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Guest Post: 10 Tips for Buying Grass Fed Beef From Your Local Farmer

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Guest Post by Bethany Spohr from All Natural Savings

Tips on How to Buy Beef from a Local Farmer:

Search the internet
It was difficult to even find a farmer locally to purchase from.  I turned to Craigslist, searched “beef/cow” in my area and came across a local farm that sold by the 1/4, 1/2 and full.  You can use Google and there should be local farms or forums with information on where to buy.

Prepare to travel
Unless you live in a rural area, you may have to drive a bit to pick up the beef.  We drive about an hour away, but we purchase 1/4 to 1/2 each time, which lasts us 6-12 months, so we figure the drive is worth the amount we save on the beef.

Decide the amount of beef you need
Grass fed cows tend to be smaller than grain fed cows, so keep that in mind when deciding if you want a 1/4, 1/2 or full.  A 1/4 cow net us about 120 lbs hanging weight, so about 96 pounds of meat.  I figure about 1/4 pound per serving, so that would yield about 384 servings of beef.

Calculate price per pound
Farmers will quote you the hanging weight price, usually anywhere from $2.80 to $6 per pound.  You will generally yield 80% of that, making the true price range $3.50 to $7.50 per pound.  Many farms also charge a “kill” fee, ranging from $15-$100.

Tour the farm
You’ll want to be sure that the animals are truly grass-fed.  Most farmers will allow you to come out and tour the farm.  This is a good way to check on the health of the animals as well as the farm conditions.

Pick your cut
You can choose how thick the steaks are cut, how many steaks per package, the size of the roasts, the amount of pounds per package of ground beef and if you want hamburger patties made.  Be prepared – they will ask if you would like the liver or the tongue, which we always opt out of!  When we bought a 1/2, we were able to make a special request for prime rib at no charge.  You also may be able to request filets.  If there are certain cuts of steak/roasts you don’t need,  you can have them grind it into ground beef.

Buy a deep freezer
A deep freezer will help your meat last longer and will provide enough room for the beef.  We were able to purchase a freezer from Lowe’s on sale for $150 and it has worked great for us.  If you have an extra refrigerator/freezer, the top freezer portion should fit a 1/4 cow, but if you buy any larger, you’ll want a deep freezer.

Request no fillers
You’ll likely talk directly to the butcher in the process. Be sure that he does not add any fillers to the ground beef.

Go lean 
If you prefer your meat lean, you can request this directly from the butcher at no extra charge.  The steaks and roasts will have a little less fat since grass-fed cows are less fatty than grain fed.

Marinate
Grass fed beef is a touch gamier tasting than grain fed.  We always marinate our steaks and roasts overnight in red wine vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic sea salt.  We add a little garlic sea salt to the ground beef and patties and they taste great!

What are your tips on buying grass-fed beef from a local farmer?

(A BIG thanks to Bethany Spohr at All Natural Savings for all these awesome tips!)

Join The Discussion

Comments 53

  1. Betsy

    Thank you for this post! We have been thinking about buying directly from a farmer, but no idea how to begin or how to ensure a good product.

    • Bethany -All Natural Savings

      Thanks Betsy, you can also try calling local butchers (from the phone book or google) and asking for referrals for good farmers in the area that sell beef.

  2. Kristen

    Wow, what an awesome post! Anyone in Maryland (Baltimore suburbs) know where you can buy beef directly from a farmer??

    • Jess

      I’ve ordered from Clark’s farm in Ellicott City; also Evermore farm in Westminster. If you feel like driving even further there’s a great place in Sudlersville, MD (about an hour and a half from Baltimore) called Cedar Run Cattle Company. Hope this helps!

  3. Lauren

    What about in the North Denver area, anyone have a good experience?

  4. Christina C

    Thanks I am looking now to buy 1/2 cow. We bought one last year and got a great price but the taste of the beef was different for me. My husband loved it because he said it was so much better for us. I don’t know if it was the type of cow we bought but I like store bought way more. I am trying to find a cow now that don’t taste so gamey I guess you would call it. I am looking at Angus/ Hereford.

    • Julie

      Angus beef is the best!

    • Jill

      If you did not like the taste you may be interested in grass-feed, corn finished. We raise cows in Iowa and found that the 100% grass feed taste is a bit different so we now give our cows corn a few month leading up to butchering. This gives them a bit more fat and the taste is what you are used to.

    • John D

      Christina, you would probably like the taste of pasture raise, grain fed beef, like Jill says, finished with corn. If you have the beef dry aged for 14 days, it has a flavor that is much better than store bought beef, a rich savory flavor, not bland, and not gamey.

  5. CB

    Kristen – there are local farmers at the Bel Air farmer’s market that sell beef. Hickory Chance Beef is one. Also, there is a dairy farm in Cecil County that delivers milk and beef to your door – http://www.kilbycream.com.

  6. sherry

    I buy one or two a year. I have two freezers, one stand up and one chest with a lock. I fill them both, my butcher cuts and wraps in freezer paper and stamps each cut so I know what they are. I end up with around 30-40lbs of hamburger and if I am getting it in the summer he patties me about half for burgers. I get a 85% ratio for the hamburger, it is leaner than you think, due to being fresh. There are many cuts of meat you should get, some you dont think of, you an get chuck roast and chuck steaks. They usually only cut t-bones, porterhoue, and rib steaks, which half the cow I do in a Rib Roast. But it will last my family of 5 all boys, about four months, and I get it all for $3.99 a lb. which may or may not seem high for some cuts, but getting a rib roast at 3.99 is almost impossible. I get easily 30-40 steaks, 10-15 roasts, brisket, flank, beef cubes, london broils the length of my arm.. I recommend it to all my friends, it also makes a great fund raiser raffle too.

  7. Melissa

    My local farmer is my Dad! My Dad raises a couple cows each year and my parents share it with their kids. It’s typically our Christmas gift. If you have the space and someone willing to do it, it saves a TON of $. Once the meat is in the freezer the cost is about $2/lb and that’s for steaks, roasts, tenderloin, hamburger and we know everything in it is good for our family. I did most of the studying on hormone free/grass fed and my Dad does the rest.

    • Momof2

      Haha. I thought I was the only one that got a cow for Christmas. I swear its the best gift ever!

    • jessica

      Lol, my dad does the same, between him and my brothers/uncles, we are usually set with beef/pork and deer meat. My dad gave me his spare deep freezer so we saved $ there too.

  8. Beth

    We bought our first “fresh” beef last fall and love it. We have another order for another 1/4 cow next month! Best beef I’ve ever tasted!

  9. Lorissa

    I split a cow with 3 other people and it has worked out great! The one year we decided we wanted some jerkey made out of it. It took a lot away so we haven’t done that since (even though it was very good jerkey). It’s a big hit on the pocketbook initially but it definitely is worth it. We usually get it back from the butcher the 1st week of August. And yes, you can pretty much have it anyway you want! I usually go with individual 1 pound wrapped hamburg while 1 of the others likes it in 1/3 pound patties – it’s a matter of preference. Thanks for the post!

  10. Nicole

    We live on a farm where my uncle raises grass fed cows and butchers every fall. My grandpa did it before him and his dad before him, we have never gotten beef any other way! Much better to support a local family than buying at the grocery store where the meat is coming the whole way from Mexico or Canada!

  11. Megan

    There’s a website called EatWild.com where you can look up different grass-fed farmers in your area.

    • Laura

      Awesome website. Thanks for the info.

    • Tina

      Thank you! Great site!!

  12. Rachel Jokela

    Anyone have someone that they use in Minnesota (Twin Cities) email me at rblake419gmail.com

  13. Kristy Lemons

    Anyone in the Upstate of S.Carolina know where we can buy directly?? Thanks

  14. Emily

    My family owns a beef farm, we only raise cows for ourselves and I have a few extra tips. Your butcher will offer you the ability to package the meat yourself and just give it to you in bags and you put it in freezer bags yourself in whatever portions you want. We used to kill 2 cows at a time and then have a day where the aunts/uncles, etc. all came over and packed meat into bags. We no longer do this, instead, we’ve asked the butcher to vacuum seal everything and that is only another 30 cents more a pound. If you get 100 pounds of meat, that’s only $30. It’ll save you a ton of time and energy plus you know that it won’t get freezer burned in regular ziploc bags – and the regular bags will likely cost that much in supplies anyway.

    You can do the same thing with pigs and chickens.

    This last time my parents had some of the meat turned into beef sticks for snacks. You can get most anything you want.

    I agree that you should consider getting a deep freezer. We have two. One for meat and one for the vegetables that we freeze from our garden and the random stuff you get – like a full turkey after Thanksgiving.

    If you tour the farm and it is a mom-and-pop barn that looks like it could use some work, don’t let that deter you. I’d be willing to bet that those animals are well taken care of. Our barn could use a lot of work to make it pretty. It hasn’t been painted in decades now so to outsiders it looks run down – but our animals are our first priority and we don’t have the money to do everything so we make sure we put our money where it makes sense. We keep our old tractors running, we keep our animals healthy, happy and inside the fence. We’re clearly not in the business of cows for profit but instead in the business to have a healthy food supply.

  15. Beth

    Just a quick note to all those who are asking for farmers- I have seen beef for sale at our local farmers market, so that is one place you might want to try. If anything- just ask some of the farmers there that are selling their veggies & fruits- I’ll bet they know someone! 🙂

    • Rebecca

      Th elocal farmer’s market is where we like to try the same cut of meat from different farmers… we found we LOVE LOVE LOVE the pork from one farmer and prefer the beef of another farmer.. and both ways, we are supporting local farm families :0)

  16. Shanshan

    We eat mainly chicken and fish/shrimp. After watching documentary films of all kinds on how they raise cows (with corn!) and slaughter them, I buy red meat even less. Now the only red meat we get is occasion burgers from Mc’D. Bad, I know. But not much I can do when you’re on the go and in a hurry…

    Now hunt for grass fed beef.

    • Melony

      I tend to avoid dairy/red meat most of the time (in addition to fast food/junk food/processed foods) due to doctor’s orders. In order to be healthier (already healthy…trying to keep it that way and then some!), I have started eating more and more raw fruits/veggies, crayfish (crawfish), shrimp, salmon, crab, etc. Crayfish is my favorite! 🙂

  17. Deidre

    Anyone in The Woodlands, Tx?

  18. Megan

    Our fresh “beef” is deer, elk, antelope, or whatever else my husband happens to hunt that year! We do all the cutting and wrapping of the meat ourselves and even grind our own burger. It’s a great way to save money and use the meat that my husband supplies us through his hobby. 🙂

    • heather

      I hear deer burgers are amazing! Well at least my husband says so.

      • jessica

        They are! I prefer deer meat over beef for most everything including chili, spaghetti,meat loaf etc, just a leaner,better tasting meat

  19. Kristina

    I’m in Illinois and found out about Wallace Farms a few years ago. I don’t think they sell whole or half cows, but they sell ground beef and steaks and roasts. I love the ground beef. The roasts all have a taste/smell that is unpleasant to me. I didn’t think of marinating, so thanks for the tip!!

    Anyway, check out Wallace Farms if you’re in the Iowa/Illinois area. They have various locations where you can pick up your order. They also sell pork and chicken products. Their ground beef is 85/15 and is currently $6.99/lb. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial, but we’ve been very happy with everything we’ve gotten from them. 🙂

  20. Maria

    I grew up on a holstien dairy farm where we always had one of our own steers processed. Although I now have a dairy goat farm, we still buy a few baby bulls calves to raise every year and process a steer every summer or fall. Its been over 15 years since I have bought meat at the store, and there is no comparison to having your own beef. I personally dont care for strictly grass fed beef, I think the meat tastes too ‘wild’, like venison. Most farmers will throw the feeders some grain everyday which makes a big difference in the taste of the meat. Many farmers I know will sell whole, or halves to people, charging so much a pound, and will take the beef to the processing plant. I have found that most farmers will just charge the current market price for their animal when they sell one privately. One thing I would suggest that you ask before you buy, is what the animal has been fed, and if they have given it growth hormones at all.

  21. Memoi

    How do you avoid freezer burn? I get nervous about buying so much meat up front because of that, power outages and the fact that we have lost our (upright) freezer contents twice. Once the lid didn’t close correctly, we aren’t sure why, and the second time the breaker got tripped (I think it was because we were working with other things in the garage) and we did not realize it happened until it was too late (all food was melted). Of course, both times it was hot out and everything melted quickly (our freezer is in the garage).

    That being said…. I wonder if they sell smaller portions… or maybe I can find someone to divvy it up with. I would love to have more natural meat!

    • Em

      Go in on the beef with a couple of families!

    • Bethany -All Natural Savings

      We went in on a 1/4 with our in-laws once. We use a chest deep freezer and we have avoided freezer burn. The butcher will usually freeze wrap the meat, preventing freezer burn.

    • Nicole

      In some cases, your homeowner’s insurance may actually cover the value of the lost meat if it is due to a power outage! Check with your agent!

      • Jill

        Because it has only been frozen once it is also safe to take it out of freezer, use some and re-freeze. Meat at the store is frozen to ship, defrosted at store to display, and then you freeze again at home.

  22. Em

    Make sure you ask about vaccines and antibiotics if you care about that sort of thing.

  23. Vishnu

    I woUld like to get info on buying other meats in bulk, like chicken goat lamb and fish, given that we don’t eat beef. Any info is much appreciated.

    • Emilytwinmom

      I order chicken breasts from zaycon foods, which claim to have “no added hormones” and the chicken tastes much better than what I get at our local grocery store! And, when they have their sales it’s usually $1.79 or so a pound 🙂 Hope that helps!

  24. jean

    anyone know of a butcher near shreveport/bossier city, louisiana area that does this. Most of the meat market/butchers have either shut down or we just don’t have anyone. any ideas or suggestions?

    • Susie

      I am also in the STL area – where do you purchase your meat?

  25. DEBBIE

    just so you know, a lot of farmers raise their cows this way (grass fed, no shots) and don’t think anything of it, then some one comes along and charges an arm and a leg because they call theirs “grass-fed”, so if you know a farmer, ask him or her what they feed them and if they give shots, see if they will sell you one, you may save a ton if it is someone who doesn’t label them as “grass-fed”, this is how we get ours from my uncle and it is MARKET PRICE, not grass-fed price, that is how he sells them all

  26. Emily

    Every farmer is not equal. Some breeds are better for grass fed than others. Also, make sure they are grass finished. Some farmers fatten them at the end by finishing with grain.

    Eatwild.com is a great place to find this around you.

  27. amy

    Try Double C Bar Ranch in Central Florida for grass-fed beef

  28. Lacey Jaye Souther

    If anyone is near the Northwest portion of NC Rocking S Farm is all natural grass fed beef available immediately. rockingsfarm(dot)com (currently down for maintenance will be up soon!) or email rockingsfarm@yahoo(DOT)com Family run organic farm at a great price!

  29. Wendy

    Great post!! & thanks for all the helpful tips everyone!

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