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Obtaining Grass-Fed Meats

 
gardener
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...and eggs, and milk, and cheeses, of course. Pastured everything: how best for city-folk to get them?

(And, as importantly, how to AFFORD them?)

I bought two of these packages of ground beef last week at my favorite grocery store, but--the price is absolutely eye-popping, as you would expect.  

So far my ideas for getting the pastured food products our bodies need have been:

  • Grocery store offerings: (squint hard so as not to see the price & ) buy on sale as possible
  • Farmers' Market: Check and see if any livestock is pastured
  • Build chicken-tractor for my mother


  • Other ideas are going to be very much appreciated. Learning how to eat the way we're supposed to is requiring so much reading, trying new things, and doing many things differently. I'm glad to be able question all of you on stuff!
    Grass-Fed-Beef-Copy.jpg
    [Thumbnail for Grass-Fed-Beef-Copy.jpg]
     
    pollinator
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    I would buy a whole animal or an animal share from a local farmer of pastured animals for meat. Dairy products can be trickier as you typically want to pick it up more than once a year. Many areas local farmers offer CSA's that include dairy, eggs etc. Try searching on the internet in your area, or talking to the farmer's market producers, even if they don't have what you are looking for they often know where you can find it.
     
    steward
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    I'd look locally for critter raisers that meet your standards.  Hopefully they can sell you meat at a tolerable price.
     
    master steward
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    You might use this website to see if there are any CSA's near you:

    https://www.localharvest.org/csa/

    For over 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

    Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

    This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.

     
    gardener & hugelmaster
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    If you have the land I think the best & cheapest way is to raise it yourself. Barring that, here's a very well respected place. They have many videos showing their operation.

    Here's the online store for White Oak Pastures.

     
    gardener
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    I recently found this searchable list of regenerative farms. I was honestly kind of amazed to learn how many farms nearby are raising animals and veg in cool ways. It might be a good place to look for folks to connect with. https://regenerationinternational.org/regenerative-farm-map

    I was lucky and through a cool friend, found a lady who raises happy goats and was able to get a herd share from her. I did have to drive to her weekly to pick up milk, but since we split the share with a friend, we were able to switch off on driving too. Felt very worth it to me. It was so cool to see the goats the milk was coming from, get to hang out with them and even see their names on each of the jars. Can't wait to meet their babies this spring!

    If you aren't able to find anyone locally, I have been super impressed with Azure Standard. I couldn't find pastured beef suet locally and found some there, along with lots of really affordable organic or better food stuffs.

    On the affordability note, I think it can be possible to find good prices. One of the farmers we get pastured beef from has prices cheaper than CAFO meat from the grocery store. I also always consider how much I'm not spending on healthcare because of the quality of food I eat. Getting a bunch of my staples from Azure Standard has also saved me considerably and that money just goes to local pastured animal products now.

     
    pollinator
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    Some great suggestions have already been made. One thing I'd add is this, if those don't work out: certain areas have discount stores that actually have serious deals on grass-fed meat etc.
    I know it might sound way too good to be true, or that it'd be too close to expiring to be worth anything, but if you have a discount food store near you, check it-- prices halved, still fresh, normally in stock, where I am. Great stuff!
    I know this is true in multiple states here but am guessing it only works if you live in a fairly populous area.
     
    Posts: 21
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    One thing to keep in mind is that there is no uniform national or international standard for grassfed animal products and different people may use the term differently, so it's important to ask the right questions if you're concerned with exactly how grassfed the animal really was. I once asked for more info about a burger on a restaurant menu listed as grassfed and was able to look up the farm on my phone and see that the meat was fed grass for most of its life but then was grain finished. Apparently this is fairly common.

