Different ways of buying meat. What is the best way and how do I go about it?

I get asked this question a lot. It depends on a number of factors. How much money do you have in the budget, how much freezer space do you have and what cuts do you eat the most? The best way to support your local farmer is to buy from them and 90% of the time it’s cheaper than what you would pay at your local chain grocery store. Most farmers either sell the whole animal at a set price still alive, the whole animal dressed and hanging at the butcher, half the animal dressed and some are willing to do quarters but this is mostly on the beef side.

Let’s start with your budget. On average a beef animal will dress 1/2 after the animal has been hung up at the butcher’s coolers. So a 1000 pound animal will result in around 500 pounds hanging weight. Prices vary from farmer to farmer and also depend on whether you want grain-fed or grass-fed beef. Prices vary between $3.50 to $5.00 a pound. When buying it hanging, the farmer pays the butcher to get it to the point of fully dressed and hanging. If you buy half a cow, you have to pay the farmer on the low end of $3.50 X 250 ( half of the 500 pounds hanging) for a cost of $875.00. You are also responsible to pay the butcher by the pound to cut and wrap the meat to your specifications. Those prices vary from .70 to $1.00 per pound. So now you have invested $1125.00 ($875 + $250). What you get back depends on the cuts you ask for. If you opt for bone-in steaks, the weight will be greater than bone-out steaks.

Out of a 250-pound side of beef, you will average around 220 to 235 pounds of meat. The price invested now is between $4.79 to $5.00 a pound straight through. Right now, our local chain grocery store is selling just hamburger at $5.89 a pound. The steaks you will be getting for $5 a pound, are going for as high as 18.00 a pound respectively. Prices are going to go higher now with fuel prices up at your local chain stores.

How do I find a farmer that is selling beef? You can start by asking us and if we don’t have one available, we can usually find someone that does. Speaking of which, if you are a local ( St.Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, or Clinton Counties) farmer with meat available, get with us so we know where to send folks. Right now openings for farmers to get cows booked for slaughter are running a month or more out before local butcher shops have openings available.

Pork is the same. A pig will usually dress 2/3. A 350-pound pig will normally give you 200 pounds hanging weight of the meat. You normally will end up with around 170 pounds of meat cut and wrapped. Cost varies between $3.50 to $5.00 a pound.

The other way to buy meat locally is to find a farmer that is having his or her animals butchered USDA certified and is selling by the pound and by the cut. You do end up paying more this way, but you are also buying what you want in limited quantities. These folks tend to be at local farmers’ markets with frozen meat in coolers or they are getting a list of what you want and many deliver.


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