Have a cow, man

USDA regulations make finding locally raised meat difficult at best. Commercial meat has to be slaughtered at special slaughterhouses, none of which is in our vicinity, and few people have the opportunity to raise their own. Luckily, Rick McHan will do it for you.

McHan's Plan It Earth (15433 County Road 39 S., Lithia, 813-784-2727) farm in Lithia will raise a cow just for you, from calf to slaughter in about 18 months. Technically, the lumbering bovine belongs to you the whole time, which skirts the USDA regs and allows local slaughterhouses (meant for personal meat consumption) to process your beef. All within an hour's drive of the Bay area.

Having your own cow is an investment, so it's best to enlist some other families to help with the expenses and share the bounty. According to McHan, a good calf costs around $400 and he charges $100 a month to raise it on grass and hay, with grain-fed fattening during the last six weeks. The slaughterhouse charges around $.30 per pound of edible meat, neatly butchered, shrink-wrapped and flash frozen for your convenience. Fully grown cows weigh in at about 1,200 pounds, so you'll pay approximately $2,400 for 600 pounds of meat, or $4 a pound. Make sure you have room in your freezer.

Afraid of becoming attached to the walking steak? McHan will take care of every step in the process, freeing you from confronting your future meal. Wimp.

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