Cowpooling: Central Texas beef company explains inflation-related trend

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 1:17 AM CST
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OGLESBY, Texas (KWTX) - As prices rise at the grocery store, a trend called ‘cowpooling’ is gaining popularity to fight inflation.

“In 2020, when the shelves went dry? That terror has really held-on to people,” said Blayr Barnard, Owner of Barnard Beef Cattle Company in Oglesby.

The idea behind cowpooling is to not run out of meat, by buying in bulk.

However, it can be very expensive to buy a whole cow...so, similarly to how people to save on gas by carpooling, cowpooling helps people save money by ordering a lot of meat together at once, then splitting the cost.

“It’s really two-fold with cowpooling: not only do you get a great deal, but you also get to have a nice, community-building with friends and everybody gets to talk about it,” said Barnard. “You know your rancher, you know exactly where you food is coming from.”

Barnard says buying beef in bulk makes a big difference at the bank.

“Mostly the idea of cowpooling is to save funds, a whole beef will feed a family of four for a year,” said Barnard. “If you go to your average grocery store and buy beef at this quality, which is choice plus or prime, you’re going to pay between $6,500 and $9,000 for the same amount of beef: we guarantee 400 pounds and it’s about $2,700.”

Another benefit of cowpooling, Barnard says: you can customize your cuts while helping your neighbors.

“If you want three-inch steaks, you can have three-inch steaks,” said Barnard. “And definitely look at your local farmers and ranchers for your food supply, because this drought has really hurt everyone in the area.”

Barnard’s family business has been in the Central Texas area for 100 years.

She says her great-grandfather started the company.

“He was mostly a farmer and sharecropper, then grandpa moved a little into cattle, and then my dad really got us into cattle,” said Barnard. “I came home in 2015 to take over the ranch: it was supposed to be a three-day a week job, but I’ve done six expansions, so now it’s about a nine-day a week job.”

In addition to her three sons, Barnard is in charge of about 17,000 head of cattle a year on 11,000 acres of property in Coryell and McLennan Counties.

“We provide freezer beef from Central Texas to DFW and the Austin and Houston areas, and San Antonio, we also have stocker cattle that we sell in bulk as well to feed lots,” said Barnard. “We’ve even had freezer beef go all the way to Indiana, New Mexico, North Carolina...but then our cattle go all the way up to North and South Dakota.”

While she works a lot with buy buyers, Barnard has noticed some of her local buyers and families showing greater interest in cowpooling to try to stay ahead of predicted price hikes in beef next year.

“They call me and say, ‘I’m buying this with a bunch of my friends, or I’m buying this with my brother-in-law, or I’m getting a whole cow for my family, because we don’t know what beef is going to do next year,’” Barnard told KWTX Tuesday.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service officials say this year’s drought has caused cattle population numbers to fall, so prices will be going up in 2023.

Estimates on how much beef prices will be going up next year vary, however, Barnard believes it will be about 30 percent.

“You’re looking at a 20 to 40 percent increase in your beef prices next year,” she said.

Barnard says cowpooling is available to all income levels: some beef companies, like them, do take SNAP benefits.

“I have some customers who save up their benefits together all year to buy a whole cow to feed their families,” said Barnard.