Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Big Beef Day

Beef. It's what's for dinner.

Well, the day finally arrived - thanks to Erin from Simply Frugal Mom, we got our delivery of 1/8th of a cow. We've been really looking forward to this and are excited to taste some of it. We received a few roasts, a bunch of steaks, some miscellaneous cut up bits, and a bunch of ground beef. Overall, I'm very happy with the haul, although we may want to tweak some of the selection next time. We let the purveyor pick what we were to receive this first time and I think we can do with a bit less ground beef. Don't get me wrong, I love ground beef, but I've become accustomed to grinding it myself and will miss that for the next few months.

The beef hasn't completely overrun our freezer, which was a pleasant surprise. For the past week, I would have day dreams about not being able to fit everything in and being forced to eat beef for every meal for weeks just so none of it would spoil. In reality though, it was no problem, and we could probably stack 1/4th of a cow if we wanted to. It helps that we don't have a lot in the way of frozen food, otherwise the situation would be a lot different. The only other thing taking up a lot of space in our freezer is stock.

Speaking of which, I made a batch of beef stock on Sunday. OK, so I had to make a little room in the freezer for the beef, so all those old beef bits I've been hording went into the stock pot. My stock always looks "dirtier" than the stuff I get at the store. There are more bits floating around in it, even after its been strained and it never looks as dark or rich, but in taste, it absolutely trumps store bought stock. For those of you home cooks out there who haven't started making your own stock, I would highly encourage that you start. Elevating the quality of your basic ingredients will pay off big time on your plate.

Back to the beef, it came from Wapato, WA, which is about 170 miles away from our place. When we first started trying to be locavores, I had high expectations about how close to home we could get. My grand ideas comprised mostly of having a network of local farms that would be an easy drive away. I would be able to go on-site and procure everything I needed and get home before dark. I quickly found out that the world worked much differently than I imagined. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the I-5 corridor is urban/suburban sprawl from Tacoma to Everett. That's about 60 miles north to south of uninterrupted concrete. Farms need space and within the "greater Seattle Metrosprawlitan area" that's getting harder and harder to come by. The second reason is because of property taxes. In the counties where you have those big cities and suburbs, property taxes are so high that would-be local farmers cannot make farming a viable way to earn money. If you head east from I-5, you can actually get to "country" after about 20 miles, but in those high property tax counties, namely King County (Seattle's county), you'll be hard pressed to find an actual full-time, working farm (if you do find one, you should probably go in and ask them if someone has to supplement that farm income with an outside source).

Some of my dreams were dashed when I found this out. Not only on the procurement front, but on the life front. I was hoping that one day, I could quit my day job, start a farm relatively close to "civilization" and have all the perks of rural and urban life. Alas though, the world does not work like that, which brings me back to Wapato. Wapato is great, it lives in the Yakima Valley, the breadbasket of Washington State, and just about the closest you can get to Seattle to start a farm. In the spirit of full-disclosure, I'm exaggerating, but only by a little bit. 170 miles. 3 hours away. Over a mountain pass. How "loca-" does that make us?

Regardless of the answer, it's just about the best that we have, and you can't really ask for more than that. Needless to say, I won't be taking an impromptu drive to find out what the name of my cow was before eating it. Maybe it would settle for being pen-pals.

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