Day 2 of #FarmsMatter: Farmers ate local before local was cool

Sometimes when I am alone driving with 800 pounds of beef like I was today after picking up the beef we bought from my brother, I think about how I have bought beef at the grocery store less than five times in my life. Just in case 800 pounds of beef is hard to imagine, it is 12 banana boxes of beef like seen here in the back of the Odyssey.

800 pounds of beef in banana boxes

So, when people suddenly have this new found interest in buying local and direct from the farm and rave about how great the meat is, farmers are sort of dumbfounded. Because we have always ate this beef. Or pork. Or lamb. Or chicken. And this is the same meat we also sell to companies and stores that sell the meat to you in Wal-Mart or Kroger or Piggy Wiggly.

grocery store meat section
There is something romantic about white butcher paper wrapped around meat. But besides the packaging, the other big difference is the customization of buying direct. You can have your beef cut to your liking. Steaks an inch and half thick hamburger 93% lean and cube steaks 4, 6, or 8 to a package. But, you need to talk butcher language.

butcher cut sheet
So, while the customization is awesome and the flavor is superior there is a downside. It requires freezer space if you want to capitalize on the better price as well.

freezer full of beef and corn
The space in the refrigerator freezer isn’t going to cut it my friends. And it is rare to get the meat not frozen. Fresh meat direct from farmers is a rarity. Some farmers in some markets can ale it fast enough but most cannot. And frozen meat is another normal, everyday thing for farm people. While thawing meat is pain, it is just part of cooking for a lot of us. But, if you don’t have freezer space, don’t want to deal with thawing out meat, be confident the meat at the grocery store also came from a farmer that is eating the same beef that is on the grocery store shelf.

30 days #farmsmatterThis post is part of the 30 days series over on Prairie Farmer. Be sure to check out the five things Holly will be talking about all month long while you are there! Be sure to see all my 30 Days of #FarmsMatter posts.

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  1. Nancy Smith says

    So are you saying you think the ground beef in those plastic tubes at the store tastes the same as the ground beef you get from your locker plant?

    • Jennie Hodgen says

      Ground beef in the plastic tubes from the grocery store can taste the same. However, meat from the grocery store would have undergone wet aging (aging in the bag during distribution) rather than hanging for 2-3 weeks still on the carcass (dry aging). . These aging techniques are very important for tenderness (why if you buy a steak at grocery store you should buy the one that’s turning a slight brown-perfectly safe- and throw it in the frig in a sealed-w hand pump Ziplock vacuum bag -found with the other ziplock bags). But the differences in aging also create different flavors. Because ground beef does not need to be made more tender, I don’t know of any chains that would age their ground beef prior to putting it out. I have never pondered sticking grocery store ground beef in the frig a few more weeks to see about flavor change, but will have to experiment now! Thanks for the idea!
      PS. The tube packaging is a much better bet for long term storage (ie freezing. Even better, I would recommend to all your local butchers vacuum packaging- yes, it will look purple (yeah!)- as freezer burn from that steak that managed to hide in the dark recesses for 18 months is probably still salvageable. (This is a hint for self-butchering deer farmers too- a good vacuum sealer will pay for itself (assuming you make sure you get a good seal on the package)).
      Hope this helps!

      Meat Scientist (aka. Jennie)

  2. Joan says

    We get our beef from my brother after he took over the family farm. Every year we run out of ground beef and I always gets sticker shock when I have to buy it from the store.

  3. says

    We got 2 beefs harvested in August. When J and I put the meat away J commented on what people from third world countries would think. We have freezer space for more beef than they have probably eaten in their lives.

    When we have extra ground beef it is never hard to sell it to family and/or friends. It’s a fine luxury to harvest and eat our own meat.

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