Want to buy a cow? It could live in your backyard and eat the grass. Then you could feed it expensive fermented hay all winter. It could supply all the manure you could ever want — and more. To the point, how would you turn an inconvenient pet into extremely convenient meat?

Maybe a better idea would be to buy an already-processed quarter or half a cow; a common practice called "cow sharing." Before buying, you might wonder, "Is this a good deal financially?" Or maybe, "It's a lot of beef! Do I want to own 100-plus pounds of meat?"

In this pandemic year, having enough to eat has been a challenge at times. Remember way back to March when the grocery store shelves were empty and the meat counters bare? We're not done with the pandemic yet; maybe having a stash of meat is wise. Aside from having enough to eat, there are other reasons it makes sense to buy a quarter, half, or whole cow.

1. Taste: The flavor of locally raised grass-fed beef beats the taste of big-business, feed-lot meat every time. Besides the better diet and more-wholesome surroundings, local cattle are handled humanely right up to the moment of processing. Calm cows are tasty cows. Literally.

2. Price: Buying a half or quarter will save you money. At Miles Smith Farm, buying in bulk means saving an average of 15% over the usual packaging. You will need a freezer to store a quarter of our beef, but a new 9-cubic-foot freezer has a one-time cost of about $400 to $450. Its yearly energy cost will be about $38. And you can use the freezer for other food, too — like ice cream!

3. Convenience: You'll never have to worry what's for dinner because your freezer will be full of grass-fed beef.

4. Humanity: Do you care about how animals are treated? So do we. Ask your local farmer about their care, handling, and living conditions, and you'll see what I mean.

5. Health Benefits: Parents don't want to be serving their kids the growth hormones and antibiotics that come with commercial meat. Dietary experts recommend unrefined, minimally processed foods — like grass-fed beef. Studies have shown that if you choose lean grass-fed beef, you're giving your body monounsaturated fat (the same healthy fat found in olive oil), and it decreases your risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Buying a cow not only helps you, but it also supports local farmers. Find a beef farmer near you for delicious cuts of meat customized just for you!

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Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grassfed beef. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.

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