These days more and more people are buying their meat, dairy, eggs and produce from local sources. The term “locavore” (a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food) has been added to the nation’s vernacular. Buying directly from the source allows the buyer to know exactly where their food comes from and how it is grown or raised. With the rise of GMO and the heavy use of pesticides and herbicides it is not surprising the locavore movement has gained in popularity.
Buying produce is fairly simple for the average person. Go to the local farmer’s market, find produce, exchange money for produce, go home, enjoy. But what if you want to buy enough local beef to fill your freezer? Do you have to buy the entire cow? Where do you find a local supplier? What exactly is hanging weight? Buying locally sourced beef is actually pretty easy, better for you and often cheaper than buying from the grocer.
Let’s start with finding a local supplier. There are two sites I use and highly recommend. Local Harvest and Eat Wild are both excellent sources for all things local. You will find beef, pork, poultry, lamb, eggs, cheese, fruits and veggies, and even honey and wool available on these sites. Another way to find locally raised meat is to ask around. Ask friends, family, and coworkers. Heck, ask the farmers at your farmer’s market. You can even ask around on Facebook!
Once you have found your supplier you will need to know how much you are going to order. Most farmers sell their beef in three ways, whole, half, and quarters. Typically the more you order the lower the price per pound. Some producers will even sell smaller packages, either with a variety of cuts or just one type of cut, but this usually costs more. When we last purchased beef we bought a half side and split it with my husband’s parents, filling two freezers.
So what exactly is hanging weight? The price per pound for beef is based on hanging weight. This is the weight of the carcass before trimming away the fat and bones for processing. The final amount of beef that is cut and wrapped will be less than the original hanging weight, thus affecting the actual price per pound that ends up in your freezer. The leaner the carcass the higher the yield of usable cuts you will have. 100% grassfed beef will be significantly leaner than 100% grainfed beef giving you a higher yield of usable cuts.
How much you can expect to pay will depend on a few different factors. The first being where you are located. Prices in the Midwest tend to be lower than the west coast. Prices in more rural regions are lower than their urban counterparts. Another thing to consider that affects price is grassfed vs. grainfed and organic vs. conventional. Organic, 100% grassfed beef will cost a great deal more than conventional, grainfed beef due to the higher overall quality of the meat. When we purchase beef we don’t worry too much about it being organic (many smaller producers can’t afford the certification even though they practice organic methods) but we prefer grassfed beef and are willing to pay more for it. Where we live the cost is about $3.90 per pound. Our local grocer charges $6-8 per pound!
I hope this helps answer any questions you may have about purchasing beef from your local farmer. Keep in mind this same information applies to pork and lamb as well. So next time you are thinking about buying steaks and burgers, think local!
Have you ever purchased meat from a local source? Tell us about it in the comments!