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Archive for the ‘marketing tips’ Category

>Preparing to store frozen beef

Posted by Thrivelearning on October 28, 2010


image Photo:

When you get that whole beef back from the processor, what are you going to do with it?

It’s all frozen and you want to keep it that way. You are getting nearly 400 lbs of frozen food there. So you have to get a freezer which will hold it all. That top freezer on your home refrigerator isn’t going to cut it. Scope it out at maybe 3 cu.ft. max.

Checking into freezers found a reference on a Sears site page for a 12.1 cu ft upright freezer that will hold 424 lbs. of food. We can fit a whole beef into one freezer (we usually got a half-beef at a time and it would fill up about half a freezer. That freezer is a 14 cu.ft freezer, so the math from Sears above is about right. 

Now, the recommendations are to store beef at 0º F. This is –19º C. This is what enables you to store beef for a year. See this Wikipedia article:

European freezers, and refrigerators with a freezer compartment, have a four star rating system to grade freezers.

  • *  : min temperature = −6 °C (21.2 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is 1 week
  • **  : min temperature = −12 °C (10.4 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is 1 month
  • ***  : min temperature = −18 °C (−0 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is 3 months
  • *(***) : min temperature = −18 °C (−0 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is up to 12 months

Although both the three and four star ratings specify the same minimum temperature of -18°C, only a four star freezer is intended to be used for freezing fresh food. Three (or fewer) stars are used for frozen food compartments which are only suitable for storing frozen food; introducing fresh food into such a compartment is likely to result in unacceptable temperature rises.

Chest-type freezers are more efficient (the cold air doesn’t drain out when you open the door), but have to be mostly manually defrosted – from Consumer Guide Products:

When evaluating freezers for purchase, you must consider two major factors: space and purpose. If you are planning to use the freezer to store items for several months at a time, and don’t need quick access to all of your frozen foods, then a large chest freezer would be appropriate for you. Upright freezers take up as much square footage as a refrigerator would, and they generally afford easy access to all materials. Upright freezers generally cost more than chest freezers and they are less energy efficient. Some upright freezers offer an automatic defrost feature; all chest freezers require manual defrost.

My own use in this is to figure out how I can take two beef to the processor every 2 months and then sell those cuts during that time. Initially, I thought that I’d need a walk-in freezer. But these start out as kits for about $4,000 and I’d only get a large closet. Building it myself would cost as much and take much longer.

Pricing these out shows that uprights are more expensive and less efficient (just more convenient) than a chest-type freezer.

Shelling out a couple hundred for a used freezer to begin with would then hold a single beef.  I could then re-invest the profits in a newer/new freezer so I could deal with 2 beef at once. Otherwise, the profit from the first four beef would go into paying off that walk-in.

Since our farm is setting up to sell 10 steers a year, I can space these out so that we’ll have only one beef a month, but to make this more efficient (less trips to the processor), I’d do two beef per trip, every other month.

Of course, where I could sell one by the quarter/half and the other by the cut, then this would seem to bring the profits and cost into line. Less profits selling by the quarter, but you don’t want to worry yourself half to death with trying to get rid of excess cuts while you are trying to build your clientele.

Thought you’d appreciate these notes about food storage. Now, note that you can get little 3 cu. ft freezers (about the size of your average dorm refrigerator) for less than $300, and that should hold your quarter nicely, plus not take up much room in your house (just don’t put refrigerators or freezers in your un-insulated garage, as they’ll quit on colder days.)

For me, I’ll be looking for a used chest freezer which will fit through our basement door so I can take the next step in making our off-farm beef sales sustainable.

– – – –

Now, if you follow that picture above back to, you’ll find a blow-by-blow account of someone who found 3 other someone’s to help her share a quarter-beef. Worth the read.

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>Why Grass Fed Beef Has to Cost More

Posted by Thrivelearning on October 3, 2010



Short answer: to allow local farmers continue to stay in business against the cut-throat competition of multi-national corporations and their lobbyists.

And this is the simple reason people choose local farmers and their beef over the “mystery” beef they can get in the big-box grocery stores. You know (or can find out) exactly where it was raised, how it was raised, and exactly what went into the meat you’re eating. You always pay more for real quality. And what is your health worth, after all…?

Ask a hot dog or sausage producer (or your local supermarket frozen-food stock-person) those questions and you’ll either get a blank stare, or some politically-correct mumbo-jumbo about how they can assure your quality and compassionate standards, etc. etc. But they can’t tell you the farmer’s name or what town his farm is outside – because they don’t know.

Now, prices are kept low for the corporate “mystery” product, because they buy in bulk from farmers (who are kept poor), and then run then through massive operations where scale and volume make up for half the cost of what you buy. You can bet there’s at least a 20% profit margin before the chain-store adds theirs on. So about 1/4 (maybe) of that goes to the farmer if that beef wasn’t corporate-owned originally (but that is a very generous allotment – the jury is still out researching this…)

When you buy direct, the majority of that money goes back to the actual farmer. But out of a $4 pound of hamburger here’s why it costs that much:

Start off with a 1,000 pound animal

Buy it from the farmer at about $900. (.90 per pound, which is 5 or 10 cents premium – it’s easier to take it to auction and get .80 or .85 per pound – and it’s turned into mystery beef.)
= $900

Out of this, you get about 650 lbs. of hanging meat – this is the whole carcass minus head, hooves, skin, and entrails (guts).