    Also, unlike organic, farmers can make grass fed claims all they want with no requirement for third party verification of those claims. So if you know some farmers you trust, it's great to buy directly from them. If not, I recommend buying grassfed meat that IS certified and verified by a third party. The American Grassfed Association has IMO pretty good standards (no grain finishing) and their website has a map of farms they certify as grassfed: https://www.americangrassfed.org/aga-membership/producer-members/
     
    gardener
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    The best way I know of finding grass feed is by asking around. I don't advertise at all.  I am not good at marketing.  The locals find me by talking to others and farms markets.  We can have more business than we have land.  I am thinking about moving somewhere where land is cheaper to grass feed more animals.  I have found, once a customer has a tour of the farm they are always a customer.  A bunch of people like to know where their food comes from.  I still have one steer eating grass in January.  There is a couple other places around here that have a few cattle still eating field dried grass.  I hope you find a local.  

    If you are willing to help process the price goes way down.  These permies type people can help you get started.  They can teach you how to raise your own, how to butcher and then teach you how to cook it so everyone will like it.
     
    pollinator
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    Well, Rachel, I'm not sure about Tennessee but in Wisconsin the "Cottage Industries"  suffers from a lack of good laws enabling local farmers to slaughter locally: In the 15 years I've lived here, I've seen at least 3 places where I could take my chickens to slaughter go out of business. I know of only 2 within a hundred miles from my place.
    There are so many rules in favor of totally antiseptic, immaculate [and tasteless] way of producing food that
    a/ Producers are limited in their expansion, which means that "big Boxes" have an unfair advantage every time.
    b/ Anti-Trust laws are not respected or non-existent. This shackles the ability of the small producer to stay in business and make any kind of profit.
    c/ They are limited in the ways and places they can sell the meat they produce as theirs has to have a rigorous inspection.
    d/ The "big boxes' are so much more convenient to the lazy that they would not even need to advertise, yet they do, aggressively. The little producer, even though his/her products are superior in quality does not have a budget that would allow them to advertise.
    The best 'solutions' we have here is to know a reliable farmer  who does the butchering himself and buy a side of beef, pork etc. well ahead of time. We can also join a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] and buy "shares". A share is delivered weekly to a nearby address and you can then pick it up. You have little choice in what is delivered though. Plus, let's face it: a lot of people no longer know how to "cook from scratch".
    For what I do not grow, I go to 'Farmers' markets' and try to buy bulk so I can freeze the produce or can it.
    Although we are a Dairy State, where you would expect even the small farmer to be well paid:
    "On average, farmers are paid $1.45 per gallon for milk it costs them $2.00 to produce. The shortfall makes it impossible for them to break even or provide for their families – much less make a profit". [The middleman takes a lot of the profit. They make their profits on the *volume* sold].
    We have been losing dairy farmers at a prodigious rate for quite a long time. this, in turn exacerbates the concentration of power in the hands of very few "farmers" who, by cutting corners can plow the competition under, and even they do not make much of a profit on milk.  Their motto: "Go big or go home". On May 1, 2020, there were only 7,168 dairy farms in Wisconsin. That's a loss of 364 dairy farms in one year. Jun 2, 2021 or about one a day!
    I'm encouraged by the efforts of "regenerative Agriculture" and recent laws getting passed to help farmers improve their soil through "no till", but to save the small farmers and all "cottage Industries", it may be too little too late.
     
    steward
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    Rachel Lindsay wrote:...and eggs, and milk, and cheeses, of course. Pastured everything: how best for city-folk to get them?

    (And, as importantly, how to AFFORD them?)


    Other ideas are going to be very much appreciated.



    Grocery stores are certainly convenient for city-folk but the price inflation as you mentioned can make one pause. Farmers markets as you mentioned, or online and shipped frozen works too. I've purchased meats from White Oak Pastures mentioned above, and an happy to do so again.

    Considering affording them, may I suggest talking to the farmers at your local farmers market and ask if they are open to trading on farm labor and help for food. Generally speaking, most farmers will be transparent about what they do and welcome on-farm visits, and I imagine a portion of those will be happy to have some good help on the farm from a person that is punctual, listens and pays attention. Running a small farm myself, I will make the assumption that nearly every other farmer has more things to do than they have hours in a day or hands to help, and are likely open to assistance, especially if they can compensate with product instead of cash.
     
