I had first heard about purchasing beef directly from the farmer, from a friend. I was concerned about the high price of organic/grass-fed beef in store, and was looking for other options. It sounded like a great idea but I wasn’t sure where to start. After looking around, I was able to find a local farmer and we’ve purchased from them several times.
Here are some tips from my experience on how to buy beef from a local farmer:
- Search the internet. It was difficult to even find a farmer locally to purchase from. I turned to Craigslist, searched “beef/cow” in my area and came across a local farm that sold by the 1/4, 1/2 and full. You can also google it and there should be local farms or forums with information on where to buy.
- Prepare to travel. Unless you live in a rural area, you may have to drive a bit to pick up the beef. We drive about an hour away, but we purchase 1/4 to 1/2 each time, which lasts us 6-12 months, so we figure the drive is worth the amount we save on the beef.
- Decide the amount of beef you need. Grass fed cows tend to be smaller than grain fed cows, so keep that in mind when deciding if you want a 1/4, 1/2 or full. A 1/4 cow net us about 120 lbs hanging weight, so about 96 pounds of meat. I figure about 1/4 pound per serving, so that would yield about 384 servings of beef.
- Calculate price per pound. Farmers will quote you the hanging weight price, usually anywhere from $2.80 to $6.00 per pound. You will generally yield 80% of that, making the true price range $3.50 to $7.50 per pound. Many farms also charge a “kill” fee, ranging from $15-$100.
- Tour the farm. You’ll want to be sure that the animals are truly grass-fed. Most farmers will allow you to come out and tour the farm. This is a good way to check on the health of the animals as well as the farm conditions.
- Pick your cut. You can choose how thick the steaks are cut, how many steaks per package, the size of the roasts, the amount of pounds per package of ground beef and if you want hamburger patties made. Be prepared, they will ask if you would like the liver or the tongue, which we always opt out of! When we bought a 1/2 we were able to make a special request for prime rib at no charge. You also may be able to request filets. If there are certain cuts of steak/roasts you don’t need, you can have them grind it into ground beef.
- Buy a deep freezer. A deep freezer will help your meat last longer and will provide enough room for the beef. We were able to purchase a freezer from Lowe’s on sale for $150 and it has worked great for us. If you have an extra refrigerator/freezer, the top freezer portion should fit a 1/4 cow, but if you buy any larger, you’ll want a deep freezer.
- Request no fillers. You’ll likely talk directly to the butcher in the process. Be sure that he does not add any fillers to the ground beef.
- Go lean. If you prefer your meat lean, you can request this directly from the butcher at no extra charge. The steaks and roasts will have a little less fat since grass-fed cows are less fatty than grain fed.
- Marinate. Grass fed beef is a touch gamier tasting than grain fed. We always marinate our steaks and roasts overnight in red wine vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic sea salt. We add a little garlic sea salt to the ground beef and patties and they taste great!
Grass fed beef is a healthier alternative to store-bought beef and tends to run much cheaper than store-bought organic beef. What are your tips on buying from a local farmer?
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