Why I Think Buying Meat in Bulk Can Be Beneficial
Psstt.. every Wednesday I write a post called “Why I” and last week I wrote one on Why I Use SeedsNow Seeds for my Garden — just in case you missed it.
Once I made the transition from regular store-bought meat to pastured, grass-fed meats that were typically raised locally, I was a bit sticker shocked at the price. However, once I began to research the process of pasture raised meats versus industrialized meats, I learned why these meats were higher priced than their conventional counterparts, and it made sense.
Eventually I became more invested in the quality of meat and knew it was worth every single penny. All of that is fine and dandy but it still doesn’t change the fact that it can cost much more than normal meat you buy at the store. For a family that has to adhere to a strict weekly or monthly budget, it can be disheartening when you want to eat healthier but the same cut of meat you used to buy is $2-10 more. Trust me, I know (which is one of the reasons why I was inspired to write this post, Why I Don’t Buy Everything Organic).
This is where becoming smart with your purchases is necessary. Ultimately, there are a few ways to make pastured meat less expensive:
- Eat less of it
- Buy cheaper cuts and become creative
- Buy it in bulk
There are positive and negatives to all three solutions. Eating less meat is fine if you’re not a big meat eater in general, but if you are, this can prove to be difficult. Buying cheaper cuts (roasts, stews, etc vs steaks) is a great alternative but if you are a busy mom or single person that works a lot, there may not be a lot of time to become creative. Yes, you can prioritize your time but speaking from experience, sometimes the last thing you want to do is try different recipes when you’re busy or even on a budget and you don’t want to risk your family not liking it.
The third option is to buy in bulk and there are a lot of benefits in doing so.
When you buy beef in bulk, you are typically paying less money per cut than if you were to buy them separately at the store. When combined, you may only end up paying $12 for a t-bone in bulk versus $22 separately at the health food store.
Stay tuned for a post on the price comparison between industrialized meat, Trader Joe’s meat, Whole Foods meat, and meat from a farm purchased in bulk!
When you can limit the amount of trips you take to a grocery store, it’s always a plus. By having a freezer stocked with meat, you always have a meal waiting to be cooked. It enables you to meal plan more easily because you know what you already have, which also saves you money. You may have to be creative with different cuts of meat depending on how you buy your meat in bulk (like I mentioned in option number two up there) but because you already have it in your freezer, it allows you a little more time to come up with something versus having to find a recipe on the fly.
3) Knowledge of Source
Typically, when you buy in bulk you are buying from a farmer you know. You may have been purchasing their meat by the piece for quite some time now and you’re ready to make the investment in a larger quantity or you have a few friends that rant and rave about how good Farmer John’s meat is. Speaking from personal experience (more on that below) it’s always best to have been buying a variety of individual cuts from Farmer John before making a purchase instead of solely relying on someone else’s experience.
By purchasing from a farmer you trust, you are able to have meat you feel good about. This in itself is a huge bonus!
When Buying in Bulk Goes Wrong
That being said, I’m not going to lie to you and say there are no drawbacks because there certainly can be. I have personally experienced a huge drawback like investing in a large quantity of meat and it tasting awful.
Last year we purchased a 1/4 cow from a farmer that a friend of mine suggested. When we went to purchase a t-bone steak from the farmer before we invested in $700 worth of meat, he was all out and said he had some from a farm that they work closely with; he said the meat came from the same type of cow so the quality and taste should be pretty comparable. That should have been a red flag for me but because I was a newbie, I didn’t think twice. Plus, a friend who was very serious about where she got her meat said nothing but good things about this specific farmer so I trusted her.
The meat was tough and gamey and about 2/3 of our purchase is still in the freezer. We ate up all the ground beef and tried a few other cuts but no matter how I cooked the other cuts of beef, they were unpleasant to eat. My father-in-law (who bought the other 1/4) swears the meat came from different farms but who knows. Regardless, we haven’t been able to take advantage of the savings we received because we can’t stand to eat the meat and that is NOT a good thing.
The Biggest Lesson I Learned
The biggest lesson I took from that whole experience was not that buying meat in bulk is not worth it, but it’s much better to buy smaller bulk packages than a 1/4 cow (or half or whole!). Instead of investing in 1/4 cow, we should have spoken with the farmer to come up with a smaller bulk package with various cuts to see what we thought before we jumped in with a lot of money.
Also another factor I had not thought of was the location of where the meat was grown and harvested. The grass-fed meat in California (where we used to live) and the grass-fed meat in Florida (where we live now) taste substantially different. From now on, if I buy meat locally I have to take the taste/location factor into consideration which makes it difficult for me to look for farms.
