Remember, the last time you had a burger? Yes, it tasted great, but did you really know what was in it? Are you aware of the fact that an average beef burger at your favorite fast-food place can contain meat from more than hundred cows?
Are you concerned about meat quality, including the use of animal hormones, antibiotics and byproducts in animal feed? Are you worried about rising meat cost, and the meaning behind new beef labels? Do you wonder how can you buy quality beef on a tight food budget for your family? If you do, this post if for you!
This post will focus on the following topics:
- Understanding new beef labels (conventional, grassfed, natural, organic)
- Pros and Cons of Direct Buy vs. Retail beef purchase methods (cost and quality)
- Facts about Top End Meat Alliance (Natural Beef Provider)
Let`s start by understanding your beef quality options and new beef labels.
Understanding New Beef Labels
- Animals are confined for at least 45 days to a feedlot before slaughter
- Feedlot ration is typically 85% grains, for estimated 97% of all cattle
- Animals finished in CAFOs (confined animal feedlot operation) facilities
- Largest CAFOS in US can contain up to of 50,000 cattle
- During Finishing phase animal feed may include manufacturing byproducts to reduce feed costs
- Feed may include cookie crumbs, sugar beet tops, orange pulp, candy, potato byproducts and potato waste, to reduce feed costs.
- Finishing phase will bring animals up to 1200 pounds and up to 1400 lbs
- Typical slaughter age is 16-20 months, but can be 24 months or older
Source: SLM (Back to Grass Report, p.9)
Grass fed – animals eat grasses only, the feed excludes grain, animal byproducts, or synthetic hormones. Animals are not given antibiotics to promote growth or prevent disease. (Credit Sustainable Table)
Natural – meat contains no added artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and should be only “minimally processed”.(Credit Sustainable Table)
Organic – In order to be labeled “organic,” a product, its producer, and the farm where the ingredients come from must meet the USDA’s organic standards and must be certified by a USDA approved food-certifying agency. Meat and feed is free from synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or sewage sludge, cannot be genetically modified, and cannot be irradiated. Animals are not treated with hormones or antibiotics. (Credit Sustainable Table)
Learn more about meat terms at Sustainable Table`s Glossary of Meat Production Terms
Direct Buy vs. Retail Beef Purchase Methods
Let`s start our discussion by setting the stage, by understanding four primary ways we buy beef. Basically, there are two primary purchasing methods:
- Grocery store, at retail prices or bulk (Safeway, Wal-Mart, Sam`s Club, Costco etc)
- Direct Buy, retail or bulk (cattle farm, farmer markets, farmer`s store, slaughterhouse)
Next, lets define each purchase method and discuss total cost and quality of your beef in each scenario.
Definition of Purchase Methods
Direct Buy is a purchase of your beef directly from the cattle rancher. Commonly used synonymous terms are “Farm Direct”, “farm-to-table”, “farm-to-fork”, “FTC or farm-to-consumer”, “DTC or direct-to-consumer sale”, among many others.
Retail, on the other hand, is the process of buying beef via grocery store. The vast difference between two purchase methods is the number of parties involved and the length of their supply chain (Credit: Wikipedia).
Next, lets analyze your overall costs using each purchasing method.
Total Beef Cost
Next, lets review overall costs of your beef via two different methods: purchasing beef retail at the grocery store or buying directly from a farmer in bulk. To understand the overall cost of each method we need to examine the supply chain for each method and review number of parties involved.
When you buy beef Retail, there approximately ten distinct parties involved. Supply chain starts with livestock action, feedlot operations, slaughter house, processor, wholesale warehouse, distributor, cold storage, retail store, and finally you – the consumer. Typically, length of supply chain tends to influence final product costs, since each one of the supply chain players adds their markup to overall product cost.
In contrast, with Direct Buy there are only two parties involved in your transaction: the family owned cattle ranch and the local slaughterhouse. Since the method eliminates 80% of extra handling, storage, transportation, distribution from the supply chain, you will end up paying only for the beef in your freezer, nothing else. No extras.
To drive point home about the cost savings I propose to compare total cost of purchasing Natural Beef via two methods: Direct Buy Bulk vs. Grocery Store Retail purchase.
Cost Advantages of Direct Buy Bulk vs. Grocery Retail
If you would like to check the math and see calculation details:
Download FREE Beef Cost Analysis Excel sheet Direct Buy vs Retail
Pros and Cons of Direct Buy vs. Grocery Purchase
Direct Buy Bulk Purchase Pros:
- Cost savings, due to lower overall per pound cost
- All beef is single sourced, one burger patty contains one head of beef
- More humane treatment of animals, due to smaller operations
- Higher quality end product with superior taste profile
- Consistent pricing, insuring against rising beef prices
- Supporting local family farmer to assure their financial sustainability
- Higher nutritional value due to better feed and raising practices
- Less contamination risk, due to shorter supply chain and less handling
- Great for larger families
- Custom beef side cut options (you choose how to cut your beef)
- Tim savings due to fewer trips to grocery store
Direct Buy Cons:
- Permanence, bulk purchase of 100 lbs of beef
- Less convenient if you prefer a variety in you protein consumption
- Additional electricity costs and storage space
Download PDF resource – “Buying Beef for Home Freezers Guide” from Oklahoma State University.