    Posts: 45
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    If you live close enough to the country, you might explore the possibility of connecting with a local farmer for milk and eggs. Last year, we bought raw milk and fresh eggs from a local farmer. Both were grain fed which isn't a problem for us because we're on a tight budget and beggars can't be choosers (the alternative for us is store bought eggs and milk which are not nearly as fresh or tasty because the cows and hens at our local farm actually eat real green things in pastures, not just what the factory farmer puts in their troughs.) We now trade for raw milk from an Amish neighbor and hope to maintain that relationship for years to come as we value the quality of the milk and the relationship we're building.

    There are several butcher shops within driving distance where we can buy meat, some organic and grass fed, though as others have pointed out buying an animal on shares from a local farmer is likely your cheapest alternative. My parents bought a half hog from a local farmer that way last year and were very pleased with the price (higher than the cheap cuts at the grocery store) and the quality of the meat (much better than anything except maybe the best at high end or specialty stores).

    Of course we live in the country and the agriculture in this area is primarily livestock (mostly cattle, but there's someone growing about any animal product we might want to buy within easy driving distance.) To find out what's available near you, you can Google your city and the product you're looking for and see if anything comes up. In our state there are a couple web based directories of farmers selling raw milk or pastured meats, etc. As the season for farmer's markets approaches, you might connect with farmers at those (though there are many farmers who prefer to sell direct from their farms rather than through a farmer's market so it might take some searching.)
     
    pollinator
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    I live in a town in the east of the Netherlands. I know where to go to buy grass-fed meat and dairy. Many people here in town don't know. I take every opportunity to tell them about this ...

    There's an organic farm with a small shop ('boerderijwinkel' in Dutch), opened Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon. I ride my bicycle there every Friday, it's a little over an half hour ride (and back again). They sell porc, beef, lamb and chicken, milk, eggs, vegetables and fruits (and some other products). All organic, all meat and dairy grass-fed. It isn't all from their own farm. There's a regional group of organic farmers, they sell products of the others too.
     
    Inge Leonora-den Ouden
    pollinator
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    The question was too: can you afford it? I can, because I have the motivation to eat healthy organic fresh food, in spite of my low income. I know how to stay within my budget:
    - I don't eat meat daily, and only a little bit when I eat it.
    - I don't have a car, I don't smoke, I don't buy candy or pop-drinks.
    - I buy clothes and other things second-hand, or I make them myself.
    - I cook all my meals myself  using the products-of-the-season.
    - And I rent an allotment garden where I grow some of my own vegetables and fruits.
     
    Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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    Becca Miller wrote:One thing to keep in mind is that there is no uniform national or international standard for grassfed animal products and different people may use the term differently, so it's important to ask the right questions if you're concerned with exactly how grassfed the animal really was. I once asked for more info about a burger on a restaurant menu listed as grassfed and was able to look up the farm on my phone and see that the meat was fed grass for most of its life but then was grain finished. Apparently this is fairly common.

    Also, unlike organic, farmers can make grass fed claims all they want with no requirement for third party verification of those claims. So if you know some farmers you trust, it's great to buy directly from them. If not, I recommend buying grassfed meat that IS certified and verified by a third party. The American Grassfed Association has IMO pretty good standards (no grain finishing) and their website has a map of farms they certify as grassfed: https://www.americangrassfed.org/aga-membership/producer-members/


    I listened to what the farm-woman (I don't think I do her justice to call 'farmer's wife', they own the farm together and work there together) told about the cows and the milk. Those cows eat organic grass all year round. Now it's winter they aren't out in the pastures, but they get the grass that's mown and stored before. And most months they are in the pasture, eating the fresh grass. At that farm the chickens walk outside all year, picking, scratching and catching whatever they can. The sheep (lamb) are out there too. The pigs are outside, but their space looks more like mud, they are fed with other farm-products too (like vegetables that aren't good enough for human consumption).

    Yesterday she told about butchering. Now they have to send the animals to a certified (for organic) butcher, who also butchers other (non-organic) animals. They hope to get a licence to have their animals butchered right at the farm. The rules are very strict for that licence, but probably that isn't a problem. The problem is to find someone who knows how to do the butchering (following those rules).
     
    gardener
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    I'm going to add a resource, plus put them all together in a list here (including previously mentioned links).

