'Cow-pooling': Buying a share in a cow

LOS ANGELES "I work, my wife works, so you know, we get home, 'What are we going to have for dinner.' 'Oh, we'll just pull something out of the freezer," said Wildomar resident Dave Restad.

Restad has a freezer full of steaks and burgers. All of the meat came from his own cow, even though he is not a rancher or a farmer. Nope, Restad is a "cow-pooler."

"I bought a quarter-cow," said Restad.

You see, a cow-pooler goes in with a group of people to share in the purchase of a cow and after it's butchered, they share in all the cuts of beef.

Cow-poolers say cow-pooling works for several reasons. In this sluggish economy it's a way for them to save.

"For roughly six dollars a pound, you get everything from hamburger to filet mignon," said Megan McDowell, a Wildomar rancher that offers the service.

It is a way for them to get hormone-free, naturally raised, grass-fed meat.

"It's a healthier product," said Dennis Stein, a restaurant owner from San Diego.

And it's a way for them to get great flavor.

"It tastes a hundred per cent better," said Kim Lewis, another cow-pooler.

Cow-poolers typically buy cows, but they can also buy pigs and sheep, usually from a local livestock rancher like Megan McDowell.

McDowell sells and then takes care of the animals for her cow-pooling customers on a ranch in the Inland Empire town of Wildomar. She says the popularity of cow-pooling is taking off.

"We've been doing this for 30 years," said McDowell. "And up until about two years ago, we were selling to the private consumer probably eight to 10 calves a year. And now we're selling a steer a month."

Dennis Stein owns a restaurant in San Diego and buys all of his lamb from Megan.

"The lamb here, obviously it's fed with grass, it's grazed, it's not produced in some big confined animal feeding lot that has all the associated environmental problems with it," said Stein.

Most cow-poolers buy half the cow, also known as a "side." Once it's slaughtered they will get around 250 pounds of beef sent to them in frozen vacuum packs. You will need a large freezer for that much meat, or you can order smaller portions, which is slightly more expensive.

Now you're ready for some good barbecue.

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