I was going back over the MDA archives this week, thinking about what went right and what went wrong with past posts. There are always going to be regrets when looking at past work, whatever its nature. That’s just how these things work.
But this is the internets, not print, and I can quickly hop in and make changes to the past with just a few keystrokes. Or, I can write an honest appraisal of my previous transgressions and come up with a post of restitution. This is that post of restitution. Today, I’m admitting that my last post on cowpooling was a bit lean. It’s not that I trimmed the fat; it’s that the fat was never even there in the first place (hmm, old Cordain might agree). Consider this post a dollop of grass fed butter in the pan that is MDA’s cowpooling content, perhaps even after deglazing all the tasty bits with a hearty Zinfandel. Today, I’m going to tell you how to find a cowpooling source so you can buy grass fed beef in bulk directly from the supplier.
Cowpooling, in case you aren’t aware, describes the practice of banding together with other likeminded, carnivorous individuals to purchase an entire cow that is then slaughtered, butchered, and frozen for delivery or pickup. The cowpool-able cows are frequently grass-fed, local, and organic, and if you’ve got the freezer space, cowpooling is a great way to get quality meat for a fraction of what it’d cost in a place like Whole Foods. There’s really nothing quite like having a freezer full of hearts, organs, steaks, chops, roasts, shanks, bones, and tongues in your home. Whenever my freezer is stocked, I giggle uncontrollably whenever it’s time to pick a cut for dinner. It really is exciting.
Unfortunately, for most people, there aren’t any easy solutions to the cowpool source question. It’s becoming more and more widespread, but it remains a niche market, a small but vocal trend. There are a few concrete, well-run online communities that promote and organize cowpools between members, but they tend to serve distinct areas of the country. From what I can tell, the Bay Area Meat CSA (a Ning community) is the most active, and it isn’t even all that robust or vibrant. Still, if you happen to live in the California Bay Area, sign up and peruse your Group’s page to set up cowpools with other nearby members. Usually, an official liaison is selected, who then is tasked with sourcing an animal, contacting the ranch, and relaying information back to the other members. How well – or how often – this actually works remains a mystery. I happened upon the BAMCSA’s sister network, based in Southern California, and it was essentially a barren wasteland. There were a few half-hearted cowpooling prospects proposed, but no one seemed to commit to anything. I suppose it’s possible there were backroom dealings occurring via email.
There’s also Slow Food USA, an organization devoted to appreciating good, usually local food, including meat. Again, you run into the same problem as with the CSA Ning groups – there are just too many chapters with not enough active members. The link above directs you to find a chapter in your area, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
The only surefire way to find a good cowpooling source is through honest legwork. As always, Eat Wild remains the best directory for US pasture-based farms. Since you’re busy people, I’ve scouted ahead and made a quick list of some farms that seem to support bulk purchasing. There are plenty more, but this is a decent start. All you’ve got to do is get a group of people willing to buy in. Try family, friends, or even ask around on the MDA forums for help.
Alabama: Narrow Gap Farm of Brewton, AL only sells by the 1/2 or full cow, but you’ll have to call for pricing, as it varies by market. Native American Natural Grass-Fed Beef (no website or email – talk about old school), located in Delta, sells only entire cows. Try Dr. Robert E. Steele at (256)488-5661 if you can handle that much beef. At R&R Katahdin Ranch, you can buy whole lambs priced at $1.60 per pound of live weight; email Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arizona: Dudleyville’s Double Check Ranch offers shares of beef (minimum 10 lbs) to customers. The M Triangle and Black Ranches sell range fed pork by the live animal, and Southern Arizona Grass Fed Beef sells cows in quarters or wholes.
Arkansas: Email Joyce (email@example.com) at Heifer Creek Farm if you’re interested in buying a side of grass-fed beef for $3 a pound, hanging weight. Just give four weeks advance notice. Email Sam (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Hosanna Hills Farm if you want to buy pastured pork or beef by the half or quarter. Or if you’re interested in some range-fed Texas Longhorn, email Thayne (email@example.com) at Old Dallas Ranch in Mena, AR.
California: Drake’s Bay Family Farm does quarters and halves. Holding Ranch delivers bulk orders of lamb and beef to Walnut Creek, CA. Email Jay (firstname.lastname@example.org) at The Rockin’ M Ranch if you want to buy whole cows weighed live prior to shipping.
Colorado: B Bar S Ranch has a minimum order of quarter cows, and Edmundson Ranch in Walsenburg will deliver wholes and halves to the customer’s processor of choice within 100 miles for free. Southwestern Colorado’s Green Place Ranch offers a “considerable discount” when customers buy by the half or whole, and they’ll even match you up with other customers to share costs.
Florida: Email Abundant Acres (email@example.com) for information on group buying clubs. At Ashlin Farms (firstname.lastname@example.org), they sell by the split side, the side, and the whole for about $6/pound. Cognito Farm sells whole or half pork and beef, as well as duck and chicken eggs, raw milk, and heritage turkey. Buy a whole pig from Florida Organic Pork for about $450; that’s for 120-140 lbs of pure meat.
