How to Buy Grassfed Beef from the Farm

Farmer Billy, our guy, sells meat by the whole or half carcass.

Today we picked up our year’s supply of grassfed beef from a local farmer. This is the fourth year we’ve done it, and I can’t say enough good things about the experience. Buying local is good for the farmer, good for your health, and good for the economy. And it sure beats paying $18 a pound for a steak.

However, you have to do a bit of research to navigate the farm-to-table world. Here’s an overview of our process.

First, check Eat Wild for a local pasture based farm. Click on your state, then peruse the list of farms by city. Eat wild has a comprehensive list of farms selling beef, poultry, pork, eggs, etc. Call a farm or check out their website for more info.

Farmer Billy, our guy, sells meat by the whole or half carcass (beef), which we always split into quarters (a whole beef between 4 families, or half between 2 families). I usually place our order in March or April because I want to make sure I’m on the list before Billy finishes the cows on tasty alfalfa and other grassy yumminess around May. Once the cows are properly finished, Billy sends them to the processor at the end of May or June.*

Next I contact friends to see who wants to share the beef. A quarter beef lasts us 9-12 months and only costs between $400-500, depending on the weight of the cow. The farm charges $2.50 per pound for every cut of meat, and the processor charges 60ยข per pound + a $50 kill fee. That’s just over $3.10 per pound for tenderloin, sirloin, roasts, brisket, etc. Y’all, the national average for GROUND BEEF is $3.38. Forget about what you’d pay at Whole Foods for grassfed meat. This is a good deal, and people know it.

Judy at the processing facility is who I call to discuss how I want my meat cut. Do I want the T-bone steaks whole or separated into filets and New York strips? Do I want the round roasts whole or cut into cube steak, ground beef, or round steaks? How thick do I want the steaks cut? Judy keeps all this info in a file from year to year, so each time I call back I can tell her I want it the same as before, or “Would you mind adding soup bones to the mix this time around?” She’s great.

After Billy takes the beef to be processed, the meat hangs for 2 weeks. Then Judy and her guys cut the meat according to my specifications, vacuum pack it, and freeze it. When Joshua & I arrive to get our beef, it’s all labeled and cut into manageable sizes like we’re used to seeing at the grocery store. We pay Judy and head home in an air-conditioned car full of meats. I may do a little dance and squeal, “It’s Beef Day!”

Once we make the trek home, we quickly unload the frozen beef (you gotta be quick in a South Carolina summer), and divide the meat into quarter shares. Each share for this year received the following cuts:

3 Sirloin Steaks
3 Ribeyes
3 Tenderloins
3 New York Strips
1 Skirt Steak or 1 Flank Steak
1 Brisket
2 Sirloin Tip Roasts
2 Shoulder Roasts
1 Eye Round Roast
1 Rump Roast
2 Chuck Roasts
2 London Broils
2 Short Ribs
3 Stir Fry Meats
6 Stew Meats
34 lbs. Ground Beef

We invite everyone to pick up their portion as soon as we get home from the processor and divide everything up. Each family pays for their share then, and we mail a check to Billy. We store our beef in little half-size deep freezer (5.0 cubic feet) we bought at Sam’s a couple of years ago for $150, and it can hold up to a half a beef.

This meat is delicious and nutritious. Buying a whole beef means you get some new cuts you’d probably never choose at the grocery store. Example: shoulder roast tastes AMAZING when slow cooked on the grill. We also have some lovely marinades, or really, it’s mainly bourbon. Sometimes red wine, Worcestershire, and soy sauce. Joshua definitely likes to experiment with marinades.

I want to start saving to buy pastured chickens, pork, and lamb from a local farm too. Then we’d be totally off-the-grid, so to speak, in terms of meat consumption! Someday. One thing at a time.

*Every farm is different in terms of when their animals are ready to be processed. I’ve contacted a lamb farmer who has meat ready in early spring or the fall. So if you want to buy pastured meat but aren’t necessarily ready right now, go ahead and call the farmer to see what their schedule is. Better to get on the list early.