Livestock & Pets - Preserving the Harvest

How to Buy Locally Raised Meat

how to buy locally raised meat

Buy Locally Raised Meat

Are you interested in purchasing locally raised meat? Do you have concerns about the availability and safety of meat prepared by large processing plants? My family orders locally raised meat through small butcher shops for a variety of reasons.

We know that the animals were raised on pasture and weren’t given hormones and antibiotics. The small custom butcher shop adds zero dyes, saline solution, or fillers (like pink slime) to the meat. I like supporting small local businesses and farms and I think it is a more humane way to raise and process livestock. If I can’t raise and butcher it myself, this is the next best thing.

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Do you order locally raised meat?

How to Order Meat from a Butcher

You don’t necessarily need to order a whole, half, or quarter share of beef, pork, lamb, or goat to get locally raised meat. Ask your butcher where the meat was raised and processed. Many retail butcher shops order sides of meat then cut them or they order the meat already cut and just package it. If possible, consider ordering from a butcher that processes the live animals on site.

If you live in an urban area it will be more difficult to order pork, beef, lamb, and other meats this way. Check your yellow pages or search online for butcher shops in your area. Look for local farms that take orders for a whole, half, or quarter share of beef or pork. Check out Local Harvest for farms in your area.

Many small farms take orders for shares of meat before the animal is sent to the butcher shop. Here are the basic steps to order locally raised meat from a small farm:

  • Contact the farm and inquire about the price and procedures for ordering
  • Pay the farmer in advance for the live weight or hanging weight of the livestock.
  • The farmer will take the animal to the butcher shop
  • Check into the cuts available through the butcher shop and decide which cuts you’ll enjoy most
  • Set up the custom processing instructions with the butcher, they will walk you through the order
  • Clean out your freezer before you pick up the meat
  • Be ready to pick up and pay for processing when the meat is ready
  • Learn how to prepare pasture-raised meat for the best results
Locally raised beef

Other Considerations for Buying Local Meats

If you are interested in ordering locally raised meat, try looking on Craigslist, under the Farm and Garden section. Or call the local butcher shops to see if they have information about farmers selling pork or beef shares in your area.

You’ll have to pay the farmer for the live weight or hanging weight of the animal (the weight after head, hooves, organs, and hide have been removed) and you’ll pay for processing at the butcher shop. What you bring home will be about 60% of the live weight, because you also paid for the entrails and bones. You can ask for the bones for making bone broth or to feed your dog if you want.

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When you consider that the meat you purchase in the store often contains fillers and saline solution to increase the weight, you may be paying less overall. If you are looking for grass-fed animals, there will be less meat since they are not given hormones to make them gain weight quickly, and the price per pound will normally be higher. 

Keep in mind that you will need a large freezer to store all that meat. Our 15 cf freezer held about 400 pounds, about the size of a small steer. Grain-fed animals are larger and you may need a 20 cf freezer for a whole steer. You can also pressure can some of it or make your own jerky…but I would plan on having a freezer to accommodate all of it until you can process it further.

Ordering a hog is a bit easier on the budget than a whole steer. Most pigs weigh around 200 to 300 pounds when they are sent in for processing. The amount of meat you’ll take home should be around 60% of the live weight.

The Cost of Locally Raised Meat

The price per pound for live weight or hanging weight will depend a great deal on where you live and how the livestock was raised. Naturally raised animals take longer to reach butcher weight and cost more per pound. In areas surrounding large cities locally raised meat costs more than in rural areas.

Expect to pay at least $1.50 per pound live weight for the animal, plus the processing fees. Butcher shops usually charge a kill fee plus cutting and wrapping fee for each pound of meat. In my area, it costs about $80 to kill the animal plus about $1 per pound for cutting and wrapping. Expect to pay extra for sausages or other specialty cuts.


Each time I order a half or whole steer or pig, I add up the cost per pound. Beef is generally around $4 to $5 per pound and pork is generally around $4 per pound in my area. This cost is an average price per pound for everything from soup bones to steak.

We don’t always save money on our meat purchase but we know there is meat in the freezer to feed our family for months to come and we are supporting farmers in our area. That’s a good feeling!

Learn How to Butcher Chickens on the Cheap!

How to Buy Locally Raised Meat

25 Comments on “How to Buy Locally Raised Meat

  1. Lisa, this is a great article with the meat shortage that is here and probably is going to get worse going forward. We do have some local butchers so I may hit them up and we also just stocked up on beans and broth so we can get by on less meat too.

  2. Thank you for hosting, Lisa, AND for the feature of my sustainable changes we can all make! I couldn’t agree more, bringing our food “home” is where we should all be heading. Thank you for another great article! Hope your well & have a great week.

    1. Happy to share your post, Suzan! Thank you for all the great ideas! I agree… when possible we should support our local economy or raise our own food at home. Have a great day and take care!

