Should You Raise Your Own Beef?: The Backyard Beef Boom, and Where You Stand In It
Growing up as the son of a dairyman, I’ve always been lucky enough to have meat that has come from animals right off of the farm. We would have an animal butchered and then split up the meat between a few family members. It would be enough meat to last us months, and save us hundreds of dollars on our meat grocery bill. I know that not many people have had this luxury and have always purchased meat from the store, because that is their only option. But now we are seeing a large resurgence of backyard beef operations across the country.
It used to be that every family had a couple cows, a couple chickens, a couple goats a pig or 2, to cover many of their family’s food needs. That lifestyle has long since gone, but we do see more people now raising some of their own beef cattle due to a few things. One, being the desire to know where the meat came from that you are putting into your body, and how was that animal raised. Was it grass fed, antibiotic-free, fed only non-gmo or organic feeds? These are questions that have become more frequently asked in recent years due to the desire to know, what exactly are we putting into our bodies.
So, if we would like to know exactly what we are eating when it comes to our beef, there are a few options.
Raise it yourself- If you have the acreage, time, and tenacity to raise an animal yourself, there is no better way of knowing exactly what you are getting out of your meat than being the one who raised it.
Find a local farmer or butcher to refer you to one- there are now many farmers who will raise a cow for other people, in the way that they would like to have them raised. This option may be a little more difficult, and contain more variables, but is still a viable option.
Read the labels, and do your own research- Like with everything in this day and age, we are suffocated with options. Every kind of meat has a plethora of options, clean, grass fed, non-gmo, etc. So research what all of them mean, and make your own decision on what you want to put into your body.
Pros of raising your own beef cattle
Taste- If you have eaten homegrown beef your whole life, and then eaten meat that is bought in a store, there is most often a substantial difference in taste. Not saying that store bought meat necessarily tastes bad, but the flavor of homegrown beef is a step above if I do say so myself.
Price- At first it may seem like you aren’t saving any money by raising your own beef animals, an the truth is, you’re not. The upfront cost for starting a beef operation of even one cow, can be substantial. But after all of the initial costs are taken care of and you find a good pattern for your specific schedule and needs, the savings on your meat grocery bill will begin. Just like anything, buying in bulk will almost always save you money. The cost of a butcher to kill, cut and package the animal will be your final cost but depending on your location and your butcher, these prices will vary tremendously. But you get to decide what exactly you would like out of that animal. How many steaks, and what cuts of steaks, how much ground hamburger you would like. So the ability to choose exactly what it is that you want out of your animal is most definitely a great upside
Cons of raising your own beef cattle
Time- To raise such a large animal, such as a cow, the amount of time it will take to grow it from a small 100 pound animal to around a 1000 pound animal is substantial. With raising a beef animal comes a much larger responsibility and the sacrifice of time and energy. They have to be fed and watered daily as well as they must have some sort of bedding that will need to be cleaned up and kept dry consistently.
Space- Depending on what kind of meat you would like, you may need some acreage to pasture a beef cow. If you do not pasture your animal, they will need to be fed grain and hay all year long, which can get a bit pricey. If you do pasture them, for a large portion of the year you will not have to feed the cow any hay, which will dramatically help your feed bill.
Fencing- Along with acreage to pasture your animal, you will also have to keep them fenced in that area somehow. You can choose many different options: single strand, triple strand, wood, etc. but all of them will come with an expense, and some will work better than others to keep the animal in. If you decide to use an electric fence option, there are also a few additional expenses such as an electric fencer.
If you have the space, time, and tenacity to raise a beef cow or 2 on your own, I would greatly encourage you to do so. It is a great option that will help give you peace of mind about where your meat comes from as well as what that animal has been fed and raised on. And I guarantee that it will help give you a greater appreciation of farmers as well as the generations that came before us that knew raising their own animals and food as a way a life and survival, not as an option.