Updated: Apr 23, 2021
This fall Dad and I were sponsored by the National Pork Board to attend the virtual, six-week Western Meat School offered through Oregon State University and MSU. The course was designed for producers and butchers -offering insights into feed programs, marketing, finishing, and butchering pork, beef and lamb. The course was facilitated by Rebecca Thistlewaite, author of Farms with a Future and The New Livestock Farmer (our textbook). I learned so much during the course - like did you know steaks at Costco are processed through a needling machine to make them eatable! There is a mid-sized processor in Washington kills 3,000 head of cows a day - they aren't dry aged but sent to grocery stores in less than 3 days! I also learned a lot about our own program -including why my dad has insisted we not switch to a true grass-fed only program because of the quality of product we want to produce here in Montana (what works well in one area of the country doesn't in others - insert 8 months of no grass). Besides, sometimes it is ok to admit your parents are right! I'm happy to share with any of you the things I learned if you are interested, but for now I'm confident that our pastured meat, finished on grain grown and milled right here on the farm offers the healthiest and most delicious option we can provide. Throw in the mountain spring water our livestock drink, and it really doesn't get much better than that!
One helpful resource I wanted to share was an Infographic developed by The Good Meat Project which guides consumers in knowing how much meat, and thus freezer space, might be required when buying bulk from a farm such as ours. Because many folks don't have freezer space to store large quantities of good, local meat, we have a licensed Meat Depot with inspected, commercial freezers so we are able to offer smaller quantities of pork and beef as well as individual cuts for families who prefer to buy meat directly from our small family farm.
With some simple math, you can determine how much beef or pork you might eat (we are also offering 1/8 shares of beef too for those of you who want to try a smaller amount). I have to say, having a freezer full of healthy meat also makes meal planning so much easier for me. Plus, we are strategic about eating out - especially since we are all convinced Casey's steak (and those Berkshire pork chops) smoked on the Treager are far superior to any meal out we can find! So, if you are like me, you may find that you actually save money by having a stocked freezer because you impulse buy less at the grocer and eat out less as well. And for me, a huge advantage of buying meat shares from a farm also comes from knowing the animals were treated humanely, the product is healthy for my family, and that I am also supporting land stewardship and conservation. Those same ideals also motivated me to share what we produce directly with our Montana neighbors as well because I know those things are important to you as well.
I'll be honest. When I set out to start selling meat direct from the farm, I had no idea what a huge undertaking it would be. There are licenses and permits, and so many details - labels, invoices, spreadsheets. But it has been so rewarding: I've met so many great people across the country and locally in the process. I've loved hearing such great feedback from people who enjoy our meat - photos of meals and texts of thanks. It means the world! I've also fostered deeper relationships with folks right here as I work to get more of our meat onto my neighbors' tables. We are excited to partner with Montana Milk Moovers to offer Farm Kid & Co. meat to Flathead Valley doorsteps starting in March. I encourage you to look into their offerings if you are a local.
Ok, so to the nitty gritty - the most economical way to purchase meat from a local farm is to buy a share of the animal. Maybe you've never thought about it because you don't have a deep freeze. Where do you put it and how much storage do you need? Well this visual explains it so perfectly!
It may seem intimidating to think about a freezer full of meat. But there are so many great recipes and resources out there to help guide you. One thing I've learned - a good piece of meat can stand on it's own. A steak seasoned and grilled and topped with a pat of butter is a first rate act. A slow cooked roast makes for a savory and satisfying meal with little effort especially when paired with simple, roasted veggies or a garden salad. Of course, there are endless options, but when the meat is good - you don't have to do a lot to make it taste good - or to get your kids to eat it either. And if that doesn't convince you to buy good meat, I don't know what can. =)
Remember if you aren't in Montana, I'm sorry I can't ship our meat to you because our processor is not a USDA inspected site. If driving here with a cooler isn't an option, may I suggest you find a local farm near where you live. Check out www.farmshake.com for a listing of amazing family farms all across the US.