to the process. Step into my "originally from Los Angeles but now married to a 10th generation Lancaster County farmer" thought process about it all.
One of the most popular remarks we get is "We have always talked about doing something like this (when learning about our beef shares)"...Buying a half or quarter cow seems like such a big commitment or maybe even a scary commitment to some. This is why I chose to create my first blog on what the process looks like to buying a beef share and the many conveniences it offers.
Michael and I come from two different backgrounds and upbringings...I was raised in Huntington Park, California (aka little Mexico, yes I am Mexican!) and he was raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (yes, I married a PA dutchman).
It is totally a cultural norm here to eat local, preserve when you can and save up for the winter. Since we have an abundance of amazing locally grown foods in this area, filling up your deep freezer with farm fresh meats and garden goodness is a must, right?
Okay, maybe not to all Lanc(ister) locals.... and maybe not to most of the country...
But for those of you who are curious of the process, have the privilege and access to such a thing, or would like to learn more, it goes like this:
First and foremost, please do your own research and shop around. There are many different farmers here in Lancaster County that you can buy beef shares from. So the areas that I write about come from our personal experience and speak to our beef and 100% grass fed and finished beef specifically.
Our beef is 100% grass fed AND finished. Our cattle get pasture and are supplemented with hay (that Michael farms) here on the farm. No grains to finish. Just grass all the way through. I have found that the advertising of grass fed beef to be deceiving. Yes, you can call cattle that have been given grain, grass fed as long as they have had some grass (pasture or hay) at some point in their life. Same for Free Range Chickens-- ( as long as they meet "certain criteria" they can be called free range. But that doesn't mean they are "little house of the praire- ing it". You get where I am going with this. Nevertheless, if you are in the market for truly 100% grass fed and finished beef, please research thoroughly and ask questions first.
This brings me to me next point. Why 100% grass fed and finished beef over grain fed beef. For some, it is mostly due to the health benefits. 1) 100% grass fed and finished beef is leaner--our beef has a 90/10 fat ratio. 2) 100% grass fed beef breaks down in the stomach better than grain fed beef does. We have personally had testimonies of happy customers who have happy tummies after eating our beef where in the past they had bad G.I. side effects after consuming corn fed beef. 3) Grass fed beef is loaded with vitamin B12, B3, and B6. It’s also rich in highly bioavailable iron, selenium, and zinc. It contains high quality protein and various lesser-known nutrients, such as creatine and carnosine, which are important for your muscles and brain. Compared with grain-fed beef, grass-fed is much higher in the following vitamins A & E.
In short, 100% grass fed and finished is a health food. If you are looking for a fattier or cheaper product, grain finished beef might be your best option. Store bought beef might continue to be your best option. Hey, I was raised on Sam's Club and Walmart beef. No condemnation here. But if you can budget for and have access to a healthy alternative, I say, why not? Give your family nutritious dense and home grown beef. You won't regret it.
If you are still on the fence about taking 'the plunge', I recommend purchasing smaller quantities from our online farm store. You can order online and pick up at the farm or we can deliver locally for a small fee.
If you are highly considering, taking the plunge, keep reading...
The first step with us at Long Farm Meats (LFM), is to decide which butcher date works for you. We give you a date and time frame because you have to be the one to pick-up your meat directly from the butcher shop when buying a share (our retails cuts can be picked up here on the farm or delivered locally by us.) For our beef shares, you will be picking up your meat with our friends at Zimmerman's Custom Butcher located in Lititz/ Ephrata area.
Once you choose the date that suits you best, you will place your deposit which will enable us to hold onto your beef share. This year we are offering 1/8th, 1/4th, and 1/2 beef shares. Deposits can be made directly here through our website or through mail by check. To find out more about deposit pricing, please visit our online ordering tab. I should also mention, the last 3 years we did have a waiting list which is another reason to not hesitate in putting that deposit in since we run on a "first come. first serve basis."
You will not hear from us again until a week or so before your scheduled butcher date. At that time, we will give you a call and talk you through your custom butcher order. Some things to keep in mind are: the size of roasts you want (standard is 3-5lbs), thickness in steaks (standard is 1/4 inch thick), the cuts you want (bone-in or boneless steaks), or the weight of ground beef packaged (standard is 1 pound but there is a 2 pound option.) Your share comes with organs if you want and stock or dog bones. If we can't answer all your questions, we will get you in contact with Wilmer, our butcher at Zimmerman's. He will gladly accommodate you the very best he can. Expect approximately 30% steaks, 30 % roasts, and 40% ground beef in your total beef share.
After your custom order is placed and the scheduled animal goes to butcher, it will hang for 2 weeks 'aging'. This is the weight we use per pound which is why it is called hanging weight (just meat, bones, fat, organs). After 14 days, your meat will be cut up, vacuum sealed & packed then frozen solid. You will receive the remaining balance due in your invoice the week of pick-up. This must be paid before you pick- up your beef.
Some people ask if they need ice chests for pick-up. We say not if you are local. If you go straight home after pick- up and put the meat in your freezer, you are in good shape. If you are traveling an hour or two, we encourage you to bring several large ice packs to lay on top of your meat boxes for travel.
Our pricing includes all the fees, butcher, packing in all. The only additional fee you might see is if you get a more specialized customer butcher request. Items like beef hot dogs, beef cubes, dry beef, jerky, already made burgers, ect will be a little extra.
Tips that I personally have and would like to share are:
Making sure to have some of my ground beef not frozen when pick-up is ready. I like to get 20lbs or more fresh that way I can make my own 'prepared food' such as mixing and rolling my own meatballs, meat loaves, and burgers to freeze. I also cook some of the ground beef with onions and garlic, cool then freeze in bags of 1 or 2 pounds to use in recipes, lastly cooking more ground beef with my own taco seasoning then separating into meal size portions and freezing for a quick taco night or two.
To end this super long first blog, I wanted my final remarks to share that there simply is nothing like "shopping your freezer" that is fully stocked with quality, local beef. Sunday roasts are always my personal go to for an easy Sunday lunch. Pulling out steaks to thaw and grill for special meals or summer time grilling are yet another convenience I love about having beef in bulk sitting in my freezer. Enjoying the bounty that surrounds us, and in our case the fruit of our labors, is something I hope to never take for granted. God is so good.