Buying organic meat can seem impossible to squeeze into the family budget, but the benefits for your health far outweigh the cost. And there is a way to do it economically – buy a side of beef or pork from a local farmer like my family does!
When we moved back to my home state in 2012, I started asking around to see if my friends knew of local farmers they liked. Vineyard Farms was one of the ones mentioned that sold sides of beef, chickens, pork, eggs, and raw milk so I called Anna, the owner and a mom, and she explained how to buy a side of beef. The smallest portion I could buy was a quarter (about 250 pounds, including bones), so I settled with that one since it was our first time trying this and I had no idea how much we'd use.
She directed me to her Facebook page where she posts a notice on the page when a cow is ready, so we can request what we'd like. Last time, I was able to get exactly what I wanted – a variety of steaks, roast, sirloin, stew meat, lots of ground beef and a box of bones for making stock.
So, Do I Get A Ginormous Piece of Bloody Meat and Chop It Up Myself?
When I first checked into this a few years ago, I really had no idea how the side of cow was given to the customer. I can be quite imaginative (just ask my husband!) and pictured this gigantic piece of cow sitting in my garage that I'd have to chop up myself with a butcher knife the size of a Samurai sword! Well, maybe all of you are smarter than me and realize that probably isn't part of the deal. This is how it arrives, just look at the picture above. The cow is sent to a processor and they chop it up into whatever pieces you've requested. I asked for about half of the weight in ground beef, so that's what you see in the two bottom boxes. The rest is a box of bones for stock and soup, and the other box is steaks, beef stew meat, and roasts.
We have a 20 cubic-foot chest freezer (which is huge, but we manage to fill it and use it on a daily basis!), and it took up about 1/5 of the freezer, so there was plenty of room leftover for all the rest of our food!
Buy Local and Know Where Your Meat Comes From
That is the biggest benefit to buying local meat – you get a relationship with a local farmer and can even visit the farm to see how the animals are treated, what they're fed, etc. My farmer has all grass-fed cows that are fed organic feed, but they aren't certified organic because of all the extra federal fees that entails. That's fine with me, because that cost savings is reflected in the price. I love that I'm buying meat that is humanely raised at a local family farm, without the corporate greed or schemes that go along with it.
How Much Can You Save?
I bought 250 pounds of beef for $930. It was a hard pill to swallow right at first, believe me! Almost a thousand dollars for MEAT, what have I done?! But here's a cost breakdown:
$930/250 = $3.72 a pound
Now, that's per pound for even the top sirloin steaks, stew beef, roast beef and more and it's some of the highest quality, freshest meat all while supporting a local business! A total win-win.
How Long Did it Last?
A quarter of a cow, or about 250 pounds, fed our family of 5 (three small kids, one is a baby) for about 7 months. We ate beef on average about twice a week, supplementing with chicken, shrimp, fish and pork.