Buying meat direct from the farm

A question came through on one of the groups I’m part of wondering about buying large quantities of meat for the freezer.  We buy direct from the farm and below are some things that I have learned about this. 

  Basic procedure: You pay the farmer for the actual weight of the cow (or your portion) and they take it to the butcher/processor.  The farmer lets you know the date the cow will be at the butcher and you then contact the butcher to tell them how you want it cut/processed.  The butcher then calls you when it is ready and you pay him for processing. 

Advice: Don’t buy “natural”, “pastured” or “organic” unless you are willing to pay up to double the price of beef that is not labelled that way.  Small farm operations do not use that much antibiotics, if the animals are in a pasture they do not need much medicine to stay healthy, they become immune to things just like we do.  There are no regulations on what those terms actually mean anyway. 

If you don’t know the people you are buying from,  ask to see their farm.  Do the animals look well fed?  Is the place fairly well-kept?   There should not be huge piles of manure( “poop”) in with the animals (more than ankle deep, in dry conditions,  is bad).  Keep in mind that if it is muddy in your driveway, it will be messy in with the animals.  A well cared for animal tastes better than one that is not well cared for.

Tell the butcher you want all cuts trimmed (fat cut off around the edges) and the hamburger extra lean (the more fat in the hamburger, the more shrinkage you get when cooking).  You will not be paying for the extra weight of the fat that is removed either.

Last year,  totalling what we paid the farmer and the butcher, we paid around $2 / lb for our meat.  This sounds expensive for ground beef but when you average that in with rump roast, chuck roast, and even T-bone:  Your average price is at a much reduced cost compared with the local grocer. 

Also, buying direct from the farm, there will not be additives in your meat either.  Many grocery stores put CO2 in their ground beef now to keep it “pink” longer. 

Most farmers will want you to purchase a whole cow, unless you get lucky and they have someone else interested in purchasing less than that also.  One processed cow will not completely fill a large chest type freezer but it will be close. 

Another thought- hog prices have been going down.   Pork is very good direct from the farm as well.  The same principles apply except for one:  Beef can be kept frozen in a chest freezer for more than a year.  Pork can be kept for less than a year.  Old frozen meat will not hurt you as long as it has never been thawed or partially thawed but the flavor will change as it ages past the above mentioned dates. 

More than you ever wanted to know, I’m sure!

Supporting the farmer and sustainable agriculture as much as I can,




Filed under Home tips, Recipes

8 responses to “Buying meat direct from the farm

  1. ruralmomof3

    I brought my half of a cow home from the butcher the other day and here’s how it panned out price wise with some further “education” before hand. Here goes:

    Live weight price: This is the price you pay to the farmer. It is the farmers price/lb multiplied by your portion of the live animal’s weight.

    Hanging weight: This is the weight of the animal after it is “put down”, skinned, headed, and gutted. This weight includes the large bones and extra fat and parts of the animal you might not want to bring home with you (some people say no to heart, liver, ribs, etc). This is what you might see hanging in a processing plant on T.V. thrillers or mob movies- lol.

    Our butcher charges like this:

    Flat rate for the actual butchering (killing, skinning, etc). A whole cow is one price, a whole hog one price, etc.

    Processing fee of price per pound of hanging weight.

    Curing fee (for things like smoked hams, bacon, etc) per pound

    Stuffing fee (sausage links, bratwurst, etc) per pound

    Pattie fee per pound of ground meat that is shaped into patties.

    Our cost:

    Our butcher does not list the pounds of meat that we actually bring home so I estimated the weight of each box (weighed a couple and averaged) and added it together. This is the total weight of meat now in your freezer (same as what you’d buy at the store)

    Add together what you paid the farmer and what you paid the butcher. This is your total cost.

    Divide the total weight by the total cost and this is your price per pound of beef.

    This year, ours cost 2.89/ pound for almost 300 lbs of meat. This included approximately 14 lbs of T-bone steak (at the local grocery you’re looking at $8-9 per pound for T-bone). I had the butcher prepare my ground beef with a 90/10 mix (90% meat and 10% fat)- this ratio at the local grocery would be around 4.89/lb We also paid the extra patty fee for half of our ground. So all in all, I’m guessing that we paid less than 50% of retail price. At that rate, a chest freezer pays for itself in no time.

    We will be getting some pork processed in the next couple months. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. Ole Vern

    You mentioned you got 14 pounds of T-bones, how many pounds of ground beef did you get from your half cow?

