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  • Writer's pictureKatherine

Local Meat Subscription Review

Despite it's shortcomings, 2020 really did bring a lot of positive aspects to the local food movement! More and more small farms took to social media and other online platforms to gain new customers and streamline their sales. It has become so easy to find amazing farms to purchase local goodies from through these new outlets, and it might not have been possible without the pandemic.

While it was a heck of a year for small businesses, it has been amazing to see the outpouring of support from people. When the grocery stores were left unstacked and people were unsure about going out, our small farmers stepped up and provide people with lots of great options that got them high quality produce safely and affordably! I am also so thankful that it is getting easier and easier to connect with small farmers! It is through social media that I was able to find a local meat CSA (community supported agriculture) and it has been a true game changer for me! Below, I'll discuss the how, why, who and my honest review of what it has been like these past 5 months.

What is a Meat CSA?

If you are familiar with the national meat subscription boxes that are delivered to your door, then the concept of a local meat CSA is not too far off. The farmer has customers sign up to commit to a certain amount of time and money for goods they will receive. This model ensures that the farmer a) has a guaranteed outlet to sell their product and b) will receive the funds to cover all of the costs to produce the product. It is a great way for farmers to build a direct to consumer business with lower risk. Every month customers get a box filled with different meats from the animals raised right there on the farm.

This particular CSA that I joined is 6 months long and I was able to choose how large of a box I wanted to receive. Each month we pick up ~15 lbs of meat that was raised right on the farm. It comes in a variety of frozen cuts and even has some specialty items like goat and flavored sausages. Some other meat CSA's offer 3 month and 6 month options, one time bundles, various meats and delivery. There are lots of options to fit a variety of different needs!

Why Join a local CSA?

A local CSA can be a blessing to the consumer, the farmer, the local economy and the environment! As a consumer, when you purchase locally raised meats you are able to control the quality of the product you are recieving by witnessing almost all of the process! What does that mean exactly? You have the ability to go to the farm to see how the animals are raised, talk with the farmer about what kind of feed they are given, and learn about how they are processed. If you are striving to eat clean this year, a local meat CSA could be a great option for you!

Additionally, CSA's are a great option for farmers because it gives them a guarantee that they have an outlet for a product. Small farms often benefit the most from this model of agriculture because it allows them the assurance of knowing that they will have income coming in and products going out. Many small farms cannot provide for the demands of selling to a grocery store on a consistent basis, so direct to consumer is the best option for them. When going with a direct to consumer model, its important for small farms to accurately determine how much product they can actually sell and with that comes extra challenges as well! When you are a small farmer, you wear many different hats: salesman, CFO, CEO, social media marketer, groundskeeper, farm manager etc. therefore, making sure that you have enough time to sell your products can be an exhausting process! Needless to say, this method of pre-ordering for a certain amount of time gives the farmer peace of mind to know that they need to produce x amount of product in order to fulfill their CSA clients. This is a very loaded topic that I could certainly write for hours on, however, that is a general overview of how the farmer benefits from this!

It can boost your local economy by supporting a small business owner that lives (and shops) in the same place that you do! Buying small is always a great option when you want to support your local economy. Also, shopping with small farms cuts out the overuse of fossil fuels and the exploitation of natural resources that large factory farms need to survive. Instead of shipping animals miles to a processing plant and then miles to various grocery stores, animals are shipped humanely from the farm to the facility and then kept at the farm for pickup.

What about the Large Meat Subscription Boxes?

With the rise of online shopping and the streamlining of shipping, national meat subscription boxes have become the newest craze in the health food world. These subscription boxes can be a great option if someone is unable to find healthy organic meats in their area; however, before you sign up for a national box with farms all across the US, try to find a local farm that supplies the same quality of meat. It's always better to be able to talk with the person that is raising your food as opposed to reading an exposé on a national website. The only advantage that the large national boxes have over a local CSA is a wide variety of meat per box (in most cases). Small local farms generally focus on a few heritage animals like chickens and hogs, so their offerings of meat will be limited to that.

