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Securing your meat supply locally

By CHELSEA HILL
Posted 4/21/20

One of the many blessings of living in a rural area is the ability to purchase locally sourced meat and food products. For those looking to secure their meat supply locally, the best places to start …

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Securing your meat supply locally

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One of the many blessings of living in a rural area is the ability to purchase locally sourced meat and food products. For those looking to secure their meat supply locally, the best places to start inquiring about purchasing these products is with local butcher shops, farmers markets and directly with livestock producers. Most butcher shops can either sell you retail cuts of meat—like you can find in a grocery store—or they can sell you portions of an animal by working with a livestock producer. Depending on the inspection process that the animal follows, some livestock producers can also sell you retail cuts of meat at their farm store or through your local farmers market.

Some retail cuts of beef include steaks, burger, roasts, ribs, brisket, stew meat and so on. Most families purchase a small amount of meat at a time and tend to only purchase cuts they are familiar with cooking or are affordable. Retail cuts are priced out by the pound and can vary depending upon the cut of meat you’re purchasing. For example, most steaks are priced higher per pound because they are more desirable for flavor, texture and tenderness; there are also less of those cuts on an animal compared to ground meat, which is more abundant.

When purchasing portions of an animal from a butcher shop or livestock producer, you’re technically purchasing a portion of the live animal and then also paying that butcher to process the animal to your specifications. For beef, portions are sold in a whole, half and quarter of the animal; portions of swine, sheep and goats are sold in wholes and halves.

The term “dressing percentage” is used to define the percent of the live weight of an animal that becomes the carcass weight after slaughter. The carcass weight or hanging weight is the weight of the live animal minus the head, hide, feet, offal and some other inedible portions of the animal.

When purchasing a portion of an animal, unless brokered through a butcher shop for a combined price, you will have two bills. One bill is paid to the previous owner of the livestock and is generally charged on a per pound basis. For example, a livestock producer may charge you $2 per pound live-weight for a market lamb, or they may charge you a flat rate price per animal. The second bill is paid to the processer who takes that live animal and breaks it down into usable cuts for you to consume. This price is generally determined on a price per pound for the carcass weight.

How much meat should you expect from purchasing a portion of an animal? The amount of meat and the cuts you get will vary depending on the size of the live animal, how much fat or finish is trimmed during processing, how many bone-in and bone-out cuts you get and, to some extent, what breed and age the live animal is. Each species varies in its dressing percent and waste percentage.

Estimated processing weights for livestock

As an example of what you can expect to receive back from purchasing an animal to process, see the table below for information gathered from the USDA Farmers Bulletin for beef, pork and lamb slaughtering, cutting, preserving and cooking on the farm.

  Beef Hog Lamb/goat
Live weight 1,000 lbs 240 lbs. 120 lbs.
Dressing percent 60 percent 65 percent 50 percent
Carcass weight 600 lbs. 156 lbs. 60 lbs.
Waste weight 150 lbs. 53 lbs.  18 lbs.
Total* whole  450 lbs. 102 lbs. 42 lbs.
Total*  half 225 lbs. 51 lbs. 21 lbs.

* Total weight of whole or half animal with bone-in cuts

Purchasing locally supplied meats puts more money back into your local economy, supports your community as a whole and gives you the opportunity to learn exactly where your meat comes from. For more information, contact Chelsea Hill at the Penn State Extension office at 570/253-5970 ext. 4110 or cbh5097@psu.edu.

Chelsea Hill is the Adult Livestock and 4-H Animal Science Educator at the Penn State Extension Wayne County Office. Chelsea grew up on a local dairy farm that added a custom slaughtering facility on-site. She attended Penn State University to obtain her B.S. in Agribusiness Management and returned to Wayne County to support the local agricultural industry.

Local butcher shops

MONTICELLO, NY
Butcher Boys: 845/791-498

Carmine’s Meat Market: 845/794-6328

HONESDALE, PA

Alpine Wurst and Meat House: 570/253-5899

Four Story Hill Farm: 570/224-4137

Hardler Farms: 570/251-7937

MILFORD, PA

Brooklyn Boy Pork Store: 570/296-7863

Prime Time Meats: 570/296-6064

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