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Buying local meat: Step 3 – Forcasting

15 Jan

Forecast your needs.  Most small-scale farmers raise livestock based on purchase orders, and accept orders once or twice a year.  This means you get beef or pork once a year, so you will need to estimate your annual consumption.  The simplest way to do this is to figure out how many meals a week you prepare per person.

For example: I make dinner 4 times a week for 2 people and once a week for 4 people. That’s 12 meals a week, which is about 600 per year. Assuming an average portion of 8 ounces (1/2 a pound) of protein per person, that’s 300 lbs per year.  Once you’ve got that figure, decide on the mix of protein that works best for you.

Annual family consumption:

  • Chicken: 100 lbs
  • Beef: 80 lbs
  • Pork: 50 lbs
  • Turkey: 40 lbs
  • Lamb: 30 lbs

Now that you have determined your personal needs, compare that against the offerings of the farm.

Product sizing and minimum amounts:

  • Chicken: whole birds are approximately 10lbs
  • Beef: side = 500 lbs, quarter = 250 lbs
  • Pork: sides = 100 lbs
  • Turkey: whole = 20 lbs
  • Lamb: whole = 60 lbs

Poultry is the simplest to calculate and order because it’s available in smaller sizes.  The larger meats however, aren’t available in small enough portions for my personal needs so I share them with friends.  Turns out my friends have about the same needs as I do, so we order the minimum amounts to share.  (Involving friends in the cow-pooling also make the bi-annual chicken chopping more enjoyable…but more on that later).


At this point you can also estimate how much your order will cost based on the price per pound.

  • Chicken: 100 lbs @ $3.75/lb = $375
  • Beef: 80 lbs @ $4.50/lb = $360
  • Pork: 50 lbs @ $4.95/lb + processing = $280
  • Turkey: 40 lbs @ $3.95/lb = $158
  • Lamb: 30 lbs @ $7.00/lb + processing = $240
  • TOTAL: $1413

That might seem like a lot, but keep in mind your grocery bill is going to be significantly less because you won’t be buying (very much) from the butcher any more.  You’re also paying a very reasonable price per pound.  For example: my local butcher sells organic ground beef for $7.99lb and rib eye steaks for $19.99lb.  I pay $4.50.

As mentioned previously, I suggest putting aside funds each month in a savings account.  It alleviates the stress of writing a $500 cheque in the fall when the lamb and chickens are ready to be picked up.

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Buying local meat: Step 2 – Find your farmer

10 Jan


My favourite farm family: The Irelands.


Next up in this buying local meat series: How to find your farmer.

Depending on the type of area you live in, finding a farmer can range from a simple phone call to a countryside adventure.

I recommend word-of-mouth as the preferred method. However, if you’re the first of your peers to make this foray, you will need to do your own investigating.   It’s important to connect directly with the farmer if you want to maximize the economies of scale.


Besides The Google, here are some ways to find a local farmer:

  • Check the labels on the meat at your local grocery/market to see where their product is coming from.
  • Snoop around your favourite butcher shop.
  • Browse local food publications.
  • Ask your favourite chef or restauranteur.
  • Stroll through farmer’s markets.
  • Look up the local farmer’s association.

Questions to ask before signing up:

  • Product: How is the livestock raised?  Is it free-range? How and what are they fed?  Are they organic? What types of meat are available?
  • Processing: How is the meat butchered? Is it aged? Can I customize cuts/portions?  How is it packaged?
  • Regulations: Is the farmer licensed by the local authority?  Is the processor?
  • Cost: What is the price per pound?  Is that gross (hanging/carcass) or net (actual product) weight? Are there additional processing charges?
  • Contract: How often do they accept orders?  Is there a cut-off date? Is there a deposit?  What kind of payment do they accept?  Pick up or delivery?

Take your time deciding; this is a big investment.  As you find answers to your questions, you’ll also glean extra information about the product and the people.  You’ll probably start to have questions of your own as you determine what’s important to you as a consumer.  Depending on the time of year, you might be able to get in a smaller order of poultry to trial before making a larger order.

BC Farm Fresh directory



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Buying local meat: Step 1 – Make room

10 Jan

NOTE: This is the second article in my Buying Local Meat series.  Click here for the first article.

STEP ONE: Make some room. 

A year’s supply of meat isn’t likely to fit in a typical kitchen freezer.  You’re going to need at least 1 cubic foot for every 25lbs of meat.  For quick reference, the average refrigerator freezer is about 5 cubic feet.  I keep a small variety of meat in my kitchen freezer, however the majority goes into my basement deep-freeze.


A chest freezer is an investment, however before you rush out to buy a shiny new one, do a little homework.  Ask around (lots of people have them lurking unused in their basements), check online classifieds, reputable appliance resellers, or find the local restaurant supply auctions/asset disposal sales.  My barely-used, 25 cubic footer came via the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for the grand price of $215.40.

TIP: stock the bottom of your freezer with plastic milk jugs full of water. The resulting ice is a good insurance policy in case of power failure/zombie apocalypse.


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