Greetings from Chileno Valley!
Spring is here with lots of flowers, grass and fruit trees in bloom, but no swallows yet. The drought of the past four years has affected us in many ways, and like all ranching families we have had to adjust. Whether the low annual rainfall is the “new normal” is open for debate, but there can be no doubt that the signs are all around us. We lost 40 apple trees and had to take out 14 of our 100 year old Monterey Cypress that were planted by Sally’s great-great grandfather – all from the stress created by low rainfall. The Cypress were taken out because they began dropping branches, and the risk was too great that someone would get seriously hurt. The loss of all those fabulous trees gives the place a new look, but we are getting used to it.
2014 was, by far, the most difficult year for us, business-wise. The overall low rainfall caused many problems: low grass yield, ponds dried up early, and the reduction of the herd and flock. The extra expense for having to purchase extra loads of hay and alfalfa this winter, the development of water storage systems, and a proposed new well are the basis for a slight increase in our price for beef. We believe the purchase of beef locally has many advantages, most notably the knowledge of where your food comes from and the satisfaction of supporting local agriculture. You may have noticed that the price of beef on the retail market is up substantially due to the reduction of herds all across the West. Recently, the price at the wholesale market has stabilized, but beef is still considerably higher than a year ago. Therefore our beef price will increase slightly, but remain comparatively low.
This is the time we let you know about the availability of beef and lamb for 2015: The cost will remain the same for lamb, $7/lb. However, the price for beef has gone up $0.25/lb. to $3.50/lb*. This translates into an increase of $31.25 per quarter on a typical 500 lb. carcass. The cost is based on the “hot,” or hanging, weight of the carcass. The hanging weight is the weight of the beef carcass when it comes into the butcher shop and is put into the cooler to age. As the carcass ages, and during the cut and wrap, the weight will shrink about 15 to 20%. We believe that this is the fairest way to price the beef.
As in the past, organ meat – liver and heart – are included with the order at no additional cost. If you wish ox-tail, tongue, or beef cheeks, they can be purchased separately. When the butcher calls to let you know that your order is ready for pickup, let them know of your interest in organ meat as it is not automatically added to the packages.
To start the process of purchasing beef, you need to send us a deposit. The amount of your deposit check continues to be $350 for a quarter or $700 for a half or side of beef. You will receive an email from us letting you know your confirmation number, and an estimate as to when your beef will be ready. When you pick up your beef at Ibleto Meats in Cotati, you will leave Vicky Ibleto the second check to make up the difference between the deposit and the hanging weight, and you will also pay Ibleto’s separately for the cut and wrap. There may be a few cases where we owe you the difference and we can either add some additional hamburger or have a check waiting for you at Ibleto’s.
PLEASE NOTE: The deposit is based on the expectation that the hot weight of a typical beef carcass will be around 500 lbs. That weight of 500 lbs x $3.50/lb = $1,750. Added to that figure is $140, which covers the cost of trucking the animal to Petaluma for harvest and the actual “kill charge,” for a total of $1,890. With a deposit of $1,400, for a whole beef, the balance due would be $490, or $122.50/qtr. If the weight is significantly higher, as it can be, the balance due can be substantial. There is a small advantage for the customer in a greater weight, as the fixed cost of $140 is spread over more take-home lbs.
The troubles of last year regarding Rancho, our local slaughterhouse, have been resolved and the new owner, Dave Evans’ Marin Sun Farms, has impressed us with his ability to provide a service to the ranching community who depended on having a local facility. The price did go up a little, but the product is first rate.
Our beef is available from May through October. Orders are filled on a first paid basis, except for orders of a whole animal, in which case the customer can tell us exactly when they wish to have the order ready for pick up. We usually sell out by the end of summer.