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Interview with Philadelphia CowShare

Posted Sep 15 2011 5:32pm
I've had many great experiences with Philadelphia CowShare, in fact they have been providing me with my supply of grassfed meat for the past 6 months thanks to a 1/8th share and a 1/16th - I shared 1/8th with someone else!

Eating higher quality foods and especially ones that are local is high on my list of things to do to be healthier. I love the variety of what you get with the CowShare program and it's affordability. To learn more about this awesome company that connects people with locally raised grassfed beef, I reached out to Jessica Moore, owner of Philadelphia CowShare.

 What is Philly CowShare?
Jessica Moore (JM): Philadelphia CowShare is a business that specializes in locally, sustainably raised animal proteins. We support great farms by buying their meat and delivering it to the people who want the benefits of buying directly from farms and the convenience of home delivery.


What areas do you serve?
JM: We deliver to the larger Philadelphia Metro Area including roughly 25 miles from City Hall and 75 miles from Lancaster County. We can deliver to areas slightly outside this boundary for an extra charge.


Are you at farmer’s markets?
JM: Philadelphia CowShare isn’t currently operating at any farmer’s markets; most Philadelphia-area markets prefer to have farmers selling directly to consumers. Since we partner with farmers who would rather farm than market and sell, we don’t get the chance to sell at most markets. You can sample a selection of our cuts at some neighborhood markets including Milk and Honey, Fu-Wah, and Mariposa in West Philly and Green Aisle Market in South Philly.


Why should I use Philly CowShare?
JM: There are many reasons our customers buy our CowShares. It is a convenient way to get great tasting, healthy and lean, grassfed beef. The beef goes from the farm to the butcher and is then delivered directly to you. The bundle of beef, called a “CowShare”, is designed for seasonal cooking. Eaten 2 lbs per week, an Eighth CowShare will last roughly 6 months. Our method of packaging the beef also uses the entire animal, reduces waste, and promotes conscious eating. In addition, the money you pay for your beef stays in our region and supports the local economy.


How are your cows raised?
JM: All our cows are raised on pasture and do not receive growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics. The farms use grazing techniques such as rotational or intensive grazing to promote healthy weight gain from the cow’s natural diet. In the winter months, cows eat hay that is often produced right on the farm. Just as we must manage our health, a beef cattle farmer must manage the health of the soil, promoting rich, nutritious grass growth and the health of the animals grazing the land. The location of the farm and the weather have a lot of influence on the techniques a farmer uses to raise cattle.




What are your cows fed?
JM: The cows eat grasses and other plants like clover and alfalfa grown in the pastures. In the winter, they eat hay often harvested from the same pastures.


How do you control quality?
JM: Philadelphia CowShare views our farmers as partners. We spend time understanding their farming businesses including their philosophy of farming. We talk to the farmers and visit their farms regularly. We also work with our butcher to be sure every CowShare bundle includes the optimal set of cuts and, together with all the CowShares, utilizes the entire animal. Lastly, we encourage our customers to give us feedback on their experience buying and eating our beef. We want our customers to have a good experience buying from us. This not only includes the taste of the beef and the farm it comes from, but also how it is packaged and delivered.


Who are the types of people that use Philly CowShare?
JM: We sell to individuals, small and large families who want to eat healthier grassfed beef. Our Eighth CowShare is designed for individuals and small families (1-2 adults & 0 – 2 younger kids). Our Quarter CowShare is designed for larger families (1-2 adults & 1 – 3 older kids).


What are the benefits of eating grass fed meat?
JM: Eating grassfed meat impacts our lives and communities in many ways. It is better for the land. It is better for the animals. It is better for you.
The job of the farmer is to manage their herds to promote healthy grass growth that can sustain the weight gain and nutrition of the cows. In return, the cows provide fertilizer as they move through the pastures eating the grass. They also turn grass, something our bodies cannot digest easily, into beef, a food our bodies can digest. Studies have found that beef from grassfed cows contains a better balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty-acids and has less overall fat than beef from cows fattened quickly on grain. Grassfed beef also contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA is a good fat that may be able to help fight cancer. Eat Wild is a great website to research the health benefits of grassfed beef. They review all the studies and write summaries that don’t require a Ph.D in food science and nutrition to understand.
The trade off for eating grassfed beef from an industry point of view is the amount of grassfed beef available to eat. The conventional process of fattening cows quickly on subsidized corn in a feedlot can produce much more beef on less land than rotational or intensive grazing practices. If you do a simple calculation of total beef consumed divided by the total population of the US, Americans ate 85.5 lbs. of beef per person in 2010. If your business goals extend beyond health to supporting regional farming, the local economy, and reducing the distribution costs, the supply won’t be nearly the same as available conventionally. This is why Philly CowShare created our CowShare bundles. We want to encourage consumers to think about the amount of beef they eat, eat healthy beef and do it in such a way that we can simplify the process of getting beef to the customers.


Why is Philly CowShare unique?
JM:Philly CowShare is a for profit company with a social agenda. We want to create a way for consumers to buy local meat that is sustainably raised, economically viable for area farmers and convenient for busy consumers. We want the most of your food dollar to go to those to raise, produce and prepare your food. To do this, we must create a system for marketing, selling and delivering meat that is simpler and less expensive than the existing industrial food system.


Why is grassfed beef more expensive than conventional beef?
JM:Grassfed beef is generally more expensive than conventional beef. There are several reasons why:


* Pasture-raised grassfed cows require more land to grow.
* Grassfed cows eat grass and not grains subsidized by our government.
* The supply of grassfed beef is a lot smaller than conventional beef.
* Philly CowShare buys cows from area farms. Land near urban environments is often more expensive.
* Philly CowShare buys cows from small to medium size farms that are not subsidized. We want our farms to make a profit so they continue to raise cattle.

A CowShare bundle of beef is cheaper, averaging between $8-$9/lb, than if you were to buy the cuts piece by piece at the farmer’s market or grocery store. We find customers who buy a bundle of beef like a CowShare spend less money overall on their beef consumption because they are more conscious of their consumption. We encourage you to total up the amount of beef you buy and the price you pay for 2 months and compare it to the cost of buying a CowShare. This will help you make an informed decision about the best way for your family to buy beef.


What is your favorite cut of meat and how to prepare it?
JM:This is a tricky question because meal planning and dining really depends on the situation. For a weeknight meal or to feed a crowd, I will either throw a roast in the crockpot or use ground beef to make chili. The ground beef is so versatile, lean and smells like steak. A roast cooked in the crockpot is simple and usually yields leftovers which I turn into soup.
For a dinner for 2 – 4 adults, I will grill 2 T-bone steaks with a little salt and pepper and serve it with a nice salad. I buy my spices from Penzey’s Spice Company. The Chicago steak seasoning is awesome on any of the cuts!
Grassfed beef has less fat and water than conventional beef. You may need to adapt your recipes to retain the juices and tenderness of the cuts. If you are unfamiliar with a particular cut or simply need help adapting your usual recipes, you can email us at cook@phillycowshare.com . Our cook, Kristi, will be happy to help you.


How do I order?
JM:You can place your order at www.phillycowshare.com/order  and email us at info@phillycowshare.com  if you have any questions.

In closing, I wanted to extend a special thank you to Jessica for taking the time to share all of the interesting facts and information about Philadelphia CowShare with me. If you haven't connected with her to get your 1/8th of a share (to me the most economical option) you should look into it today. If you live in the King of Prussia area and want to get in on a cow through Crossfit KoP post to comments and I'll see if there are open slots on the schedule, the Crossfit KoP community is one that appreciates high quality meat delivered to you at a great price that supports local farmers!
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