A consumer guide for buying meat from your local farmers.
Many people don’t understand that a hamburger usually travels thousands of miles to get to your plate. Why not just call your local farmer? Roy Libbert, of Best Life Farms, says he prefers to work directly with the customer, eliminating all the extra mileage needed to get meat to the store.
Why not just call your local farmer?
Finding a Farmer
In the Jefferson City area, just asking around can typically lead you to a local farmer. You can also visit a local health food store, like JC Health Foods, which works with many local farmers. Visiting one of the local farmers markets will also allow you to meet and connect with farmers. The Cole County Farmers Market, on Missouri Boulevard, meets every Tuesday and Thursday from April to October, and the Lincoln University Farmers Market meets every first and third Saturday of the month. You can also visit places like Covered Bridge Market, in Russellville, open Monday through Saturday.
If you prefer to stick to the comfort of your house, you can also search websites like localharvest.org to find a local farmer or a community supported agriculture (or CSA) group. These both allow you to buy an assortment of products from a farmer.
What to Buy?
Another consideration in teaming up with a farmer is the type of beef you want to purchase. There are a variety of steers available, from the famous black angus to South Pole cattle. The type of beef makes a difference, but leave it up to the farmer to make a recommendation.
What many people are more concerned about is what the steer eats: grass-fed, grain-fed, or grain-finished? This in itself could be an entire article, but doing research can really help you figure out which meats meet your needs.
How Much to Buy?
Once you’ve decided the type of beef you want, you must ask yourself how much beef you need — or, better yet, how much you can store. Local farmers can sell small amounts of ground beef or porterhouse steaks, but that’s not the best bang for your buck. The perk of buying from a local farmer is getting high-quality beef, but it may cost more unless you buy it in bulk. “Bulk” for beef means buying a half, quarter, or full steer.
What size to buy depends on how much freezer space you have. A deep freezer is a must when buying bulk beef. Deep freezers range in size from 5 cubic feet to around 30 cubic feet. In purchasing a deep freezer, consider how much beef you want to store. Remember, the more beef you buy, the cheaper the price typically is per ounce. Judging freezer space all depends on the size of the steer, but a quarter of beef will need around 3 to 5 cubic feet of deep freezer space. If you want to buy a half, then think about purchasing a 7 cubic foot deep freezer.
The farmer will find the butcher shop and schedule a time for the steer to get processed. This is not always instant — especially with the business effects from COVID-19 still lingering. It could take up to a year for the farmer to schedule a time at the butcher shop. You should also know that only a USDA-approved butcher is allowed to butcher beef, so farmers cannot butcher and sell beef themselves. The customer is responsible for the butcher’s cost, which includes the kill fee, hanging fee per pound, and extra processing costs like dry aging or curing. On average, a steer will have a hanging weight (how much the steer weighs after the butcher has killed it) of around 500 to 700 pounds. This is how the butcher determines the cost per pound. Prices can vary, but expect around 50 to 75 cents per pound. This is not your take-home weight, however. Take-home weight is always less due to the 10 to 14 day hanging period, which dries out the meat, as well as deboning and other parts of the process.
Bring Home the Bacon…I Mean Beef
Once the butcher has completed processing the beef, they’ll let you know their hours of operation for you to come and pick up your beef. The beef will be frozen, and you could just throw it in the back seat and drive home, but this is not what everyone would recommend. If you bring three 48-quart coolers for every ¼ of a cow you have butchered, you could keep the beef cold and neat. There’s no need for ice, but it would help to cool down the coolers if it’s an extremely hot day.
How do you typically prepare your beef meals? You should discuss this question and think about cutting and processing instructions with the butcher. Do you want ½-inch or 1-inch steaks? How many pounds do you want in each bag of ground beef? Do you even want the liver (yum)? After the hang time is over, the butcher will usually call you and go over how you want your beef processed. For beef, those questions are:
- How many roasts? How many pounds for each roast? (Roughly ¾ pound for each person you are feeding.)
- How much ground beef, and how many pounds in a bag?
- How many steaks, how thick, and how many in a pack?
- Do you want the oxtail, liver, tongue, and heart?
Remember, you only have so much meat, so the thicker a steak, or the more pounds of ground beef, or the larger the roast, the less of something else you’ll get.
Need a Few Recipes?
Crockpot It All Day
We’re all super busy — we have work obligations, little league games, or whatever else grabs our attention. A great way to still get a good home-cooked meal is a beef roast that was cooked in the Crockpot. No need to thaw; you can just place your roast in the slow cooker and add vegetables to your liking. You can cut up carrots, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, onions, garlic, and green beans. Add spices to your taste or try a mix of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and ground mustard powder. Then fill a third of the pot with water, turn it on high, and let it cook anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. You can make soup with any leftovers!
Grill It with Salt
Who doesn’t love a good steak? You don’t have to complicate it, but it does take some planning ahead. After thawing the steak out (and then patting it dry), use ¾ to 1 teaspoon of salt and rub it into the steak. Allow the salt to soak in for 4 to 8 hours to tenderize and flavor the steak. Then it’s time to throw it on the grill, but resist the urge to heat up the grill beforehand. Throw the steak on early and let the steak heat up with the grill. Do not rush the cooking — low and slow is the way to gloriousness. Once the steak gets to around 125 degrees (for medium-rare), remove it from the grill. But it’s not dinner time yet! Place it on a plate and cover it with another plate or aluminum foil and let it rest for five to 10 minutes to allow for juicier steak.
It’s your cow, so give the liver a taste with this recipe. In a 9-inch by 13-inch pan, melt one stick of butter. In a separate bowl, mix ½ cup of flour, 1½ teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and ½ teaspoon of garlic powder. Coat each piece of thawed liver in the mixture and place it in the pan in a single layer. Flip each piece over in the pan once so both sides are coated with butter. Sprinkle the remaining coating mixture over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t get too dried out.
Planning Down the Road
It helps to start an inventory list to keep track of what you have used. This helps determine how often you need to order. In addition, it allows you to base your menu selection off of what’s in the freezer.
Helping to Support Local Farming
“The key to this entire equation is the farmer and consumer relationship,” says Roy Libbert. The farmer wants to deliver the best products to their customers while negotiating all the government red tape on what they can and cannot do. Purchasing straight from the farmer helps the farmer move products and helps the consumer get quality meat.
Thanks to our local experts!
Best Life Farm
JC Health Foods
1406A Missouri Blvd.