We recently purchased a full cow from a local farm and butcher that we split with our families. This is our favorite way to purchase beef and today I am here to share everything we have learned on how to buy local beef, how it works, and what you get!
After learning to cook from scratch and continuously working on this skill, I have added new skills and new ways to put food on the table. I have heard that homesteading is one of those things that maybe you start slowly and do not think you will jump all in and then all of a sudden you have fifty chickens and a milk cow before you know it. While I have taken a bit of a slower approach to this, I started by learning to cook different cuts of meat, cook with cast iron (check out my cast iron posts here, here and here), making my own fermented dairy products and bone broth, starting a sourdough starter and baking bread (and cookies, and cake, and biscuits, and pie, and did I say cookies?), etc. This led me to question the quality of all of the ingredients I was cooking with. I wanted to best tasting, quality and ethical food I could find. So I started with meat- enter figuring out how to buy local beef.
We have purchased local beef twice now and this was such a new world when I first heard of it. I know that sounds silly. I have been raised on small farms my whole life and around neighbor farms that raised beef cattle. And where did I think beef from the store came from? I don’t know. But once I got married and we had to pinch pennies working two part time jobs, I jumped into the world of from scratch cooking and somehow it all clicked!
Surprisingly it took a while to find local beef and of course, I had no idea how the process worked or what we would get. Buying 1/4 of a cow or more is a lot different than walking the meat department and picking out a steak or a package of ground beef. You learn to cook with odd cuts and use every bit. It is a great skill to have and in this day, a skill that not a lot of people have or are even aware of.
This year we went ahead and bought a full cow. We had previously bought 1/4 of a cow and it lasted a while but this time we wanted to increase our purchase and split with family. I will say, I believe we got a fairly small cow so the list I give may seem a little smaller than what you might get in a different area.
I hope this is encouragement for you to find a local butcher or farmer to get your beef from. It is healthier, cheaper and better for your local community. It is also more delicious!
Why You Should Buy Local Beef
Buying local beef is a better option for many, many, many, many reasons and I will continue to encourage this. Did I say it is a better option? Just look into it!
Healthier Cows Treated Humanely
Local beef is healthier, especially when grass fed and grass finished. Generally you can get different options between how the cow is fed and finished. The most common in my area is grain fed, grain finished or grass fed, grain finished. How it is finished is just how it was fed before harvest. Grass fed, grass finished is the healthiest but it will take more cooking experience to get more flavor.
When you choose to buy locally, you get a firsthand look at how your meat was raised. Many farms even let you come see the farm and the cows. This shows the conditions the cows live in and how they are treated which not only ensures they are being treated humanely and living healthy lives but also that the meat is the highest quality you can buy.
In our case, this is cost effective but it truly depends on the meat you were buying previously. We buy organic, grass fed beef at the store (when we have to) and that runs anywhere from $5.98-$7.00/lb for ground beef. For this cow locally, we paid $4.14/lb. Of course that is the same for all cuts that we purchased locally. It would be impossible for me to determine the cost of certain cuts against others but we paid $1599.00 and received 386 lbs total. $4.14/lb for the best cut of steak? I’ll take it! That’s cheaper than any steak we could buy at the store and even cheaper than the store ground beef.
It is a little tricky picking up your meat but honestly, not much harder than going to the store regularly. And I never have to worry that I am out of meat. We keep a years supply of meat at least in our freezer and each week it is easy to pull a few things out to thaw. Having this much beef to choose from makes cooking much easier!
It is also local, obviously since I have said it a million times but this means we are not going out of our way to purchase. We live far out and regular trips to the grocery store is not something I like to do.
How Do I Start Buying Locally? Step by Step!
Finding Local Beef
When we first decided to do this, we searched on Facebook for months. The butcher’s were confusing to people who had never bought meat this way. So while I still recommend looking on Facebook at farms and butchers in your area, I would suggest asking around first! Chances are there are a lot of people in your area that purchase meat this way and they can give you the best advice. This is how we bought the first time after asking a few church friends. This year we went through a butcher we had been buying individual cuts from.
I also recommend that. If you find a butcher or farmer, they may sell individual cuts in shop or at a farmer’s market. You are able to try out the meat first to be sure it meets your expectations. We did this a few places before deciding.
Depending on how you find your farmer and butcher, the process may be a little different but it is generally the same. If you buy from a butcher directly (like we did), you can watch their advertisements for when they will likely be ready for orders or you can call. We saw a post with instructions to call. We were put on a waitlist and they called again once they got to us. At this point, we were asked how we want things cut and packaged. A few questions they asked are below but this could depend somewhat on your butcher.
- How do you want your ground beef packaged- 1 lb or 2 lbs? (We always do 1 lb)
- Do you want everything vacuum sealed for $X/lb? (Some butchers vacuum seal everything, some use plastic wrap and butcher paper and some only use butcher paper.)
- How thick do you want your steaks? (We do 3/4 inch-1 inch)
- Do you want your round steaks tenderized? (Now this is where I *probably* should have said yes but I left them as is and I actually like it this way to thinly slice for sandwiches, tacos, etc.)
Also note that depending on where you live and the regulations tied to your area, you may or may not be able to get soup bones, liver, etc. You may ask your butcher if this is available to you. If it is, I highly recommend requesting this!
Now, if you are purchasing from the farmer separately from the butcher, it may look a little different but not much. This is what we did the first time. The only difference is that you will order the beef from the farmer and at pick up, make two payments instead of one- one to the farmer and one to the butcher. The farmer will almost always have a butcher they use regularly.
Once your beef is ready for pick up, you will get a call. Depending on the amount of meat, you will want to take ice chests or even boxes to bring it home in. Ours filled 6-8 boxes I believe.
This is when you will pay for the beef and load it up to bring home!
We received 386 lbs of beef for a total cost of $1599.00. This may be cheap to some or high to others. For us, this is much cheaper than the grocery store. There is no way for me to know what we paid for different cuts but with basic math we paid just $4.14/lb on average. This includes any roasts, ground beef and steaks.
Full Cut List
I tracked everything we got with this order. The only cut that I know how big each package is is for the ground beef. The steaks are 2-3 per package and I would estimate the roasts to be 2-4 lbs each but I am not certain. When you buy meat this way it all differs and the weight of each is not marked.
Chuck Roast- 10
Arm Roast- 4
Pike’s Peak Roast- 2
Rump Roast- 2
T Bone Steak- 12
Round Steak- 16
Rib Steak- 14
Sirloin Steak- 6
Sirloin Tip Steak- 10
Stew Meat- 7
Ground Beef (1 lb. each)- 89
Soup Bones- 15
Total- 386 lbs
Are There Any Drawbacks To Buying Locally?
Now that I am used to buying locally, I cannot think of a single drawback. Once you get used to purchasing and cooking this way, it just becomes a normal part of life.
I will say that getting used to it is one drawback but changing any normal routine will be the same way. With buying local beef, you will likely have to learn a lot. Ordering from the butcher is new and telling them what you want may be confusing at first. Just ask them what they recommend or what is standard and you will be good to go until you get more familiar. You may also have to learn to cook cuts you would never have learned otherwise but I love this. There is variety and you are not eating the same thing over and over.