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.

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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.

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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!

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How to Buy Locally Raised Meat

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    • Lisa Lombardo
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