I reported back in February that I acquired a steer from a local rancher ear-marked for my freezer and I hired a butcher to do my dirty work. I observed the slaughter and provided pictures. Who knew there would be a Part II to the story, but you might consider this experience if you are buying a steer and don’t know what you are doing.
On Friday we picked up half of the steer to deliver to friends in southern California. This should have been easy and routine.
Let me start with a little background. Just five years ago when I was in the middle of full-scale major depression and eight months pregnant, I did not eat beef. I had not eaten beef for years “for health reasons.”
Almost two years ago now we bought our first live steer to fill our freezer and when the processor called to ask about the cuts I said “I’m very sorry, but I just don’t know very much about beef. Can you help me select the cuts?”
She was very polite and obliged.
We ended up with a whole lot of round steak which I do not now recommend, but the good outcome there is we have some very good round steak recipes should you find yourself in a similar position.
This time our focus in making the order was on improving the cuts.
“More ground beef” was a primary theme.
In the process of all of this instruction, we failed to say “and we’re splitting the steer with friends.”
And so if you are reading this and think “wow, that kind of stupid doesn’t happen every day,” you need to understand that we are a little behind on the learning curve.
The meat processor called Sander to ask “what do we do with this steer?”
Sander, who is a few steps behind on that same curve primarily because he had nothing to do with the prior steer said “put it in lockers.”
He told me about a week later that the steer was in the locker.
I thought it odd but decided it was a detail we could deal with.
Splitting the Hard Way
So Friday was the day we would pick up one half of the steer to deliver to friends. The really good thing that happened Friday was that I was so tired that my mom decided to go to the meat locker with me. That was certainly the luckiest decision of the week and perhaps the month. We filled the car with coolers because this meat would be sleeping in Bakersfield before its drive to the Los Angeles basin the next morning. We headed to Exeter.
The second bit of luck was that I was far too tired to drag all of our bedding to the Laundromat for spring cleaning. (If you’ve managed to miss this particular on-going saga, we’ve been without a washing machine for the better part of the winter, which was implicated in part in my case of poison oak.)
I had planned to pick up the meat, make a quick stop at the Laundromat, switch cars with Sander (who would be driving the meat to Los Angeles), and bring home all of the wet bedding for the clothes line.
I was too tired for laundry. Thank goodness.
We showed up at Exeter Meats and said “we need access to the lockers because we’ve got a steer we need to split.”
We encountered “looks.” They were polite but they were concerned.
“We could have split it for you. You will have to split it in the locker, we can’t bring the drawers out.”
My mom and I walked outside for some air and to hatch a plan.
“Do not stand in the sun, Mandy, you will sweat and the sweat will freeze in the locker.”
“I need one last bit of warmth before we go in there and it’s not hot enough for sweat.”
(But I could feel the tiniest bits of sweat forming on my skin. Mothers know these things.)
“Mom, you’re going to be the accountant and I am going to load the meat.”
Hundreds of pounds
I gave her a list of the cuts we needed. It included fifty-one packs of ground beef and probably upwards of 100 packages altogether. “But you’ll have to handle ALL the packages to get those 100, Mandy.”
“Let’s get started then,” and we forged ahead.
As fast as I could handle each piece and as quickly as my mom could account for it, we flew through the lockers. “Ground beef, ground beef, ground beef, sirloin tip, ground beef…”
We came out once for air and circulation control. When I felt my fingers again, we went back in. The gentleman who gave us access to the lockers checked on our progress and seemed a bit surprised.
Later my mom said “they thought we’d still be sorting at closing and that they’d have to help us finish up.”
We were in at 2 p.m. and closing was 5 p.m.
One package of shanks and a New York steak were the last in our search, we consolidated the lockers, and we left the artic air for the car. Then, of course, we had to get all of those packages into the coolers.
We ran out of cooler space, returned some soup bones to the locker, and put all of the organs and packages labeled “beef feet” into a box we covered with our winter clothes. It was 3:30. The folks at the locker seemed pretty impressed (though this impression is all in the context of that whole initial impression which couldn’t have been very good).
We stopped at a nursery on the way into town for some summer garden vegetables and worked at finding space in the car for them.
“I’m really glad I didn’t bring all the bedding.”
My mom looked horrified at the thought.
We managed to squeeze Frederick into his car seat.
“Mama, what’s half of a steer?”
“You know what beef cattle are. This one was a boy and a family is going to eat it. They just didn’t want all of it.”
“Are they alive?”
“What? The steer? No. It’s dead.”
“No, the people who are going to eat it.”
“Yes, of course they are alive. This steer is their food. It will help keep them healthy.”
I smiled and wondered if his question was the result of all of our discussions of death lately (having lost a solid baker’s dozen of people this year) or whether he is planning to join PETA.
I am told that the whole adventure ended at the La Habra Children’s Museum over peanut butter and honey sandwiches, courtesy of our friends. They report that the barbecued hamburgers later that night were a big hit.