Buying meat directly from a farmer has been around as long as farming, but these days, the grocery store is about as close as most people get to the farm.
For omnivores who want to keep their dollars local and don’t mind the upfront investment, buying a share of a cow or pig might be a great and surprisingly accessible option, with potential savings and the convenience of always having protein on hand.
1. Think about what you want and how much. If you’re interested in beef, consider that a whole cow could provide 400-600 pounds of meat, a half cow between 200 and 300, and a quarter cow between 100 and 150. A whole 250-pound hog yields about 120-140 pounds of meat, while a half will provide 60-70.
2. Assess your freezer capacity. You’ll need an additional freezer, especially if you purchase your share on your own and intend to keep all of the meat. For reference, a whole butchered hog might fill between half and two-thirds of a 10 cubic foot chest freezer.
2. Ask friends or family if they’d like to split the purchase.
3. Set a budget, and keep in mind that you’re purchasing meat for up to a year all at once. Buying pork or beef directly from a farmer isn’t automatically cheaper than going to the grocery store — a lot of factors influence price. Look online for local farmers who sell shares or ask around at farmer’s markets. If you want to purchase from a 4-H kid at the county fair, plan to spend more, but that extra money helps that kid participate the following year.
4. Find a pork or beef (or lamb or veal) producer who can give you what you want at the price you can afford. Remember that specialty options, like custom butchering or delivery, might add to the price.
5. Once your meat is stowed in your freezer, enjoy! Many people find that the taste alone is worth the extra work — and sometimes the extra cash — over meat from the grocery store or even a butcher.