Know Your Farmer: Buy beef or pork

After all of the pink slime controversy (which didn't impact me as much as others), I am more appreciative of the fact that all of our beef and pork comes from a reputable farmer. A farmer who gives his cattle ample space, a diet of quality products, and clean, healthy living conditions.

Thanks, Dad!

Now, more than ever, I appreciate the fact that I have never purchased meat from the meat counter. That's right. I've never purchased ground beef, or steaks, or chops, or any other cut of pork or beef from a mega-store's meat counter. (In efforts for full disclosure: I have purchased "lunch meat" for sandwiches, on occasion, from the meat counter.)

That's because my parents are farmers, who raise their own beef and pork for profit and personal use. This means I know exactly where my meat comes from. I know how it was raised too, so I feel good about the honest, ethical practices that are used to put food on my table.

But I understand that I am a rarity - because many people find it difficult to find a farmer to purchase a portion of beef or pork from, or if they do, they think it is more expensive.

But it's not.

It's probably more economical to purchase your beef or pork from a local farmer, and it's more convenient. Here's why:
  1. A "cow" or "pig" is processed at a locker. The butcher humanely processes the animal into cuts of your choice. Before the animal is processed, you have a conversation with your butcher about what you want out of the animal and how you want it processed. For example, John and I want all of the steaks possible from a beef, some roasts cut into small portions for two people, and ground beef in one pound packages, among other things.
  2. My parents have used a few different lockers in the last 25 years, but only 1 or 2 rise to the top. Think of a locker like a restaurant, and a butcher like a chef. Each locker and each butcher is different, just like the professionals you find at a restaurant. You wouldn't keep eating at a terrible restaurant, or a restaurant that doesn't serve cuisine you enjoy, so find a locker and butcher that processes your meat exactly the way you like it. If all else fails, visit the lockers you are interested in and buy a few packages of meat from their meat counter to test it out. Kick the tires a little bit. 
  3. You pay for your animal based on hanging weight and processing fees. The more "cuts" your butcher makes, or the more he or she needs to package from your animal, the more it will cost. Big families will save a lot of money here. Couples, like John and I, who get our meat processed in smaller packages spend just a bit more than large families. 
  4. You pick up your meat from the locker in about 2 weeks, depending on the season and if the butcher is busy processing game from a hunting season, for example. Your meat will be packaged with a label and your name, and frozen and ready for your freezer!
  5. If a whole "cow" or "pig" is too much for you, many also get half, or a quarter of the animal. Many times my brother, sister, parents, and I all split one animal four ways. This cuts down on processing costs, and we split the hanging weight. 
  6. You're buying meat in bulk, so fluctuating meat prices won't impact you like they do at the meat counter of your grocery store.
Know your food, know your farmer. Know that you're making a change for the best interests of your family and wallet...all while stickin' it to the man. 

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