Having a cow butchered - choice of cuts
highdesertlocavore, I thought this was an important enough subject for it's own post. I've copied in your question & ksrogers excellent answer below from the rendered beef fat discussion.
Find out how the butcher regularly packages the meat. In our case, we had two choices. We opted for a sealed in plastic, then wrapped in freezer paper. We've been happy with this so far, and expect it to last more than a year based on our farmer's experience.
I'm posting links to several online sites we found with beef charts or tips on having the meat cut. Think about what you like to eat. Would you rather have rib-eye steaks or a prime rib for Christmas dinner? I've never liked rump roasts, so I had that meat added to the hamburger.
Ask your farmer what leanness and tenderness you can expect. This varies with the age and breed of the cow. For his particular animals, our farmer has them butchered at two years.
I was surprised to find that many people don't leave specific instructions with the butcher and take what they get. If you have the time to study on it, I think it's worth it, but you'll probably get a good product either way.
Your farmer may have a list of what he usually gets when he butchers an animal for his own use. That might be a good starting point. My recommendation is to look at the sites I've listed, and any input from your farmer, then come up with a good idea of what you want. Take that list and talk to your butcher, because he'll probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect from your farmer's cows. (A smaller animal will yield less of everything than a larger one and will allow a bit less variety of cuts. A larger primal cut can be cut in more ways than a smaller one.)
If you want all the bones to make stock, be sure to specify that. I wanted the marrow bones (from the legs) but DH just said bones. The butcher wrote down soup bones. What I got was 3 packages of bone with a hunk of meat attached. I don't remember the cuts now, but they will make great soup bones - just not quite what I expected. I would probably write out as clearly as possible what I want before talking to the butcher. That way you'll be sure to talk the same language.
Our butcher is a 90 minute drive away, so we didn't talk to him ahead of time. DH drove up there to place the order. Since I'm the main cook, it would have been helpful if I went along! I didn't get the fat I wanted to render either. The butcher did tell us later that we were welcome to all the fat and marrow bones we wanted from other cows as most people didn't want them. If he were closer, we'd take him up on that.
HANGAR STEAK - this is a small steak that few people know about. Be sure to ask for it. It's supposed to be a great flavor and tenderness, but there's only one per cow so it never got into the retail market. Don't let it be made into hamburger.
Your dog will probably enjoy the organ meats. For that matter many people like them, but not me.
As for the fat that I was going to render. I wanted that mainly to brown beef in for stew or perhaps chicken fried steak. Any time you brown or fry meat in its own fat you really bump up the meaty flavor.
I don't think I've answered all your questions, so feel free to ask more. Here are the sites I've mentioned. There are probably more online, and I imagine your butcher had a meat chart up as well. If your butcher is local, I'd talk with him a few times before the animal is taken in to start collecting your thoughts.
If you email me, I'll send some meat charts we downloaded in PDF, gif or png formats.
Enjoy your meat! We cerainly have.
For anyone else, I can recommend a great butcher and farmer in North Texas (Pilot Point/Muenster area)
Posted by highdesertlocavore (My Page) on Mon, Nov 3, 08 at 0:37 HI Liz \- This is a bit of a tangent from rendering beef fat but I am about to get my first cow from a local farm and will have it butchered at a local butcher. I want to get the most out of it and have a wide range of things I will eat. I also have dogs that could eat things that I wouldn't want to. How do you suggest I tell them to butcher it and what extras (other than all the fat that I now know I should ask for) should I get? I just don't know even what to ask for. I appreciate any and all suggestions...
Posted by ksrogers EasternMass Z6 (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 3, 08 at 9:17
The more the butcher has to cut and trim, the more costly it can be for cutting up the whole cow. I think they have a time limit for the whole processes, and its based on how careful you wish to go with fat and some inedibles that are trimed off. Some of the fat can easily be trimmed off at home and you would bo a much better job at removing than a butcher would. Some fat runs wide, through a meat cut and if its tender small size cut of meat, they usually leave it in (rib eye for instance). Also, things like tenderloin need to have the fiberous muscle removed (peeled) off the length. If its not, its tough and stringy. Cut against the grain for things like brisket and flank. Most of the meat should have some marbling of fat in the tender parts, which give more moistness and taste. Also, chuck, and top of the round are great for hamburger. Bottom of the round is a bit bland, and can be used for meatloaf that gets highly seasoned. A Food Saver machine would be a great investment to protect all the frozen meat from getting freezer burn, discoloring, and loss of moisture (that icy buildup inside the bags). Using Freezer paper and then a plastic bags might offer a couple of extra months to the frozen parts, but the FS bags are 3 times thicker and hold up very well to freezing, as they also remove air from the bags before they are heat sealed. They also take up less space compared to freezer paper and zipper bags. Before the meat is cut into the specifics its always a good idea to age it a bit beforehand. The longer the aging (sometimes many weeks!) the better the taste and texture. Long aged beef is expensive as it also has to take into account some surface loses due to a little mold or drying. That is called 'Prime' meat, then Grade A (not usually very common) and then 'Choice' which is usually most Supermarket cuts. Choice is not aged very long and has more moisture inside and is a bit tougher. I have bought some tenderloin and wrapped in a big kitchen towel and stored in the meat drawer of my fridge. Its left about 2-3 weeks, then the towel is changed and its placed back in the fridge another 2-4 weeks. The end result is a more mellow taste and very tender! The various beef cuts have been renamed (some years ago) and have also been very confusing when it comes to the actual names they now use to describe each cut. Beef based sausages are also great if you have a stuffer and meat grinder and like some summer sausage, pepperoni, or salami. If the butcher gives you back everything, including many big chunks of fat, its rendered by slowly heating in a big heavy pot, which can take a few hours. You end up with small brown pieces that the dogs would go crazy for once its cooled. I make bird food with rendered beef fat (suet) that was previously frozen. The rendered fat gets mixed with hulless bird seeds and the woodpeckers are flocking to it daily, as most other birds would also do once its cold enough outside. The dogs would also like some BONES, and any muscle fiber and cartilage. Beef ribs are a good cut for people, but do take up a bit more freezer space, unless cut with a meat/band saw. Most all bones and tiny bits of meat can also be simmered down to make beef broth, which can also be frozen. The rule of thumb is if originally raw then frozen it can be cooked and refrozen again. If its raw, and not previously frozen, you can cook and freeze as usual. Grinding meats at home can also be done with a decent food processor, but consistancy of the various sizes of the small pieces will vary greatly. This is great for a meat chili, where you want a few small bits bigger than hamburger. Most hamburger is made with really tough cuts (chuck) and is run through a grinder twice with 1/8 inch or smaller holes in the plate. Then, there are the internal organs like liver, and some others, which people or dogs relish as well. Happy butchering!!