Kansas: The Jubilee Farm sells whole or half lambs (email@example.com). The Lazy Heart D sells halves or half halves of bison (LHDranch@wamego.net). Moore Ranch sells halves, split halves, and other assorted meats.
Maine: Alder Brook Pig Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org) sells whole or half pigs, raised happily on pasture. Meadowsweet Farm delivers whole lambs and sides and quarters of beef to the Belfast and Orono Farmer’s Markets, May through December, and to Boston once each fall (email@example.com).
Maryland: Holterholm Farms sells pastured whole beef carcasses, as well as halves, splits, and quarters (firstname.lastname@example.org). Mountain Valley Acres does whole pastured chickens for $14 each (around 5 pounds) and whole pigs for $2.75 a pound (email@example.com).
Minnesota: Earth-Be-Glad Farm will sell their beef in any quantity (firstname.lastname@example.org), and George and Mary’s Best Darn Chickens ‘Round has more than just chickens; they’ve also got whole or half pigs for sale (email@example.com).
Nebraska: The Grain Place, Inc. offers pastured, grass-finished whole or half cows; just make sure to specify grass-finished (firstname.lastname@example.org). L & L Jacobsen Farm offers whole, quarter, or half beef.
New Hampshire: Arbutus Hill Farm allows families and groups to buy whole lambs, pigs, or cows. Steve Normanton sells his beef in bulk. And Wayne LeClair of Rocky Meadow Farm has a large herd of heritage breed, solid-color Galloway cattle. You can reach him at 603-547-6464.
New Mexico: Buy whole, half, or quarter cows from Harold Koehn Grass-Fed Beef (email@example.com). Pool together with friends and family to buy a whole cow for $5 per pound from JX Ranch.
New York: Arcadian Pastures welcomes orders of whole pork, beef, or lamb (firstname.lastname@example.org). Bettinger Bluff Farm sells by the whole or half. Engelbert Farms offers organic beef, veal and pork by the whole or the half.
Oklahoma: Beaver Creek Farms sells beef by the half, quarter, or whole. Goose Island Farm sells pastured sides of beef and whole lambs. Sara’s Grassfed Beef sells sides and splits (email@example.com). And Plum Rich Beef offers grass fed, grass finished beef at $5.95 a pound!
Oregon: Anandaloka sells quarters, halves, and sides of cows, but reservations are recommended (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Crooked Gate Ranch offers the same, including wholes. Buy whole lambs from Harlow’s Hills West Coast.
Pennsylvania: Jeff sells whole lambs out of Alt Perlswalde Farm (email@example.com), and Blackbird Farms sells whole or half hogs (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can get whole or half carcasses from Coulter Farms, and you can buy whole emus (yes, emus) from Martin’s Twin Brook Farm. Order whole lambs from Bucky (PVPPFARM@aol.com) at Paradise Valley Organic Farm.
Rhode Island: Sanford Farm sells 80-90 pound quarter cows for around $4.50 per pound. Email Ted Sanford (email@example.com). And The Watson Farm sells whole or half lambs (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tennessee: Bradburn Farm sells by the whole or half cow and cuts it according to your specifications (email@example.com). Rocky Glade Farm will deliver whole lambs and half cows directly to your nearest processor.
Texas: The Cross Creek Cattle Company charges $3.50 per pound of hanging carcass weight, and delivery to the processing plant is covered, but the actual processing is not. Darby Farms sells their cows by the whole, half or quarter.
Vermont: Buy whole lamb from the Flack Family Farm, and they’ll cut it to your specifications. Kingdom Hill Farm accepts custom orders for quarter, half, and whole cows. Buy whole cows for $2.30 per pound (hanging weight) from Naylor Family Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Washington: From Bradrick Family Farms, order whole lambs or quarter, half, and whole cows. Eagle Perch Ranch offers dry-aged, custom cut whole and half cows to customers, and Green Pastures Farms sells primitive, heritage sheep descended from medieval Scottish sheepy ancestors as whole freezer lambs.
Wisconsin: Anderson Farm sells both beef and hog by halves and wholes. Babb Creek Grassfed Red Angus beef is sold for about $2.89/lb hung, $3.46/lb finished (email@example.com). Millstone Mountain Farm sells whole, half, and quarter cows for $3/lb cut and wrapped; vacuum packing is an extra 25 cents per pound. Why does Wisconsin have such great prices on grass fed beef?
As you can see, there are many options out there, and I missed far more than I included. Check out EatWild for yourself and dig up even more choices. It’s still the single-best resource for pasture raised animal farms, along with maybe Local Harvest, but you’re going to have to make some calls and write some emails. Still, a little bit of effort is totally worth having a freezer full of delicious grass-fed meat for a fraction of the regular cost.
Have you ever cowpooled? What has been your experience? What are your sources and do they come recommended? Share your thoughts in the comment board!