I’m not going to lie — because of this experience, I buy most of my beef from Whole Foods but it’s expensive! Thankfully, there is a silver lining in all of this.
The Silver Lining
If you’re in an area that does not produce good tasting meat, it doesn’t mean you have to throw your ethics out of the window and opt for something of a lesser quality or be stuck with high priced meat at Whole Foods. With the same function as a farmer’s market but only the market is online, you can shop for bulk meat through Homegrown Cow. You can choose the types of qualities you’re looking for in the way meat is raised and make your purchase through there.
You can buy smaller packages of meat from areas you know are well known for their quality of meat and it’s not just limited to beef — they have chicken, pork, lamb, bison, eggs, dairy, and more. If you have issues with your order not arriving on time or the taste of it, Homegrown Cow will absolutely fix the problem. I know this from first-hand experience when we experienced a shipping delay and Homegrown Cow sent us new meat without any hesitation.
I think my favorite part about ordering from Homegrown Cow is that I still get to support a small farmer somewhere in the US instead of supporting grass-fed beef from New Zealand or Argentina. It’s also a great way of being surprised to find a small farm near you that you’ve never heard before! Starting searching Homegrown Cow today to find a possible farm in your area here.
This post is sponsored by Homegrown Cow. However, the opinions and photos are of my own. Authenticity is important so I would never promote any brand or product that I wholeheartedly don’t believe in. My readers are my number one priority and I always recommend companies and products that I believe will benefit my readers.
What timing! As the cold weather approaches (Yes, I know it’s still August but winter IS coming!!), I am thinking about buying a 1/4 cow this year. But I’m scared to invest in a huge chunk of change for an unknown ‘taste’, as you described. I do buy different cuts from a local farm as needed but he doesn’t have the wide selection in the winter. I’ll have to check out Homegrown Cow as an alternate source. Thx Loriel!
I’d love to hear what you think about Homegrown Cow once you check it out.
I agree! We are getting 1/2 cow on Saturday and I’m so excited. You know you are a foodie when purchasing 1/2 cow is the highlight of your week;)
Haha, isn’t that the truth! I was so giddy when we made our first purchase — too bad the meat was awful tasting.
Loriel this is fantastic! I love this post because you are so right – some people just plain live in an area that grassfed meat is just not available or even that good. I bet this meat tastes amazing! The grassfed beef where I live (MI) is insane good and we do buy a quarter cow yearly. Come on up and I’ll cook for you sometime 😉
I would come up and eat your cooking any day!
Love this Loriel! You are spot on. It’s so much easier and economical too. I need to start doing this more often.
Great post. I have never bought meat in bulk because of space and the worry that if I am not happy I’ll be stuck with it. Great tips!
Yep, it’s a valid fear.
I have always wanted to start buying meat in bulk! Thanks for the great tips… I’ll be sure to try out smaller bulk packages when I buy!
I definitely think smaller packages are where it’s at in the beginning when taste testing a farm. The last thing you want to end up with is a lot of meat that doesn’t taste good, trust me. 🙂
I used to buy grass-fed ground beef (we really don’t eat any other cuts) at Whole Foods and would stock up when they had their fall sale, but a couple of years ago, I noticed a decline in the quality. The local hydrofarm I buy from sells grass-fed from a local farm, so I bought 1lb to try and it was delicious. I had also tried pre-packaged grass-fed from WF and it was more expensive and awful! So I just go to the hydrofarm and buy 2 weeks at a time, I won’t buy anything else. I guess that is mini-bulk. My sister has tried the roast but said since there was no fat, it was chewy. Maybe she needed to fix it differently? Anyway, I did contact the farmer to verify how the cows were raised and to make sure they are not grain-finished, and to inquire about bulk pricing. I cannot afford it alone so would love to find someone to split it with, they said I could get it all as ground. Yours is not the first I have read where the experience was less than expected so it definitely pays to sample it if you can. I grew up around farms and bulk was how we always got our meat, usually sharing a whole cow between several different families. My biggest fear with bulk would be my deep-freezer dying 🙁
P.S. this grass- fed ground beef I buy is the perfect partner for your taco seasoning 🙂
Loriel, this is great! Thank you! Hubby and I often buy meat from another online meat source but Homegrown Cow is fantastic since they let you know where the meat is coming from and they have all sorts of organ meat options that my other online source doesn’t have. I’m very excited to give them a try!
We love buying meat in bulk from local farms. It is great to know where the meat is coming from, and it is way cheaper than anything I see in store. My mom and I split a big box for $6/pound of grass fed beef – ground, steak, roasts, bones, organs!