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 [email protected]
Alaska: Marilyn runs Faith Farms, located in Kodiak, and she only sells her whole lambs to the person who’s going to be eating it. Email her at [email protected]
Arkansas: Email Joyce ([email protected]) 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 ([email protected]) 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 protected]) at Old Dallas Ranch in Mena, AR.
Maine: Alder Brook Pig Farm ([email protected]) 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 protected]).
Maryland: Holterholm Farms sells pastured whole beef carcasses, as well as halves, splits, and quarters ([email protected]). Mountain Valley Acres does whole pastured chickens for $14 each (around 5 pounds) and whole pigs for $2.75 a pound ([email protected]).
Minnesota: Earth-Be-Glad Farm will sell their beef in any quantity ([email protected]), 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 protected]tel.net).
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 ([email protected]).
Wyoming: Cameron Ranch offers whole carcasses of cow and lamb, and they even have a first time rancher program. Prairie Monarch Ranch sells buffalo by the whole, side, or quarter ([email protected]).
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!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.