Grocery Retails Pros:
- You buy when, how much and what you want
- You can find really cheap products on sale
- Best suited for a single person or a family of two
- Great for folks that do not cook at home much and prefer to eat out
Grocery Retail Cons:
- Fluctuating prices
- Multiple, potentially hundreds of beef suppliers and beef sources
- Limited or no recourse for quality issues due to mass production
Top End Meat Alliance (Natural Beef Provider)
Now you understand the difference between Retail and Direct Buy purchase methods and conventional vs Natural Beef quality. Next, lets talk about where you can order your Natural Colorado Beef. The last section of the post is dedicated to an interview with Bill Korbelik, the owner of Top End Alliance Meat (TEAM) natural cattle farm located at Burlington, Colorado.
Bill Korbelik is fourth generation cattle rancher, operating on the same historic land with a primary focus on raising high quality, natural cattle since 1970ies. TEAM`s primary customers are health conscious families who are interested in to buy Natural Beef in bulk (whole, ½ or ¼).
Why buy Natural Beef from TEAM versus other farmers?
- Naturally raised beef: no use of preservatives, bi-products or steroids
- Cattle are grassfed for most of their lifetime
- Premium genetic profile, raising Angus and Chianina breeds only
- Finest feed, supplementing with Omega-3 for higher nutritional value
TEAM Natural Beef Quality:
- 100% Guarantee – no antibiotics, steroids, additives or preservatives in our beef
- Feed manufacturing process is controlled to assure consistent quality and safety
- Premium flavor profile: tenderness, great flavor, juiciness, marbling
- Raising practices: locally, humanely raised and slaughtered
- Hamburger patties and ground beef are single animal sourced
- Meat processing partner: small-scale, locale, USDA inspected facility
- Beef is flash-frozen immediately after processing
- Vacuum sealed beef packaging to prevent freeze damage
- TEAM owner personally observes and knows every single animal at the ranch
- Last 120-160 days animals are finished on corn and alfa alfa ration
Animal feeds includes fish meal supplements to boost Omega-3 to promote animal health and increase nutritional value
Here are some facts about TEAM Beef orders and delivery:
- Free meat order home delivery to seven states (including CO and WY)
- Currently accepting orders for Jan-Feb 2019 delivery
- Typical animal size= 1000-1600 lbs, age 18 months
- Packaging is paid separately to a processing plant
- Every order is custom cut, you define how your beef is processed
- Processing takes place at Ottaman`s or Innovative Foods
- Your order will be delivered to your house at no charge
How much does it cost to buy ¼ Beef at TEAM?
- Beef cost= $1.75/lb hanging weight
- ¼ beef cost = $550-750, and it depends on animal`s size
- Estimated take home weight= 110-130 lbs, depending on your processing requirements
- Take home, all-in cost per pound of Natural Beef = $5.30/lb
- Taking offal, soup bones, liver, heart, ox tale, tongue, dog bones, cheek meat reduces your price per pound to $4.60/lb and adds extra 20-30lbs of beef
How to place an order?
- Visit TEAM web-site, use Pre-order Form
- Like TEAM on Facebook, click Send Message
- Call Bill Korbelik at 1- 719-342-5974
Beef Bulk Storage and Thawing Tips from TEAM:
- Meat order can last up to 24 months in your freezer, without diminishing quality
- Thaw your steaks in the refrigerator (24-48 hours) or cold water
- Don’t use microwave “defrost” function, it will damage meat and dry it out
- Don`t use hot water to defrost meat, the results will be less than satisfactory
Get to know facts about your burger, read labels, choose better beef. You are an educated consumer and you have power. Whether you will decide to buy direct or retail, conventional, natural or grassfed beef, your decisions will have a direct impact on your budget and your family`s health. The choice is yours, choose wisely.
Lastly, I want to thank you again for learning more about your food, for caring and for sharing the word with others. You, me and millions of U.S. consumers who pay attention to what goes on our plate, we are trail blazers!
We are changing the world, one bite, one purchase, and one family at the time we are shaping the future of U.S. food industry. The future that our kids will live in, the future where food is yummy, affordable, nutritious and safe!
As a mom of three kids for the past 13 years I actively researched the topic of meat safety and analyzed our meat cost year over year. As everyone else, we started by buying meat at our grocery stores, then we moved to purchasing conventional meat in bulk at wholesalers.
Next, we tried Direct Buy bulk method and absolutely loved the beef we got. Direct buy purchase method provided us the highest quality meat for the least amount of money spent. For over ten years now our family purchased beef only from local farmers, who we know in person.
Disclosure: all calculation and numbers provided are for educational purposes only. Please consult with your cattle ranch farmer to clarify all details about their business and their product offerings.
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