Buying and eating locally raised meat can be a very intimidating concept to any first-timer. The process involves deciding on the type of meat you are looking to purchase, locating a local harvest provider, learning the ins and outs of storing meat and making sure you purchase the right amount. Eating locally raised may seem like quite the task, but thanks to author Leslie Miller you won’t need to worry. Leslie has put together a very helpful guide for anyone interested in purchasing, storing and preparing whole animals in her book, Uncle Dave’s Cow And Other Whole Foods My Freezer Has Known.
When you buy your beef, chicken, pork or lamb from a local farmer you'll be able to ensure it was raised humanely and what diet it was fed. Buying a whole or even half of an animal provides you with a lot of meat at a very low cost, and by storing meat correctly it means no more repetitive, last minute trips to the grocery store.
If you’ve decided that you want to purchase half a cow, a full cow, or any other bulk animal then here are some steps you will need to find a local harvest provider and how to store meat properly.
First things first, you need to identify the type of meat your household prefers to eat. Do you eat a lot of ham and bacon or do steaks and burgers sound more up your alley?
Once you’ve identified the type of meat, you will need to nail down the amount. Certain meats can be kept frozen for up to a year without harming the texture or taste, such as beef. But some meats like goat, lamb and pork will only last six months frozen before the time comes to buy again. When it comes to buying local harvest meats, the amount of meat you will get varies from animal to animal. For example, an average hog yields 74% of its live weight once butchered, a goat yields only 40% of its live weight, while a lamb or cow only produce 61% of their live weight as take-home meat.
FINDING A LOCAL HARVEST PROVIDER
- There are a couple of options to choose from when searching for a local harvest meat provider, but your best bet would be to head over to the local farmers market and ask if the farm sells whole animals. More often than not they do and there is a pretty good chance you will have the option of trying the different cuts they offer right at their booth. Click here to find a farmers market in your area.
- The next place to look would be your county fair held in September. Buying through the fair from young 4-h'ers is an excellent way to support your community. The process of purchasing half a cow or a whole goat at the fair can be tricky so check out these helpful tips for first-time fair buyers!
- Another helpful resource for finding local harvest providers would be the Internet. Check out localharvest.org or craigslist.com for farmers or providers in your area.
MAKING THE PURCHASE
All that is left to do is reserve your animal and give your producer a list of specific cuts you would like to receive. When purchasing an animal like a cow, a large majority of your beef will end up being ground into hamburger because it's tougher. The rest of the meat will be cut and packaged per your request. Ask your producer for a chart describing the different cuts available from the different areas of your animal.
For your hard work to pay off you need to know how to store meat properly. Determine the size of your order and evaluate the freezer space you already have. Storing meat means freezing meat, so if you only have the small freezer in your kitchen but you purchased half a cow, it’s time to go buy a bigger freezer! As long as you have enough room for the cold air to circulate around your packaged meat, then it will stay frozen. Knowing how to store meat properly can prevent issues like freezer burn and thawing which compromise the edibility of the meat.
TIP: The best method for long term freezer storage is to vacuum seal your meat, so ask your producer if they can vacuum seal your cuts for an extra charge.
Keeping your meat in good condition during its time in the freezer, the thawing process and much more information on eating locally and storing meat, plus 45 delicious recipes is packed into the pages of Leslie Millers book, Uncle Dave’s Cow And Other Whole Foods My Freezer Has Known.