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Custom Butchered Meats – AKA Cowpooling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s long been a Midwest tradition to put a side of beef and/or pork into the freezer each year to supply a family’s meat. Sixty years ago, what went into the freezer was either raised on site or within a mile or two. Even as people migrated off the farm to nearby towns and cities, they still went back to the farms of their childhood for their meat. This custom waned as family sizes, freezer space, and time for cooking shrank and connections to farms got more diffuse. Over the past decade, the local food movement (including Community Supported Agriculture) worked to re-establish those ties. Still, families remain smaller and few homes have the space for a side of beef or a whole hog. Enter Cowpooling, where friends, neighbors, and families combine their resources to order beef or pork directly from a farm. Here’s a nice article on that Lisa Shames wrote about it for TimeOut Chicago – Jody and a couple of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm’s customers are quoted.

As you gather around food with family friends and family over Thanksgiving and this holiday season, talk to them about combining on a order of Custom Butchered Meats. If 100% grass-fed beef is what you want, NOW is the time to get it. We are taking orders for our Milk & Meadow Beef which go to the butcher in mid-December. We have Pork going to the butcher at the end of November, and again in December. We take pigs to the butcher year around, but less frequently in winter and early spring. Our grain-finished Angus Beef, is available year around as well.

If this is completely new to you, we’re here to answer your questions. We’ll walk you through the process. That’s another benefit of buying directly from our farm, we work for YOU.piggies

When we added livestock to our vegetable farm, we filled our freezer with “Custom Butchered Meat.”  We started with four “feeder pigs” (feeder pigs are about 8 weeks old, have been weaned from their mothers and are ready to grow, quickly). We got ours in the spring and four months later they were ready to go to the butcher. A half a hog went into our freezer and the rest were sold to family and vegetable CSA members who wanted to do the same. This was similar to what my folks did when I was growing up. These early bulk sales helped us get into the meat business and gave us the confidence to to create the first Meat CSA, in Illinois.

Having a freezer full of meat (and a pantry filled with jars of summer produce) as we head into winter gives us a warm feeling. I saw my parents weather an oil crisis and a farm crisis. No matter how uncertain the times, we always knew we would  have plenty to eat. There is comfort and security in that.freezer-meat

Another benefit of the custom butchered meat sales when I was a kid, was their timing. Sales were made in the fall, just before Christmas. I didn’t make the connection as a kid, but the presents that appeared under the tree were paid for in part with those sales. I think cowpooling helped pay for the cross-country skis I got one Christmas long ago.

Many things have changed. Our farm is different than Dad’s. We don’t sell to the commodity markets and most of our revenues come from our CSA sales. But, pigs and calves are still born in the spring and go to the butcher late in the fall, our kids still look forward to gifts under the tree, and families still want to stock-up for the long winter ahead.

We can help you with that. Even if you have a smaller family, Cowpooling can help you get the benefit of buying great meat at bulk pricing without exploding your freezer.

Happy Thanksgiving from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm!