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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