Take it to a USDA-inspected facility (where Big Brother watched everything) and get charged .55 per pound for inspected hamburger which can be sold by the pound.
= $357.50

Now, they cut it down to your various parts (or grind the whole thing) and you wind up with about 60% of that carcass, or 390 lbs. You don’t want the big bones and most of that fat. And the processor sells that, anyway (yes, here’s your dog & cat food and hotdogs…)

Total cost so far:

Total pounds of beef you can actually use:
390 lbs.

Cost per pound for locally-produced, USDA-inspected hamburger:
$3.22 /lb.

Add on the costs of that farmer keeping it frozen and bringing it to your farmer’s market and you’ll see why rounding it up to $4.00 or higher makes sense.

And this is the problem of getting it to larger cities from the country where it was raised. If I’m going to have someone market it for me, then they have to make enough to keep it worth their while. Sure, you can sell $18.00 / lb grass-fed, location-verified sirloin steak and this is where the total carcass jumps to a total value of $3,000 – $3,500 per animal when you part it out.

But let’s go the other way and say we want to save people money and let them get the best quality.

First, take that same 1,000 pound animal – price doesn’t change wherever it goes (unless it comes from South America, where it’s much, much cheaper…)

$900 (however, you have to own the animal outright before to drop it off.)

Take it to a “custom-exempt” plant where it’s inspected for cleanliness by the state once a month.  Now the cost is .45 per pound for the hanging weight –

So we are still at $1192.50

But that’s where it stops. You are buying all the cuts of the beef, you just can’t sell it to anyone else.

You just paid a little over $3.05 for your hamburger, but you also got $3 ribs, $3 steak, $3 roast, etc.

At $3500 for 390 lbs of usable beef, you are paying around $8.97 a pound for all the cuts.
And this is the margin that the farmer’s marketer is working with. If you buy direct from the farmer, you simply pay him for the beef and he drops it off at the processor. Of course, you need to know that farmer personally and know when he has a beef ready.

If you know someone who knows that farmer, then that person will keep you in mind when the farmer next has a beef ready (it takes two years to raise one and they always have some on the way).

You may only want to buy a quarter-beef. And your marketer/buyer can arrange this so you buy 1/4 of the animal (along with 3 others). So you get about 97 lbs. of beef – which will fit into a small freezer. And that’s a budget of about $297 for a years’ worth of beef – figuring you are just serving your small family and the occasional party. Those $3 steaks can come in handy…

Of course, if you like to buy it in pieces, that same amount of beef will cost you $875 through the year if you buy it by the piece through a supermarket chain. And if its shipped in as hamburger from South America, you have no way of knowing…

So save yourself $578 and know what’s in that beef you bought.

Have you priced any peace of mind lately?

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>Marketing Strategy – Ignore Conventional Wisdom

Posted by Thrivelearning on September 29, 2010



Just had to let you in on this one.

I’ve already told you that grassfed beef is way more profitable right now (and probably always has been) if you direct market your beef. Lots more work in dealing with people and lining up clients. But then, you aren’t having to do anything but move fences once or twice a day, so you have the time.

Now, getting into your back-end (backup) market is even simpler. Just move your birthing window into late spring.

The logic of this is pretty cool. Look the worst prices for cattle (traditionally, not necessarily this year) are in Sep – Nov when people are culling their herds before they have to feed them all winter. Also the lowest prices for feeder calves are then – as people are weaning their calves which were born in February.

Best prices are in May and June. We used to sell our fat-cattle at auction then, meaning they were about 16 months old and kept fed in a feedlot all winter and spring.

Our best price-break for grassfed beef, as I’ve mentioned, is to sell stockers (yearlings) – since you only have to feed them through one winter on hay.

The idiocy of birthing in February is the weather. Calves can get pneumonia and frost-bite. However, birthing in June is just before the worst of the fly season. Also not good for cattle. Best time for birthing is when the calves can be born on fresh grass and their mothers have had a nice diet of grass for a couple of months prior. Fresh vitamins and nutrients all around, plus clean bedding.

Birthing in April-May gives you “yearlings” which are 13-14 months old – and that’s your backup for culling your heard heading into summer. That’s also when you’d preg-check your cows and send the open ones to auction (or market them as hamburger). And then you wean at about 10-11 months, when it’s much less stress on both cows and calves – not the traditional 7 they use these days. Wean in March – again, when the worst weather is usually over and the pastures are greening up.

You sell when the market is high and the the cattle are in the best shape. (Of course, if you want the best prices at auction, you only sell 100% black Angus steers which look a little gaunt – not any with pot-bellies. Buyers figure they can put a lot more weight on them.)

But if you’re direct-marketing, it doesn’t matter what color they are, just how good they taste.

Just wanted to let you in on this really obvious way to raise cheaper, easier beef.

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