Curious about how to place an order at a meat locker? It’s not hard, but there are some tricks and tips you might like to know before placing that first bulk meat order.
How to place an order at a meat locker
I’m Kelli, and I run the show over at The Sustainable Couple. We’re going to talk about beef and pork today. I received emails from two readers a few weeks ago (after I posted a little photo of the inside of our freezer) asking about how we purchased our meat in bulk. They expressed interest in contacting their local farmers, but felt uneasy because they’ve never placed an order at a meat locker before. It wasn’t securing the meat from the farmer that freaked ’em out, it was figuring out what to do with the meat at the locker!
We’re going to talk about the in’s and out’s of working with a local farmer and meat locker to process beef or pork in bulk.
Ideally, you already know a farmer who will allow you to purchase their beef or a hog. And, ideally, your farmer will take your live beef or hog to the locker for you. I recommend you use the farmer’s choice meat locker. If not, get some other recommendations from your farmer or people you trust. Don’t choose a locker where you’ve never tasted their product. It’s too expensive to be risky.
If you’ve never placed an order for beef or pork before (in any amount – whole, half, or quarter) don’t worry! It’s a lot easier than it looks, and you’re getting a great deal. Before you call the locker to place your order, follow these essential steps:
1. Jot down the cuts of meat that you an your family eat most; things you buy a lot from the store. Now is not the time to be experimental and try things you’ve never tried before, especially with expensive cuts of meat. For example, if you’re getting beef, do you eat a lot of steaks? Do you enjoy roasts? Do you smoke a brisket every summer at the family barbecue? Ground beef is something everyone uses quite a bit of throughout the year.
You’ll get a lot of ground beef, since all of your trimmings are ground. However, if you forgo roasts, steaks, or other cuts, you’ll get substantially more ground beef. (I wouldn’t recommend missing out on a juicy steak or roast just for some ‘burger, though!)
Also, how would you like some of your cuts processed? For example, we get some of our pork smoked and some of our trimmings into ground pork and specialty brats. If you want any variety in your cuts, do a little research or call your locker to see what they offer.
Perhaps these visuals will help:
2. Next thing to consider: How many people are you typically feeding every meal? Two of you? A family of six? That will determine the packaging of your cuts. Using beef, for example, you might want your ground beef in one-pound packages (which is perfect for 2-4 people, and most recipes call for one pound of beef). If you have a larger family, you might get your roasts cut into 4 or more pounds, especially if you want leftovers or multiple dishes.
Remember, when you are getting beef or pork from a farmer, you are going to pay for two things. You’re going to pay the farmer for the cost of the meat, and then you’re going to pay the locker for the processing of the meat. Don’t get too carried away here. Trust me, I know from experience. If you want to save money anywhere in this situation, the best way to do so is reduce the amount of cutting, grinding, smoking/processing and packaging your butcher has to do to complete your order. Makes sense, right?
3. Jot down things you are willing to try for the first time. Liver? Fat for rendering your own tallow? Bones? Chances are, if you’re ordering a side of beef or a whole hog for the first time, there are some things you’ve never tried before because they aren’t accessible at your local grocery, or they aren’t in the budget. Now that you’ve chosen your ‘staples’ or must-haves, you can get a little funky and try things you haven’t tried before.
4. Call your locker, and have your lists handy. Tell them the name of your farmer who delivered or owns the beef or pork, and that you’d like to place your order. Typically, the farmer will have already told the butcher to expect your call, and he or she will have told the butcher the quantity of meat you purchased (a quarter beef, half a hog, etc.), and you’ll just need to confirm this information.
Then comes the fun part! Tell your butcher that you are new to this (he or she will slow down and explain the process), and start chatting about the cuts of meat you must have; your staples. Since this is the top priority for you, these should be discussed first. After that, tell him what you want to experiment with – the organ meat, soup bones, etc.
Then, your butcher will tell you have you ‘have left’ from the beef or pork, and the options you have for processing it. Usually, at this point, you’ll be getting the remains ground into beef, bulk sausage, or brats.
While you’re discussing your cuts and processing, your butcher will probably ask you how you want it packaged. Do you want your steaks in packages of two? Four? How many pounds do you want your roasts? But this will be easy, you already have this information written down, you slick kitty.
5. Wait. It will take a couple weeks for your order to be processed. The meat has to hang, and then it has to be processed. Your locker will call you or the farmer when it is done and ready for pick up. Be patient. And, start cleaning out your freezer.
6. Pick up your order from the locker or farmer ASAP! The locker has limited space in their freezers, especially around certain hunting seasons. Some lockers even charge an additional fee for keeping your meat more than a day or two. If your farmer is picking up the meat, he or she may deliver it to you, in which case you are very, very lucky. Give your farmer a big smooch for their generosity.
7. Take a bunch of photos of your meat and publish for the world to see! You should be proud that you’ve supported a farmer, and that you can feed your family on kick ass beef or pork for several months or a year!
8. Organize your meat in your freezer. Keep cuts categorized and easy to find.
Thanks again, Kelli! Pop over to The Sustainable Couple to see her other great posts.