Local Meat Buying Guide
Is sourcing your meat from a local farm that ethically raises animals important to you? Are you overwhelmed by the options and not sure what will work best for you? Let me help you sort this out!
First, answer these questions:
1. How much meat does my household prepare on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
Every household has unique habits and needs! Determining both how many meals per week typically include meat, and how much meat at each meal, will give you a rough idea how long a bulk purchase might last you. Are you cooking for 1 or 2, or 6 or 8? And are those teenagers (aka bottomless pits) or seniors with smaller appetites? Does one pound of ground beef make one meal plus leftovers for a second, or will you need two pounds to get everyone fed tonight?
2. How much freezer space can I dedicate to meat storage?
The freezer of a typical fridge/freezer can easily hold any of our CSA shares, or one of our 20lb bundles, in addition to a “normal” variety of other frozen items. If you’d like to try ordering a ¼, ½ or whole animal, more freezer space is necessary. Chest/upright freezers can be a great investment, especially if you also want to store fresh fruits or produce harvested in season. You can often find them used on Craigslist or Marketplace, though I’m wary of any that are more than 10 years old (likely limited lifespan and less energy efficient). Try to choose a size freezer that you will fill at least once a year – freezers are most efficient when they are full!
Another option is to rent freezer space as needed. The Ithaca Meat Locker (http://ccetompkins.org/agriculture/buy-local/local-meats/the-meat-locker) offers lockable bins for $3-5/month. Our local grocery store also offers the same service – check into what might be available in your community!
3. How fussy is my household about the cuts of meat we cook with?
Do you only like to cook with your tried & true favorite cuts, or are you open to trying new things? Both our CSA shares and 20 lb bundles include an element of surprise – you do not have complete control over the items you receive. Both DO include staples including ground beef, bacon, and sausage, but the balance of the order will vary. They’re a great opportunity to experiment, perhaps learn a new technique for a new recipe, and push outside your comfort zone on occasion! You can also plan your meals around the meat cuts you receive, rather than having to plan everything from a blank slate.
In contrast, each ¼, ½ or whole animal purchase is cut specifically for your order, so you can choose exactly the items you receive. However, you receive the cuts in proportion to how many are in one animal. There’s only so much bacon & so many steaks in each animal. Your order will also include parts like the shoulder and rump. There’s flexibility in how these parts are processed – they can be cut as roasts, less common steaks, or ground for more sausage/ground beef. You need to be willing to cook with all of the cuts (in some form) or you’ll soon find you’ve used all of the bacon and still have 7/8 of a pig in your freezer!
4. Can my budget handle larger, infrequent outlays for stock-ups, or do I need to purchase on a weekly/monthly basis?
Ordering a ¼, ½ or whole animal is a one-time purchase that will range from $325 to $2400, but because you’re buying a large volume it’s the most cost effective way to purchase our meats. We offer these options every 2-3 months, so you can plan your purchase in advance, perhaps to coincide with a time that you have more cash available (like your tax return!) . We also gladly accept EBT or credit cards.
Teaming up with a friend, neighbor, or family member is another great option for capturing bulk pricing while making the cash outlay and freezer space requirement smaller.
Our CSA shares are a 6 month commitment, which can be paid up front or in monthly installments, making it easier to budget evenly. Our freezer bundles are a one-time purchase with no ongoing commitment, and can be ordered anytime!
Just how much is a ½ pig or ¼ beef?
A ½ pig is roughly 60 lb of meat for your freezer, and might look like 6 lb bacon, 15 lb ham/ham steaks, 10 lb shoulder roasts/steaks, 15 lb chops/loin roasts, 8 lb sausage, 3 lb ribs, 1 lb hocks, 2 lb heart/liver (or more cuts can be ground for more sausage). You’ll need 3-4 cubic feet of freezer space for a 1/2 pig. Double these numbers for a whole pig.
Our beef vary more in size from animal to animal but 150lb is a typical hanging weight for a ¼ for our farm. This might be 35 lb ground beef and/or patties, 10 lb chuck roasts/steaks, 5 lb stew beef, 5 lb soup bones, 4 lb brisket, 10 lb premium steaks, 5 lb sirloin, 10 lb round/rump roasts/steaks, 4 lb short ribs, 4 lb organs. (This is just an example – you choose how it’s cut!) You’ll need about 5 cubic feet of freezer space for a ¼. Double for a ½, double again for a whole beef!
To summarize: if you have freezer space and the ability to make larger, less frequent purchases, stocking up with a ¼, ½ or whole animal is the most cost effective way to purchase local meat. You can place a reservation for pork or beef today! If your freezer space is limiting, our monthly CSA shares divy that purchase up into smaller deliveries. Or, if you’d prefer to not make a monthly commitment, you can order a 20lb bundle whenever it’s convenient, or you can pick and choose by the cut from our current inventory! Hopefully these questions have helped you think about your households’ eating & buying habits and will help you to make the meat purchases that suit you best!
4/28/2022 08:31:22 am
I appreciated how this post mentioned that the most cost-effective way to purchase local meat is by stocking up. I'll make sure to follow these tips when going to a meat market. I think we should go next time to the middle eastern market since they sell good meat.
It really helped when you said that we should determine the number of meals we would have each week and the meat we need for every meal. I think this tip will be useful for a family of four to ensure that we can buy from a fresh local meat shopping market without breaking the bank. We have to stick to our budget, because the earnings of my husband is just enough for us every month.
9/12/2022 09:14:41 am
Purchasing a Deep Freezer for such just an occasion is also Prudent
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I'm half of the Crosswinds farmer duo bringing you farm fresh cheeses, beef, and pork from the heart of the Finger Lakes! Stay tuned for our daily adventures growing a family & a farm, and food for your table. We welcome your questions & comments, but please keep them respectful! For the latest updates, please follow Crosswinds Farm & Creamery on Facebook or Instagram!