If you have read this blog long enough, you know that I am a supporter of pasture raised animal products if possible. Animals raised on pasture, as opposed to in confined factory farming, is better for the animal, better for the land, and better for the consumer. They have higher levels of omega-3s, CLA, vitamin E, and beta carotene. I won't elaborate on all of the benefits; that's for another post. Long story short, I choose to use my dollars to support farms that humanely raise animals, feed them a diet in which they were designed to eat, and allow them to live in an environment in which they were designed to live.
There are very few stores in my area that carry grass-fed animal products, although that number is growing with customer demand. There is one in particular where I used to frequently shop when I first started down my "real food" journey. I was SHOCKED when I trotted my little happy self to the meat counter and requested a couple of steaks. I was expecting it to be a little more expensive, but not quadruple the price that I was accustomed to paying. Let's just say I felt defeated rather quickly. There had to be another way that I could purchase quality meat without the $13/lb price tag, otherwise, I would never be able to eat my beloved juicy steak again. ::cries::
My next stop was the farmer's market. Surely they would have better prices! They did in fact have better prices than the big box stores, but still nothing comparable to what I was used to paying. Our family puts our food budget at a pretty high priority over most things, and I know that real food comes with a cost, but even still, buying individual cuts was breaking us.
That's when I inquired about bulk prices...
HALLELUIAH! We found a winner! I could finally enjoy my quality beef and still stay in budget!
We ended up purchasing a quarter of a cow from a wonderful farmer, and our freezer soon became fully stocked for a fraction of the cost of the supermarket. Hooray!
Why buy directly from a farmer?
- You get to know your farmer and their practices: There's no guessing about your beef or worrying about misleading labels. You can visit the farm personally, talk to the farmer himself, and know exactly what you're getting.
- Cheaper cost: I can find bulk grass-fed beef in my area for about $4-5/lb. That is for steaks, roasts, and everything! You can't even find conventional steak for that price in the supermarket. It's like getting t-bone steaks for a ground beef price. Yes, please!
- Convenience: It is so awesome being able to shop your own freezer for dinner. You no longer have to worry about price checking stores, waiting for a sale to stock up, or anything like that. Simply go to your freezer and choose from a plethora of options. I also love that if we have company, it's so convenient to just pull out an extra package of ground beef, a couple more steaks or whatever to feed more people. There's no need to run to the store. I love being able to share the gift of hospitality with quality food.
- Includes other goodies like bones: When I shop in the stores, I don't get the extra goodies like soup bones. With soup bones, you can make delicious and nutritious stocks and soups for literally pennies. The cost savings just keep coming!
- Supports a small family farm in your area: Farmers work extremely hard and I am extremely thankful for them. I want to support them as much as I can because they help supply me food multiple times a day. I especially want to support small family farms in my area that are using healthy sustainable practices. It's just good business and goes directly to help put food on their tables and a roof over their heads. Any time I can spend my dollars locally, I will.
Where to find grass fed beef
Eat Wild: This is a great website where you can search by state and find farms in your surrounding area or those that deliver to your area. It's definitely the first place that I would start my search.
Weston A. Price Foundation local chapter: This is actually where I found our supplier. While I am not directly involved with my local Weston A. Price chapter, the chapter leader in my area had a huge list of farms for me to explore.
Local Farmer's Market: I have discovered many new farms in my area at local farmer's markets. It's a great time to talk to them face to face and make a new friend. Many of them will have bulk order purchase forms right there for you to look at and even order if you wish.
Word of Mouth: Do not discount asking around on local social media groups. You never know until you ask if someone has had experience buying meat in bulk. You may stumble upon a gem!
Butcher Box: If you don't want the commitment of such a large amount of meat, you can always try a service like Butcher Box. They offer customized boxes of quality meat delivered to your door. We have also used this service at different seasons of life and have very much enjoyed it. I waited until they were offering a promotion I liked, which in my case was the 2 lb. ground beef free for life with every box. Use my link for $30 off your first box.
Your regular grocery store: With the demand of grass-fed beef becoming greater, more grocery stores are starting to carry it. If you get lucky enough to find a great sale price in bulk at your store, buy it and freeze in individual portions.
**Note: You may have to drive a bit to pick up your beef. Don't just look right in your immediate area. The farm that I purchased our last side of beef from is over an hour away. They deliver to my area though a few times a year to several families. I picked mine up in a mall parking lot about 20 minutes away from my house. If you are traveling far to pick up your beef from a butcher, you may need to bring coolers or ice packs. They are usually frozen super solid, but you never know.
Tips for buying bulk beef
- Sample the beef before you buy: Not all grass fed beef tastes the same. Some are more gamey tasting than others. Some will have better flavor and texture. It all will be leaner and will cook faster than your typical grain fed beef, but it is important to find a beef supplier that you like before you drop that kind of money. It would be quite sad if you purchased a quarter beef and hated it.
- Ask questions: Ask questions about what the animals diet, if anything is sprayed on the grass, GMO feed if they are supplemented with grain when finishing, any growth hormones or antibiotics given to the animal. Most of the time these farmers can't wait to brag about their quality beef and how they care for their animals. If they aren't talking or are offended, they're not the farm for you.
- Make sure you have storage: A quarter or side of beef takes up a lot of freezer space. You MUST make sure you have plenty of room to store it all. I recommend purchasing an upright freezer. A chest freezer is great too, but I love being able to see in one glance what I have on hand. If you don't want to buy new, you can always check Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for a used one.
- Split with friends or family: You will get the best cost if you purchase a whole cow. The best way to get the same price without having to purchase the entire thing yourself is to split it with others. This is also a great option if you don't have freezer space or finances to purchase a side or quarter on your own.
- Buy the right amount: We purchased a side (half) the first time we bought bulk, and it lasted us about a year and a half. Truthfully I don't think we needed that much. The next time we only purchased a quarter for our family of four, and it was just right for the year for us. If you entertain a lot, have large teenage eaters in the house, or have a larger family, I would recommend a side, but for two adults and two children, a quarter would have been enough. I d0 run out of ground beef much faster than everything else, so I recommend requesting more cuts to be ground if you have similar eating habits.
- Save up for the large cost: Yes you will save money buying in bulk, but it is a hefty cost up front. I recommend saving up several hundred dollars just like your grandparents had to do when purchasing something with a large price tag. Planning ahead goes a long way.
That's our experience buying in bulk. Have you ever purchased bulk beef? Do you have any more tips to share?