  3. Thank you for hosting! This is what I featured the week of 4-20 to 4-24 on my blog. On Tuesday was Gluten Free Brownies. Wednesday was Baked Chicken Breast. Thursday was Baked Spaghetti Squash. And winding up this Week of Stay at Home is Tip Friday Storing Cookies and How-To Make Homemade Sour Cream. Enjoy!

  4. I cracked up the first time I heard someone refer to the WI/IL border as the cheddar curtain 🙂

    Good info to know! Thanks for sharing…I will have to look those up to see how far they are from here. Merry Christmas!

  5. Hi Lisa! I noticed that your meat is inspected in Wisconsin. I’m not sure where you’re located exactly, but I know of at least one place in the state where you can get grass-fed beef by the pound. It’s all grown within 30 miles (maybe less?) of the processor, too. Of course you don’t need any right now. LOL

    1. Hi Michelle,
      You’ve got a good eye 🙂 We are located in the central part of northern Illinois, just a few miles from the Cheddar Curtain (WI border 🙂

      You are very correct, we don’t need any now…but I would be happy to tuck that info away for future use if you send it my way!

      1. The “Cheddar Curtain”? LOL!!! I have lived here for 30 years and this is the first time I’ve heard that phrase. Wisconsin River Meats near Mauston provides grass-fed beef. They also have chicken, pork, and even bison from time to time. The only drawback I have found is that they use nitrites in any value-added meat products, so we steer clear of those. Also, we do not eat pork and we raise our own meat birds, so I have not asked how they raise/process those items. Grass-fed bison is also available from S Lazy D Ranch outside Warrens, Wisconsin. Superb!

  6. We are also concerned about where our food comes from. We raise our own chickens and pigs. For the past year and a half we’ve been buying pastured beef from a local farmer. But in addition to that, we almost always have venison. I think the venison has a “different” taste, but I would not call it gamey. I think a lot of that gamey taste has to do with how the deer is processed after it’s killed. We tend to take the hide off very soon, and when we cut up the meat, we take off almost all of the fat. We freeze the steaks and cut the rest into cubes and pressure can it.

    1. Good for you! I’m looking forward to the day when we have room for pigs 🙂 We raised them when I was a kid and boy, did they taste good. We order pork from a local farmer now. I don’t have a place to hunt deer, so I am a bit jealous of your venison supply 😉 Pressure canning is a great way to preserve meat, especially if you are prone to power outages.

  7. well, come jan. 3 i get to try this also. we joined a co-op and will be eating good meat finally. my husband is to the point he doesnt even want me to buy chicken in store anymore. im sure there will be a definite taste difference. frankly, im ready to eat something that i “know what it really is”

    1. Susan, that’s awesome! I’m always so happy to hear about people bypassing the junk at the grocery store to join a co-op or buy local 🙂 Let me know how you like it!

  8. I personally am vegetarian, but my boys are omnivorous. I have raised turkey and chickens for the freezer for the last couple of years and now that I finally have moved out of town to a larger property I am on the verge of trying my hand at pork or beef. My thought is that anything I raise has to be healthier than store-bought and in seeing the life and death of the animal my boys will remember that it isn’t just a steak to be consumed. An living animal grew and then died so they can eat, therefore they should feel respect and gratitude every time they sit down to eat.

  9. Love it! We decided to invest in a chest freezer too. We live out in the “country” and have a great variety of local, organic, free range meat options within 30 miles. Fully agree with you it is better for the environment, the animal welfare, the health of the consumer and it is cheaper!.

  10. Have a co-worker that recently bought a cow ( or alot of one at least : ) She had a choice of cuts and we had an office debate about the tail ( I said it was the same as “oxtail” in the store and was supposed to be very good for soups ) ANYWAY…it was grassfed, organic, local, etc and then when she cooked her first round she said it was hard to get used to….that it was lean and ‘gamey’ like venison.

    Which would show you that we don’t even know what real beef should taste like half of the time

    1. Grass fed beef definitely has a stronger flavor. I don’t know that I would call it gamey, personally. But pretty much everything you buy at the store comes from confinement lot animals fed only grain, and sometimes waste products from other industries. This includes the litter from meat chicken operations…yuck! So of course it has a different flavor…more fat, and additions such as saline solution and pink slime. You’re right on that most people have no idea what real beef tastes like!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. We have been buying our beef and pork from local farmers and rancers at the Farmer’s Market. I like being able to buy small amounts instead of a quarter or half of a steer. I agree, if I can’t raise it myself, I’ll certainly support the local farmers and ranchers! 🙂

    1. Hi Candy,
      That’s great that you can buy smaller amounts from the local farmers! Around here you can’t do that, you have to buy a share from the farmer and then pick it up at the butcher shop…something about being a USDA inspected processor if you take the wrapped meat home and then sell it in smaller amounts. No doubt it is all devised to keep big business big and step on the little guys.

    1. I hadn’t seen that article, but I’ve been paying attention for a long time so a lot of this isn’t new to me. I grew up eating the beef that my family raised, and knowing that it was better than the stuff from the store. Thanks for sharing the link Linda! I’m sure that this is still news to a lot of people.

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