Going Local for Beef

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Been considering bypassing the grocery store and purchasing meat in bulk? Here’s some insight into my experience purchasing a share of a local cow for my family.

What’s Involved?

Getting involved with a local farmer is one of the best things you can do, but it is slightly more complicated than making a trip to your local grocery chain store. Thanks to the Internet, finding a farm in your area isn’t too difficult. I also suggest asking around at your local farmers market to see which farms offer this service. In my case, a friend recruited a few local families to all go in on a cow together. Since each animal yields more than 400 pounds of meat, there’s plenty to share. The beauty of this small local farm is that it’s a completely grass-fed operation that I can go visit to see how humanely the animals are treated.

A trip about 50 miles out of town was required for pickup, and then it was time to divvy up the goods. All cuts of meat came individually wrapped, labeled and frozen. Our group decided on a pickup location and met up with coolers in tow. There’s nothing wrong with putting in some extra effort and elbow grease in the name of delicious food and good health.

Costs

Meat from this farm was very reasonable at $5 per pound, especially since my neighborhood grocer charges anywhere between two times and SIX times as much depending on the cut. You do need to consider where to store all this meat, however. My share was 40 pounds, but some folks bought in for 80, so a second refrigerator with freezer space or a standalone freezer is required. If you don’t already have one, you’re looking at an additional investment.

Pros & Cons

The upsides of a cow share are numerous. The quality and taste of the meat is far superior to that of the meat from your garden-variety grocery butcher shop. Grass-fed meat is lower in fat and also higher in essential fatty acids (including Omega-3 fats) and antioxidants.

There are also a few downsides. As with many local food endeavors, there’s a higher cost up front. Freezer space may be an issue, and you will get many cuts of meat that you may not be familiar with, which can be intimidating. Luckily, you can find out what to do with every beef cut on the Beef It’s What’s For Dinner website.

Sold?

Going in on a cow is a big commitment. If you’re intrigued but not ready to jump in or you missed the ordering window at your local farm, there are some alternatives. Visit a farmers market for weekly purchases, or consider a service like Butcher Box, which provides monthly deliveries of grass-fed American-purveyed meats.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.