But will it save me money?

On the dollar per pound comparison between a local meat CSA and the national brands, a local CSA is the more affordable option for high quality, sustainably raised heritage meats. When simply broken out by price per pound, the national box prices all averaged around $11/lb whereas, local CSA boxes* with the same quality meat averaged anywhere from $7/lb for chicken to $9/lb for beef boxes.

My Personal Experience

So, you may still have a lot of questions before taking the plunge into local meat. One of my biggest questions before getting started was, "will around 15 lbs of meat be enough for my family for the month?" I was worried that I would have to buy a bunch of extra meat to supplement each month which would break my grocery budget. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much meat 15 lbs covers and how we have been able to eat through most of our box without much supplementing from the store!

During the 6 months, I was feeding a toddler, one adult and one hungry pregnant/breastfeeding mama. Our house normally eats meat most of the time, but we also enjoy meatless meals a few times a week (especially for lunches). The third and final factor that you should keep in mind is that our CSA lasted over the holidays from November-April so there were a few more gatherings than normal. Overall though, the meat is enough for us to enjoy throughout the month and still have 1 whole chicken on reserve for a special occasion!

The CSA is from a small farm thats just a short drive from my house, Crazy Chic Heritage Farm. We drive out to the pickup location one Saturday a month and everything comes nicely packaged and ready to throw in the freezer. The farm raises chickens, pigs, cattle and goats so there is always some variety in our box!

Our February box, whole chicken (2), wings (1), thighs (1), soup bones (1), goat steaks (1), boneless breast (1)

Our family decided to go with this particular CSA for a few reasons: a) it was a short drive up the interstate from our house b) we love chicken and c) they have monthly charges as opposed to an upfront fee. Thankfully, small farms are on the rise in SC so there are options out there that can work with every family!

Chicken, Chicken and More Chicken!

We love chicken in our household, but I was worried that this might be too much chicken. To my surprise, it has been enough to have a great variety of recipes. From crispy oven fried wings to grilled butterfly chicken, the recipes and dishes have been so mouth watering! We have also enjoyed our staple items like, whole chicken in the crockpot and homemade bone broth. Needless to say, the amount of chicken is not overwhelming when you incorporate new recipes in with your favorite chicken dishes!

One of the other great things about getting different cuts of chicken is that we can enjoy certain dishes that we would not normally if I was buying meat from the grocery store. We have received

packs of chicken legs, chicken wings and boneless skinless chicken breasts which were all cuts of chicken that I never purchased. My main staple in the grocery store was always organic boneless chicken thighs and organic whole chicken because it was the cheapest way to purchase high quality organic meat. Now I can rest assured that I'm getting high quality product that is still easy on my budget, PLUS get a good variety of cuts!

The variety of the other meat was also a pleasant surprise since I was just expecting chicken! We have enjoyed everything from ground beef (grass fed), pork breakfast sausage and even goat meat! In fact, seared goat chops have become a new favorite in our household with everyone (including the toddlers).

Final Thoughts

This type of CSA was unlike anything I have tried before and as I am writing my final synopsis, we have actually gone through a whole year of meat CSA with the same farm. We also ended up purchasing a bulk pork box from the farm after our meat CSA ended filled with bacon, sausage and pork cuts that lasted us a few months as well.

When you are consuming high quality meats that are pasture raised and the animals are allow to forage for grubs, acorns and all of the other nutrients they need, those nutrients are then passed on to you. If you are the kind of person that needed a giant oversized pork chop to be full, then you might be surprised at how full and satisfied you actually feel when you consume meat that is smaller in size but jam packed with nutrients! My husband and I were one of those people in the beginning and to see how our taste buds have changed is truly incredible. We now prefer the tasty cuts of pasture raised animals to the store bought alternatives that are not allowed to move around and feed a grain diet their whole life to beef them up.

This unique CSA opportunity is worth a try. Find one in your area today!

*Based on farms in South Carolina, prices may vary by state.

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