Three or four years ago, Tami and Aubrey and I went in together and bought a side of beef and filled our freezers. That was a mixed experience for our family, partly because I was still not cooking a lot and it's not practical to do it if you're not willing to put in the work to actually THAW and COOK the meat.
Well, I've gotten interested in doing it again, but this time I've decided to do some research first on all the different ways a beef carcass can be cut up, ground, etc. before I do an order. I am learning so much! For instance, now I understand why it's so hard to find flank steak--you never see a whole display case of flank, do you? There might be two or three if you're lucky. Well, that's because there is only a tiny bit of flank on a cow (about 3 lbs.) compared to the round section, for example, which can be nearly a quarter of the dressed weight of the carcass. Okay, I'm 53 today and never knew that! I guess I thought that flank steaks came from a huge hunk of flank roast somewhere, sliced to order!
Anyway, last night I ran across a real treasure. It's a series of six YouTube videos, roughly seven to ten minutes each, of a master butcher cutting up a whole side of beef. It increased my understanding of this topic much more than any diagram or written explanation. If you want to see a pro at work and at the same time gain a much better understanding of where your chuck roast, T-bones, and brisket are coming from, set aside an hour and go watch these!
And if you've got some real experience in this area that you'd be willing to share, I'm all ears! Have you bought a side or a quarter of beef? What did you like about the experience? What would you do differently next time?