Buying higher-quality beef by the cow can save money. More Austinites are buying quality, local beef by the cow. Buying in bulk can be significantly cheaper than buying the same quality beef from the grocery store. (CBS Austin)

Buying higher-quality beef by the cow can save money

More Austinites are buying quality, local beef by the cow. Buying in bulk can be significantly cheaper than buying the same quality beef from the grocery store.

Just down Highway 71 in Bastrop, dozens of cows roam free eating grass and lounging in the sunshine. At Bastrop Cattle Company, owner Pati Jacobs believes in giving the animals a good life.

“I think if you’re going to raise animals, you should respect them,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs sells grass-fed beef to Austin-area chefs and families. The cows are also antibiotic and hormone-free and usually born and raised in Texas.

“First of all, it’s more nutritious,” said Jacobs. “Second, you are supporting local ranchers, and thirdly, we are actually pretty competitive.”

Cuts of Jacobs’ beef can be found on grocery store shelves at places like Royal Blue Grocery and Wheatsville Co-Op.

But while many of her customers enjoy grocery store convenience, others prefer getting a bargain by buying in bulk.

Bastrop Cattle Company offers customers the opportunity to buy half or whole cows.

“You get a cut page and it lists all the different cuts you can have,” said Jacobs. “I’ll go over it with you and I’ll make recommendations for what best suits your family. If you really want a lot of roasts, we will try to cut more roast. We will cut the steaks to whatever thickness you want.”

Customers pay by the hanging weight of the cow. With shrinkage, customers pay about $7.50 a pound for all cuts of the beef.

“That means, you are paying for hamburger at $7.50, and you’re paying for your ribeye, tenderloin, everything at $7.50,” said Jacobs.

It is a steal when you compare that to current prices of grass-fed beef at places like Whole Foods. There, a ribeye will set you back about $18.99 a pound.

Even at H.E.B, non-grass fed, value pack options for a ribeye will set you back about $8.77 a pound.

The drawbacks to buying beef by the cow may be that you need between $1,000-$1,200 up front. You also need extra freezer space to store the meat.

A half-cow is typically enough to feed a family of four for a year. A half-cow at Bastrop Cattle Company weighs about 200 pounds.

Celeste Fahnert and her family first bought beef by the cow 5 years ago. She and nine other families split the meat, splitting the costs.

After that, Fahnert was hooked. She continues to buy half-cows, usually splitting it with just one other family.

“You’re getting briskets, and sirloins, and ribeyes, and tons of ground beef for less than (grass-fed cuts at the grocery store,)” said Fahnert. “So, it’s definitely, value wise, worth it.”

Fahnert said knowing where the meat comes from is a huge plus.

“We’re living here in Austin and we can’t raise cattle in our backyard, so the next best thing is to go somewhere like (Bastrop Cattle Company) where we know and are able to see where they are raised and what they are eating,” said Fahnert.

Bastrop Cattle Company beef, according to Jacobs, is higher in several vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids than conventional beef.

According to the Mayo Clinic, grass-fed beef is generally accepted as a healthier option.

Conventional beef raised or finished on feedlots are typically given little space to move around and stand in their own waste. Feedlot cows eat grain to gain weight fast, despite being ruminants designed to consume grass. Because of those factors, the feedlot cows need antibiotics to survive, according to Jacobs.

Grass-fed beef is not graded by the FDA as select, choice, or prime. Grades are based largely on marbling in the meat. Jacobs says her meat is typically closest to a choice cut.

Another grass-fed beef company, Grass-Fed Beef Of Texas, sells cows by the 1/8th, 1/4th, half and whole, as well. Owner Logan Davis said he is looking to transition his business to just selling bulk beef, rather than at local markets. He’s hopeful more consumers will realize buying beef by the cow is an affordable option.

Both Davis and Jacobs welcome customers to their ranch to see and learn about their businesses.

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