  3. ruralmomof3

    Rural mom, here- The amount of ground beef is relative to the amount of other cuts of beef that you said no to. My amount of ground would be different than someone else’s amount for the exact same hanging weight. Meaning, I said yes to round steak(a tougher cut)- if your family doesn’t like round steak and you said no then what I receive as round steak, you will recieve as ground. If you want the whole cow made into ground, you can do that! My husband does this with venison sometimes. We use all cuts of meat at our house and so no meat that is normally cut into steak or roast or stew meat was made into ground beef. That said, if I remember correctly- we got around 100 lbs of ground beef.

    If you ask a butcher, they probably won’t be able to tell you any numbers because so much is taken into account. Weight of the animal, how much fat is removed, how many other cuts of meat you have, etc. If you want a certain number of pounds of ground beef, you can probably request that specifically.

    Hope this helps!

  4. ruralmomof3

    I brought my pork home from the processing plant today. We used a different butcher for the pork than the beef but it came out to $1.84/pound which included the curing cost for nearly 20 pounds of bacon and the extra fee for making the sausage into pork burgers (pattied but larger- for eating like a hamburger, not like a sausage patty). We did not cure our hams and there would have been an extra fee for that, like there was for the bacon curing. Hams that have not been cured or smoked taste like a pork loin- they are excellent. Some people choose to not have their bacon cured either, this is called side pork. Some people have their side pork added to their sausage when it’s ground. This adds additional fat that we don’t want at our house but it does add some good flavor too! If you bring home side pork as is, it can be fried like bacon but it is not salty or smoky- just “porky”. Another good use of side pork is to add a hunk of it to your green beans when preserving them. One hunk per jar or container eliminates the need for butter when serving them and adds flavor. You can also add side pork to pork and beans and other dishes that you would normally use bits of ham or bacon in.

    Hope you find the info helpful!!

  5. ruralmomof3

    One other thing: if you are calling multiple butchers to compare pricing. Ask a lot of questions. We discovered that the butcher we used for the pork charged differently than the one we used for the beef. One charged per pound of hanging weight and the other charged per pound of live weight. Make sure your comparison shopping is comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges – know what I mean? Also, ask others who they have used and why they like a particular butcher. We used a different butcher for the pork because we knew he was the one who makes the pork burgers for the 4-H fair every year and we LOVE them!!! So if there is some local meat that you really like, find out where it was processed. More than you ever wanted to know. . . . . I’m sure!

  6. beefed

    We just recieved beef that was ordered from a farmer. Our half of the cow was 410 lbs, from that we recieved 187lbs of meat, over 30% of it was ground beef. We were originally quoted 2.50/lb and our total price was $900. Which turned into over $5/lb. I have spoken to a family member who used to be a butcher and a butcher at a large grocery store who both believe this to be incorrect. The butcher has stated this is due to “shrinkage” has anyone else had this type of situation?

  7. ruralmomof3

    It sounds to me like your butcher is charging you by the live weight (410 lbs) instead of hanging weight (the weight of the animal after it is headed and gutted). I am just guessing because I’m not sure if your numbers are exact or rounded up/down. If you take $900 (your cost) and divide it by 410 lbs (the weight of your half of the live animal) you get $2.20/pound. In comment #5, you’ll read about this sort of thing.. . . . .

    30% of it being ground beef does not matter to the butcher unless he charges you for the time it takes to grind it up. Most butchers charge you for the meat itself and not for the cuts you choose. They also will not charge you based on what you actually bring home. The amount of meat you actually bring home is based on how much fat was removed and what cuts you said no to (unless these were then ground into hamburger). All of the animal’s weight, not just what you bring home is what the butcher charges you by. Some charge by live weight and some by hanging weight. The only time you pay based upon the actual weight of what is in the take home package is at the store.

    In the future, and for those who are still learning- ask if the price per pound is based on live weight or hanging weight. If they use hanging weight, it will be pretty close to what you bring home. If they use live weight, your take home cost per pound will be about double what they quote you for a price/ pound. The animals head and gut are very heavy and these are not part of what you bring home.

    Hope this helps!

  8. ruralmomof3

    PS- no, I have never heard of “shrinkage”- at least as far as fresh meat is concerned. This may be the butchers way of explaining the difference between live weight, hanging weight, and take home weight.

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