Tips for Buying Locally Raised Meats

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Buying local is a great way to support our area’s farmers, while securing a supply of wholesome, delicious protein. The tips below can
help achieve a positive purchasing experience.

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program (SWNYDLFC) is committed to helping farmers produce safe, high quality products for their communities, and would like to share that local farms across the region are selling fresh, quality meats directly from the farm or through local markets. If you’ve never purchased local meats before, here are some tips to help make your experience successful.

Why purchase locally?

Purchasing locally grown and raised foods stimulates the local economy while supporting friends and neighbors. Local farms have a variety of meat cuts and volumes available, with an abundance of options to choose from, including pasture raised, grain finished, all-natural, and organic. Buying directly from farms or local markets gives you an opportunity to talk with the farmer and learn more about how their animals are raised, while also providing a secure supply of wholesome protein.

You don’t need to know exactly what you want.

If you are a first-time local meat buyer, the options can seem overwhelming. However, farmers are here to help. While you should have some idea of the type of meat that you’re looking for (beef, pork, lamb, goat, or chicken) to select a farm which sells that product, you don’t have to know exactly which cuts you want. Farms offer a wide variety of cuts and volumes. Some farms sell individual cuts, while others will sell the amount of cuts equivalent to a partial or whole animal. Either way, there is a rich assortment of roasts, steaks, and ground meats to choose from. Some farms may even offer products such as bacon, smoked hams, or seasoned sausages! Farmers take great pride in what they do, and they are more than happy to walk you through which cuts will best fit your meal plans or preferred cooking methods.

What are bulk meat sales?

If you are looking for a large volume of meat to fill your freezer, bulk meat purchases may be the option for you. While some farms sell individual cuts, others sell only by large quantities. Interested parties can purchase shares of an animal, and when that animal is ready, the farm will provide you with all of the cuts belonging to your share. Generally, beef can be purchased by the half or quarter, chickens by the whole, and pork, lamb, and goat by the whole or half. The price per pound will be constant, which means hamburger and t-bone steaks will be the same price. Most consumers find that this is the most economical way to purchase farm-fresh meats, especially if they are looking for a variety of cuts. Generally, one can expect 250 pounds for a half beef or 125 pounds for a quarter, 120 pounds for a whole hog or 60 pounds for a half, 35 pounds from a whole lamb or goat or about 17 pounds for a half, and about 5-6 pounds per whole chicken.

Here are some examples of what you can expect in regards to cuts. This information was originally published by Betsy Hodge, Livestock Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County :

¼ Beef ½ Pork Whole Lamb
7 ¾” T-Bone Steaks 12 lbs Pork Chops 16 Shoulder Chops
1 Sirloin Tip Roast 6-8 lbs Ground Pork Sausage 16 Small Lamb Chops
4 Packages of Stew Meat (1 lb) 2 Packages Spare Ribs (1.5 lbs) 16 Small Loin Chops
3 Chuck Roasts (4 lbs) 1 Ham (15-17 pounds) 2 Foreshanks
2 Packages Short Ribs (1.5 lbs) 3 Shoulder Roasts 2 Hindshanks
40-50 lbs Ground Beef 8 lbs Bacon 2 Packages Riblets
4 Sirloin 2 Smoked Hocks 2 Bone-In Leg Roasts (5-6 lbs)
2 Arm Roasts (3 lbs) Lard, Heart, Liver, Tongue, etc. 2-4 Packages Neck Slices
7 Rib Steaks   Ground Lamb
4 Round Steaks   Stew Meat
1 Rump Roast (3 lbs)   Organ Meats
½ of Tongue, Heart, Liver, Tail, etc.    

 

What is listed above is only an example of the diversity of cuts to choose from. When buying in bulk, farms will provide you with a “cut sheet”. This sheet will allow you to choose which cuts you’d like, and how many of each. If you are a first-time buyer of bulk meats or don’t have a preference for any certain cuts, the farm may recommend a pre-set cut sheet, which will provide diversity and value from your animal share.

What are bundles?

Some farms may offer what is called a “bulk bundle” or simply “bundle” or “box”. These boxes will have an assortment of cuts, and some farms may even offer a variety of types of meat. For instance, a 25 pound bulk box may have a pack of chicken breast, drumsticks, ground beef, lamb stew meat, sausage, and ham steaks. Yet another box may have an assortment of steaks, burger, and sausages. These boxes are available in different quantities, assortments, are typically offered by weight, and are usually smaller quantities than bulk meats.

How can I find a local farmer?

Farms advertise in a variety of methods, including word of mouth, local newspapers, Facebook, and farm websites. Some farmers have booths at farmer’s markets, while others may sell through a local butcher or online platform. Lists of farms can also be found on some Chamber of Commerce websites, farm market websites, or local Cooperative Extension association websites.

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program specialists are here to help provide research-based resources and support during this challenging time. Their team of four specialists include Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522 or kaw249@cornell.edu); Joshua Putman, Field Crops (716-490-5572 or jap472@cornell.edu); Alycia Drwencke, Dairy Management (517-416-0386 or amd453@cornell.edu); and Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844 or amb544@cornell.edu). While specialists are working remotely at this time, they are still offering consultations via phone, text, email, videoconferencing, and mail. They are also providing weekly updates with timely resources and connections via email and hardcopy and virtual programming. 

The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program is the newest Cornell Cooperative Extension regional program and covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben Counties. The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops regional specialists work with Cornell faculty and Extension educators to address the issues that influence the agricultural industry in New York by offering educational programming and research based information to agricultural producers, growers, and agribusinesses in the Southwestern New York Region. Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities. For more information about this program, or to be added to their contact list, contact Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Team Leader, at 716-640-0522, kaw249@cornell.edu, or visit their website swnydlfc.cornell.edu.