    Eatwild - that's an easy site to search by State in the US:
    http://www.eatwild.com/products/index.html

    LocalHarvest (mentioned previously). I find their site a tad more difficult to search on, but it still is very useful:
    https://www.localharvest.org/organic-farms/

    Regenerative farm map - previously mentioned. I was not familiar with this one, but I tested it and found my local meat producer on it. Seems ot have a lot of places, too. https://regenerationinternational.org/regenerative-farm-map#

    Many of us live more affordably by utilizing storage space, freezer space, and buying in bulk when things are in season.  It takes a awhile to get the hang of this so you don't buy more than you can reasonably eat or store, and save up for the higher upfront costs.  But it is definitely much cheaper in the long run. I eat meat everyday, and have been buying grassfed meat for 24 years now.  And saving a lot of money that way, especially since I eat at least once a day, typically.

    Another way to save money is expand your diet a bit. For example, in some regions, goat meat is more affordable that beef.

    When I move to an new area, or prepare to, I use sites like above to scope out where to get meat, eggs and milk locally.  Then I price compare.  My husband and I normally buy half a (all grass-fed) cow or so, but now I've found a farm that sells by the cut  - and his "unusual" cuts of meat are very affordable.  Even lower than buying the whole cow. So until we get our house done and can expand our freezer space, we've been buying the meat that costs $5-$7/lb.  Short ribs, cross shanks, sirloin tip roasts - tougher cuts.

    And that brings me to the best way I've found to save money on meat - learn to cook with tougher cuts. They are typically more nutritious anyways.  If you ever buy a  whole, half or quarter beef you have to learn to cook with everything.  It's a good crash course in cooking, but for help there is a wonderful thread for this on Permies:  
    Learning to love cheap cuts of meat

    I'm going to share a few favorite recipes I make from these inexpensive cuts of meat:

    Beef stew: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16167/beef-bourguignon-i/
    Chef John's beef tri-tip: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/275063/the-best-beef-tri-tip/ This is our favorite roast recipe, it is so delicious for cold roast beef.  Works with other cuts, too.
    Mongolian beef: https://thewoksoflife.com/mongolian-beef-recipe/
    Korean braised shortribs: https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/beef-birria-recipe/  This recipe is so good with one of the cheapest and easiest to grow foods - daikon radish!  I leave out the Asian pear.
    Beef (or goat) birria: https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/beef-birria-recipe/  yumm
    Beef and broccoli: https://thewoksoflife.com/beef-with-broccoli-all-purpose-stir-fry-sauce/  This one tastes just like from a Chinese restaurant. So good!

    Technique is important when using tougher cuts of meat.  For example, the Beef-broccoli and the Mongolian stir-fry dishes - how you cut the meat matters.  To use a tougher cut of meat for a stir fry, I take a sirloin tip roast, and make thin slice cross-grain.  Then cook them very fast until just done.

    With other tough cuts, long cooking is necessary.  So if you want to use a tougher cut in a fast cook recipe, it can be done, but the way you slice and cook it will make a big difference.

    They aren't grass-fed, but sometimes you can find small farms that raise eggs and butcher and sell older laying chickens. (Or live...)

    With tougher chickens, like laying hens that are killed at about 2 years old, dishes like the old Coq Au Vin, or shredded chicken tacos work best for me. It's harder, in my experience, to make tough chicken work well in a dish than it is to make tougher red meat, like beef, deer, goat, mutton.

     
    Posts: 36
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    If you happen to live in NW Washington, here is where I get my organically raised meats....

    https://www.akylafarms.com/

    The chickens and pigs are raised "Joel Salatin" style on pasture and fed organic feed.
     
    gardener
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    This is the link for those ne ar the intersection of Kitsap, Pierce and Mason counties Washington state.
    Fresh Food Revolution online order drop sites each week
     
    A berm makes a great wind break. And we all like to break wind once in a while. Like this tiny ad:
    Explore the possibilities: Permies.com where you can work from home, on the road and on the farm
    https://permies.com/wiki/209054/Explore-possibilities-Permies-work-home
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