being consumed by the average American each year. And most of us would demand that the meat come from healthy animals raised under humane conditions. This would be revolutionary and it might just save the world.

I bought a cow for beef. My gratitude will enrich my meals. My conscience tells the young banana slug inside me that I’m still doing my part.


**I am fascinated by the different paths that we each travel in regards to what we eat (and don’t eat); how our “food rules” change over time.  Do you have a food rule that has changed over time? Was there a specific event that changed the rule, or was it a more gentle process?  Please share in the comments!**

{This post is linked to Sunday School at Butter Believer!}

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8 thoughts on “Food for Thought: I bought a cow.

  1. It’s interesting how similar our beef journey as been. I too swore off it in college, had my O+ blood rejected due to low iron, and realized I was sick every single week because of my anemia. Small amounts of beef make me feel much better too. And I’m super grateful to be part of what Jeff and I call the Bessie Project.

  2. Food has been an interesting dilemma in my house. My husband would be vegan if he cooked. I, on the other hand, was the meat and potatoes girl. We compromised at white meat and try to eat vegetarian when we can. Although I have to admit, sometimes all I have in the house is chicken stock. I only get red meat at restaurants now; which I am sure is not as good as your cow, but I will check out the farmers market. Thank you for your fabulous blog!

    • It is so interesting to hear how everyone’s food stories evolve and ebb and flow. For farmers market beef in Sacramento I recommend both Lucky Dog (at the Country Club farmers market on Saturdays and at the farmers market under the freeway on Sunday) and Coffee Pot Ranch (at the Carmichael farmers market on Sunday). Thanks for the support!

  3. Growing up we always bought a cow from grandpa’s farm and had a freezer full of beef! I always wondered how we were fed the tongue……

  4. Pingback: Five Things List: Food Edition - Lean.Green.Kitchen

  5. Pingback: I am a work in progress. And I'd like to take a time machine to 1871. That's all. - Lean.Green.Kitchen

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