From Field to Freezer- A guide on how to purchase, process, and pack your freezer.


With Covid-19, our country has seen unprecedented times regarding essential supplies, including food, and more specifically...MEAT. Here at Bennett's, we are asked daily to recommend local ranchers and farmers who are selling livestock. For the first time in a long time we are seeing "non-farmers" looking to purchase livestock, have it butchered & processed, and stock up during the pandemic and hopefully for long after the pandemic ends. I wanted to show the average person who typically buys their meat at a traditional grocery store, they have other options when it comes to securing that juicy steak or crispy bacon!


Let me start with the reasons you may want to secure your livestock from a local rancher- Well it's pretty simple, you know where it comes from, you have an idea if it was grain-fed, grass-fed, or a combination. Everyone has a different preference, and this may take a few tries to figure out what type you like best. In my opinion, most cows purchased from local farmers are happier. They are weaned at the appropriate time, they are fed a better quality diet, and the meat is harvested at the correct time for you and the livestock, instead of basing it on the bottom dollar.

So now onto the million-dollar question?....Where do you find this HAPPY livestock?

Great question, I thought you would never ask...

Your Network- When I was on college spring break one year I met this gentleman who was much older and wiser than me, he said I'm going to give you some advice that will take you far and pretty much get you anything you could need in this world. He simply said, "It's not the grades you make, it's the hands you shake"..I've carried that advice with me for life, and now you will too in the pursuit of finding you good quality livestock to send to the butcher. Let's say you are a "city" person; I want you to think of the most country/ farmer type person you know, call them, start within your community. Chances are you know someone who knows someone with livestock for sale. It seems so easy, and it is, pick up the phone, call the rancher and ask how his or her process works for purchasing their livestock ( don't worry, I will cover the questions you should ask towards the bottom of this post). When doing research for this post, I did two 15 second instastories regarding local ranchers, and you wouldn't believe the response I received about people who knew someone with meat for sale!

Local Meat Market- Do you have butchers in the area, like real meat markets, not your chain grocery store? Call them; they will know someone. The key is to find real meat markets with actual butchers; a simple google search will help you find them. The butcher and the rancher are kind of like lima beans and rice. They go hand in hand.

Social Media With 4.5 billion people on social media, there are COUNTLESS, and I mean countless Facebook groups who specialize in raising, selling, processing, and marketing livestock. A simple facebook bar search will prove this to be true. You can search keywords such as "North Florida livestock for sale," "South Texas Homesteaders," "West Georgia Co-ops"..I do have some advice if you go this route, follow the groups for a while, watch the comments and the responses. You will start to learn who has a good following and who people consistently refer too. Go with them. Don't jump right in and buy from the first person with a steer for sale.


Your Community Kids- Your local 4H and F.F.A (Future Farmers of America) are great ways to support the kids in your community while filling your freezer. Yes, you may pay a little more if you go this route, but those 4H and F.F.A kids take the BEST care of their animals, they are fed high-quality feed, given endless love, and raised in the right conditions most of the time. It's an investment in your freezer and in your community. Also, check out your local tax laws, you may be eligible to write off a portion of the purchase.

Other Options- Sometimes you can purchase a young calf raise it on someone else's land if you do not have the acreage required, maybe offer to split the animal with the landowner. If you have a friend with a few extra acres, pitch this idea to them, it will be a win-win for you both! Creativity will go a long way when it comes to raising, slaughtering, and processing your meat. There no real wrong way.

Ok, you have found a rancher, and he or she has agreed to sell you livestock, now what? You better get to asking all the right questions.

1) Will the rancher/farmer transport the cow to the processor. What's the fee?

2) Can you choose your processor, or is this up to the rancher?

3)Is the slaughter fee included in the rancher's price or it additional?

4) Is it grain-fed or grass-fed? Some people may have a preference. Just know grass-fed may have been fed some grain right before going to the butcher. As long as the animal was primarily fed grass, it will be considered grass-fed.

5) How long until the livestock is sent to the processor?

Questions the butcher may ask you and questions you may want to ask the butcher, remember this is your livestock?

What should you ask?

What is the hang weight? Hang Weight is the weight after the animal has been slaughtered, insides removed, and the blood drained

Then there is the cut weight: the amount of meat you take home, you don't take home the hang weight because there will be bones and parts you cannot use.

Make sure you ask the butcher, Are you charging by hanging weight or cut weight?

How long is the aging time? Most butchers will hang the carcass after slaughtering, from 7 to 14 days. The longer, the better, 20 days would be ideal, but most butchers will not go for that. The longer aging gives a better flavor and increased tenderness. Shorter hang times allow the butchers to process meat at a quicker rate.

Questions they may ask you...

What types of cuts would you like? Think about your family and your lifestyle, it's easy to dream about that big juicy steak but remember there are not many meals quicker than tacos and spaghetti or roast in a crockpot. Think about what will work best for you and your family long term.

If you are butchering cattle, the butcher will want to know how thick you will want your steaks and how many per packages. We are a family of 5, but our kids are younger, so we always get our steaks in packages of 4. That works best for us.

The butcher will want to know what increments of weight you want your stew beef and hamburger... 1#? 1.5#? 2#? We like 2pounds per package because I like to have enough for leftovers, saves money on eating out for lunch!

The butcher may give you the option of paper wrapped or vacuumed pack, personal preference!

Cost:

Know I know you are wondering: How much will this cost you?

Let me give you an example; prices will not be accurate because they vary for each region.

I found this example from Katie Kimbralls blog on butchering her on cattle.

  • Hang weight: 300 lbs

  • Price/weight (payment to the rancher): $3.00/lb (could be up to $4.00/lb)

  • Half of Slaughter Fee: $45

  • Butcher Fees (payment to the butcher): $.80/lb cut and wrap

  • The final amount of take-home/cut weight (70% of hang weight*): 210 lbs

  • Total: $1185 for 210 lbs of beef

Local resources for Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia:


**Cartwheel Ranch Meats: We sell direct to the consumer with Angus and Herford beef, Berkshire pork, LaMancha Goats parentheses meat and dairy (goats Milk and Goat Cheese), as well as jersey and Holstein cows milk and yogurt. Cartwheel ranch will take care of getting your livestock to the processor for a fee. You can check them out on their Facebook page or you can call them directly at 904-874-7502.


**Gulf Coast Cattle : Jerry Mullins is the owner operator of Gulf Coast Cattle, he was so kind to share his current inventory of beef for sale:

1 Grain Fed Scheduled for 8/17

1 Grain Fed Scheduled for 10/12

1 Grass Fed Scheduled for 11/12

Prices include delivery to processor at $3.00/lb hanging weight. Customer pays all cost to processor which is normally .65/lb for cutting and wrapping and $50.00 harvest fee but can vary. You can contact Jerry Mullins at 763-302-9684 or check Gulf Coast Cattle out on Facebook.


**AW Brahmans- AW Brahmans is located in Starke Florida & Angleton Texas. Family owned ranch, specialized in registered Brahman Cattle. Commerical Herd available as well. Check them out on instagram (@awbrahmans) and Facebook to see their operation.


**Chapmans Family Farm sells angus cows to the public, they are a small scale operation that takes pride in the quality of their beef. You can contact them directly at 904-755-1974 or email chapmans_7610@yahoo.com for more information.


**Another great way to find local ranchers and farmers is through Eatwild.com


This process is truly so easy and can be a great way to save money, source your own food, and never run out when the stores do. If you are a local farm who sells to the public, please let us know so we can share your information.


In Summery:




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