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,