Last year it was easy. I mentioned to someone that we were thinking about doing this, and a friend gave me the email address for someone that they knew who was selling their cattle. I emailed him, we agreed on a price, I mailed him a check, called the butcher to tell them how we wanted our "half" cut, then paid the butcher when we picked up our beef.
I have to say, the beef was much higher quality and had better flavor than grocery store meat. Our beef was hormone-free which was also very attractive. There are also many health benefits and the meat from grass-fed animals is much leaner.
This year I called the same person back, but he only had one animal ready this fall. The rest won't be ready until spring. Bummer!
Since I can't imagine going all winter without a good stock of hamburger, stew meat and roasts in my freezer I decided to look at craigslist. I typed "beef" into the search box and there are several listings for people selling quarter, half, and whole animals.
At this time we still haven't decided what to do. Last year we purchased half a Dexter which is a much smaller animal. Most of the beef on craigslist is Angus - and from what I am told this means our "half" could be 50-100 lbs heavier than last year. Do we really need that much? Last year we shared our "half" (250 lbs.) with a friend. Maybe this year we need to think about going in with another family (so we'd get a third of our half... hee!). But on the other hand now that Stinky is with us full time, our grocery bill is considerably higher.
At any rate... here are some suggestions if you are thinking about buying from a local farmer:
- Ask how the animal is raised - it should be grass-fed. Any hormones?
- What butcher will be used?
- Is the hang/cut/wrap included in the price, or is it separate?
- What is the approximate hanging weight? Of that hanging weight how much will you actually put in the freezer?
- What does the butcher do with the waste? Can you opt to take any of the waste for soup bones, dog bones, etc?
- If your price includes the waste, find out what it is and consider taking it. Even if you don't have a dog, you probably know someone that does! They will thank you for it!
- Buy a good freezer! We bought a chest specifically for the purpose of storing our beef.
So... that's what I know about the subject. If you have any other tips to share with me and other prospective beef buyers please comment!