Buying Meat Directly From a Farmer: 7 Things You Need to Know

| 6/18/2010 10:15:53 AM

Tags: Buying meat from farmer, Local meat, Half a hog, Buy local meat,

A photo of Shannon SaiaLike most things that I’ve done around here over the course of the past few years, I started buying meat directly from a local farmer in idealistic and almost utter ignorance.

I mean, it’s not exactly like I went out looking for someone to sell me half a hog.

As a matter of fact, when I first started looking into buying local food, meat wasn’t even on my radar screen. Like most people, when I thought of “local food” I thought of CSAs and farmer’s markets, which to my limited understanding meant produce, plain and simple. But when I started participating in a local area food group in Southern Maryland, there was much more than produce on the menu. There were eggs. There were broilers. And then one day there was this:

“For one more week, I am taking orders for meat from half or whole hogs for fall delivery.”

Hello! What’s this? Are you telling me that I can buy a hog?

Of course I had a ton of questions. Starting with, why on earth would I want to buy a hog?

4/9/2013 7:51:27 PM

Great article. I tell my customers (re buying local meats), its green, its local and its certainly trending but the hook is the taste. There is no comparison between well raised local meats and the commodity meats at the grocery store. Two completely different sports. I have been sourcing locally raised, well treated, whole and preferably pastured animals for groups of folks in StL for about 5 years now. In fact, after doing this for about 4 years charitably, I finally got so busy that my wife and I incorporated it into a business, Mac's Local Buys. We've been going for over a year now. We only buy whole animals and we take everything the inspector will let out the door. I guess my point in all this, is more and more people are wanting to know where their food comes from. We've effectively carved out a spot in the supply chain to help them find what I call premium proteins, because honestly, that's exactly what they are. ~mac

6/25/2010 2:27:35 PM

Shannon, your quite welcome. N.Dave, the "grass roots" movement is taking steady hold on America. The present economy is forcing many comercial farmers to go back to the old ways of doing things. Due to market prices, added value farm products are becomming more prevalant, farmers are looking more to market directly to the consumer and eliminate the middlemen, and (thanks to the increase in the education of the public) farmers are growing the foods the customers want to buy. Yes, unfortunately in the present day of cell phones, internet, and other non-persnal way of communicating much of the neighbor helping neighbor has gone by the wayside. It's a terrible thing to think, but when times get tuff, we all tend to go back to the way things were once done. Maybe the bad economy isn't all bad.

s.m.r. saia
6/21/2010 1:43:48 PM

Lee, thanks for much for clearing that up for Nebraska Dave and myself!!! I can't wait till the beef is ready!

nebraska dave
6/21/2010 11:22:15 AM

@Ionfarm, thank you so much for your wisdom to make sure about the butchering techniques of the animals that you raise. After all the attention taken to raise an animal to perfection, it would be a shame that it could be lost in the butchering process. I expect that many just as you do make the conscious effort to assure a quality product for the end user. Being from Nebraska I can’t really say that I’ve eaten a grass fed animal of any kind. I do like the idea of raising beef, pork, chicken, and rabbit without the systematic hormone or antibiotic injection schedules. I certainly hope that the grass roots movement in this country can swing us back to the quality production of meats as it was decades ago. I still remember butchering day when I was a kid. It was usually a community thing with neighbors to help with the slaughter and cutting of the animal. As I recall it was a gloriously wonderful all day time to spend with the neighbors knowing that we would help when it was there turn. Does anyone do that anymore?

s.m.r. saia
6/21/2010 8:17:22 AM

Cindy and N. Dave, thanks for stopping by. Cindy, I haven't had the pleasure of tasting the local beef yet. I can't wait. But the pork, turkey and chicken are definitely way better than grocery store meat. N. Dave, I totally get what you're saying. I'm sure that that is a very real possibility. Perhaps I should add to my list of what to ask - how do I know the meat I'm getting is the meat you raised? Excellent point. There is just such a disturbing amount of ambiguity and behind-the-scenes mystery about everything having to do with food. It's a constant worry to me as well. Sigh.

6/21/2010 8:17:09 AM

We are very happy to know that Shannon has enjoyed her meat and appreciate her patronage! We look forward to providing our local area the very best in all natural pasture raised meats. To answer some of the concerns posted by "Nebraska Dave"... You very much have right to be concerned about the practice of mixing meats. The best advice is to visit your local butchers and interview them before you take any meat there. That is what we did. Before we took our meat to any of the 6 butchers in our area, I personaly went and inspected each shop and interviewed each butcher. We finally settled on a small butcher with the cleanest shop and a reputation for honesty. In addition, please recognize that there is a difference in the terms "butchering" and the word "processing". Processing is added preparation of the meats after the butcher is finished with the cutting. A reputable butcher will never mix your meat with someone elses meat. When the cutting is finished all meat is returned to us or our customers to hold for us personally to provide any further processing such us making bacon, sausage, hams, etc.. We do not let our butcher perform any processing. We provide that service here at the farm ourselves to our customers. When we pick up meat from the butcher, all meat is marked as to what customer it belongs to. When we make their sausage it is made with the meat from their particular hog. The same with the bacon, hams etc.. Hope this helps. Lee Anthony, ION Farm

cindy murphy
6/19/2010 8:38:10 PM

Thanks for another meaty post, pack full of information, Shannon. A friend of mine raises just a few heads of cattle (don't know if that's the exact terminology - a coupla cows sounds just fine to me), and we always buy a 1/4 or a half from her (reminds me, we've got to get our order in). Some cuts are cheaper than in the grocery, some are more. In the end, pound for pound it pretty much equals close to what you'd spend for beef in the grocery store. But the taste! That's the big difference! Looking for someone locally who raises hogs. Thanks for the tips on what to ask.

nebraska dave
6/18/2010 6:05:18 PM

Shannon, my biggest concern about buying meat from the local farmer is the processor. I would want to make sure that I received back the animal that I brought in. Many processors just cut up the animal, grind up the burger, cure the hams, smoke the bacon, and throw it all together with all the other animals that come through the door. Because they know the weight that came through the door they know how much hamburger, bacon, or sausage you get and just pull out that amount and put it into a package order. The meat you brought in isn’t necessarily the meat from the animal you brought in. It’s the same for wild game processors. A deer brought in to process many times all go into the same bin when completed and then it’s packaged by weight of the deer brought in. I’m not saying that all processors do it that way but a large number of them do. You can imagine how much more complicated it would be and require much more effort to process if the animals were all separately processed especially when they smoke multiple ham and bacon orders together. I guess maybe I’m just overly suspicious about the processing but I’ve seen them package up stuff that way while I’m waiting for my order. It is difficult for the buyer to do all that processing so it is a necessary thing. I hope that all your local meat purchases are wonderful experiences.

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