How to Buy Meat Farm Direct

Buying meat in bulk direct from the farm allows you to choose the quality of meat that you like, as well as how it was raised, fed, finished, and even cut and packaged. We are lucky in central Illinois as there are many choices: grass-fed or grain-finished? Organic or natural? How about a heritage livestock breed? There are a lot of options! Check out our Livestock Lingo Article to help you make the best decision. Not to mention, buying in bulk is often much cheaper than purchasing individual cuts. Below are some common questions and thoughts to consider to help you make your first purchase.

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Broad Branch Farm Pastured Pigs

Should I buy a whole, half, quarter or a individual cuts?

Consider the following factors before choosing what to buy: ​

  • How much freezer space do you have?

  • How much meat does your family consume on average? Do you eat meat 7 nights a week, or just here and there?

  • How much are you comfortable spending?

  • What types of cuts do you eat the most? Steaks, roast, ground meats, etc. Remember, when you buy a quarter, half, or whole an animal, you will be getting all sort of cuts, not just your favorites (steak or bacon). Having a variety can be great for breaking up meal-time monotony, but can also require a little extra research if you are unsure how to prepare a certain cut.

How much freezer space do I need?

As a general guide, 60 lbs. of meat (about 1/8 of a typical beef) will take up at least half of the freezer in the average home refrigerator. A chest or upright freezer might be a good option if you are thinking of buying a quarter or half a beef. Remember that beef is best stored no more than 9-12 months (3-4 months for ground beef), to maintain freshness. It can be stored longer but the quality will diminish over time.

What does it cost?

Buying meat in bulk will save you money compared to buying individual cuts at the grocery store or farmers market. When you buy in bulk (quarters, halves and wholes) you’re paying the same price per pound regardless of cuts: that means you pay the same price for ground beef as you do for filet mignon! To estimate the costs, take into consideration the following:

  • How much does the animal itself cost? Most producers charge based on the “hanging weight”, the weight of the carcass after inedible parts (skull, hooves, etc.) have been removed.

  • For example, a typical steer weighs about 1,200 lbs., which yields about a 730 lbs. carcass (referred to as “hanging weight”), which will yield about 490 lbs. of cut meat.

  • How much is the processing? This will depend on which processing plant a producer uses and your processing requests. There are a couple of different fees:

  • A slaughter fee or kill fee

  • Cuting & wrapping fees (cutting and packaging your meat)

  • Value-added processing fees (making bacon, sausage, jerky, and other products that must undergo additional seasoning, smoking, drying, etc).

How much and what do I get?

How much meat you will get depends on several factors: size, weight, fat/muscle ratio, carcass age and cutting instructions. A beef carcass is divided into sections, known as primals. These are then cut into individual roasts, steaks, etc. The cuts that you get will depend on how much you buy and your cutting instructions. In the case of beef, this will include steak cuts (like new york strips, top sirloins or t-bones), braising and roasting cuts (like chuck roast, rump roasts and brisket), ground beef and miscellaneous items like soup bones and organ meats, if you request them. A half hog will include pork chops, spare ribs, pork shoulder, hocks, ham, ground pork or sausage and bacon. For more specifics about a half hog, check out this great webpage. For more info about different cuts of beef, check out the diagram below of beef primals with cooking instructions from 44 Farms.

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Where do I start?

Check out our new Print Directory and look for the steak icon next to farmers who are raising and selling meat products. Read their listing to find out how they raise their livestock and contact them individually via phone or email for specific pricing and any other questions. Alternatively, you can scroll through the farms in our Online Directory. There are many options to choose from, so shop around and see what fits your needs.

Source: High Desert Food and Farm Alliance and Oregon State Univeristy Extension

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