Friday Rant: Is Slaughtering & Butchering At Home Going Too Far To Save a Buck?

While taking a rare break yesterday, Jason distributed an internal link asking the staff to hone in on the spend management significance of a Standard-Examiner article that reported a story about a guy who purchased a live cow that he allegedly slaughtered and butchered on his suburban driveway. Disgusting, horrifying and absurd? Maybe not completely.

BTW: If you're not a meat eater, you might not wish to read on (you've never read a cost break-down or make/buy analysis like the one we created below -- trust me) .

Since I have a number of hunter friends in the Alabama region of Pennsylvania -- between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- I was intrigued. After making a few buddy calls, I came up with the following rough make vs. buy analysis, if you will:

A 300 lb. cow or steer for slaughter can be purchased for about $200.00.
The usable meat yield is roughly half of the gross weight (without going into detail) and a local butcher's fee to extract prime cuts plus tougher stewing/burger and carcass disposal is about $175.00. So the urban cowboy in the article had a likely yield of about 150 lbs of beef for approximately $1.33/lb. And since 33% of the cuts were prime at a retail cost of approximately $7.00 per lb., 33% sub prime at a $3.50/ lb and 33% ground beef quality at $2.50/ lb., the equivalent retail cost of his yield would be about $600.00. He saved $400 over retail or about 66% -- less time, transportation, ammo, gun cleaning and possible legal fees.

There's some dispute over whether this fellow executed the cow in his driveway, but it would appear from a horrified neighbor's account -- who also called the police -- that he shot the bovine, which subjects him to a slue of local statutes for which he may well be prosecuted. Now I'm not willing to advocate wrongful discharge of firearms or reckless endangerment, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that this guy has fallen on really hard times and was just trying to save money and feed his family.

Fact is that his primary miss-step here is that he chose the wrong neighborhood. Aghast neighbors purportedly rushed their children inside from play and were apoplectic over the incident. When in more rural areas, buying livestock from farmers and breeders for personal slaughter, butchering and consumption is not any more uncommon than shooting a deer and performing the same procedures.

To my mind, the only issue (assuming private consumption) is that of possible animal cruelty and the public endangerment matters cited above as they pertain to the cow's execution. Additionally, I strongly believe that our society has become far too sterile and compartmentalized and that everyone who eats meat should at least observe, if not partake in, the butchering process at least once their lives.

Alas, we've come a long way -- or not -- from our agrarian origins. I recently heard a Pennsylvania outback story about a guy who purchased two live pigs for a barbecue this past 4th of July. He brought them home in the back of his pick-up, took a non-lethal shot -- and the pigs charged him. By the time he killed the pigs and emptied his clip, he also shot a hole in his fuel tank. So maybe the spend management issues of bypassing the local supermarket in favor of home slaughter and butchering is really a matter of risk management.

- William Busch

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