19 Feb What is a Meat Share?
Supermarket prices are soaring and shelves are empty. Everyday consumers are starting to look into other options to get meat. Why not cut out some of the middle men and approach the farmer who raises the meat directly?
Perhaps you’ve heard of meat shares, but have been too nervous to try one. We hope these simple tips will encourage you to give it a go. Chances are, you’ll be supporting local agriculture, saving money, eating well, and enjoying it!
What is a Meat Share?
When you purchase a meat share you are essentially paying the farm to own a portion of the live animal, whether cow, pig, sheep, goat, etc. Your benefit of owning a share of that animal is you get to enjoy its product after slaughter.
Common Meat Shares include:
1/2 Cow, 1/4 Cow, Whole Cow
1/2 Hog, 1/4 Hog, Whole Hog
1/2 Lamb, Whole Lamb
Meat shares can also be a part of a CSA share.
Benefits of Buying Meat Shares
1. It’s Cost Effective
Generally, buying direct from farm is more cost effective than buying the equivalent meat from the supermarket. Even now, as grocery prices are increasing due to supply chain issues and monopolies from the five large meat processors, direct-to-farmer prices are remaining steadier.
2. You Cook More
Having a freezer full of meat encourages most people to cook more, and also to try new recipes using new cuts that you may not normally pick at the supermarket.
3. It’s Traveled less
Most meat in supermarkets have been shipped many miles to reach the store. Along the way, they require refrigerated trucks. A meat share is usually processed and picked up locally, and freshly slaughtered and packed.
4. You are Supporting Local Farmers
Much of meat sold in supermarkets are imported from outside of the US. By purchasing a meat share, you know exactly where the animal was raised, whether in your own town, county, or state.
Not Directly Regulated
In most states, a Meat Share does not need to be regulated by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture). This is because you are buying a share of a live animal, and what you do with your live animal, whether and how you eat it, is not considered to be under government oversight.
The USDA and most States’ Department of Agriculture are concerned with safety of foods being sold and purchased between two parties. A live animal that has not been processed is not considered food.
Some Are USDA Approved
Some farms, however, work only with USDA certified processors and have all their meat processed through USDA inspection. In that case, your meat share may still be USDA approved.
If you feel safer purchasing your meat share with USDA approval, be sure to ask your farm / farmer whether they use a USDA certified processing facility. Your search may take a little longer as there is currently a deficit in private, USDA-certified processors, and many of them are overbooked.
How To Find a Meat Share
First, don’t be nervous. Farmers are not scary people. Chances are, they’re thrilled that you want to support what they’re doing.
If you have zero connection with local ag, searching online is a great way to start. Search for “Meat Shares”, “CSA Meat”, “Half Hog Share” or “Quarter Beef Share” (whatever meat you’re looking for) with your Town/State.
Other great resources are EatWild.com’s “Find Your State”directory, and social media groups like “Shop Colorado Farms” (on Facebook). You may also want to hit up your local farmer’s market and ask at the vendors’ tables.
Once you have a shortlist, reach out to the farm. Tell them you’re new to this, and ask questions. You may even want to ask for a visit to see how they raise their animals. You are essentially sharing ownership of the animal, it’s absolutely ok to want to know how it’s being raised and treated.
Ready to Jump In?
Check out our guide – How To Buy a Meat Share