You know I’ve dreamt of being a farm to table girl almost my whole life, so the first time we bought a quarter cow was ever so exciting. It’s the best meat, from cows fed in your area, from farmers you can actually talk to. In this post I go into all the details about the benefits of buying local, how you can find the best meat near you, and what our quarter cow unload looked like. Oh, and I share 9 ways to start homesteading in the city. Thanks for stopping by the farmhouse!
Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I made a small commission of items you purchase at no additional cost to you.
I used to think buying local meat was something only farmers did. But a few years ago when we moved to a more agricultural part of Washington state, I realized the farming community was much bigger than I thought. And yes, we could buy our own local meat!
But even before we had that access, I was still buying grass-fed, pastured beef and chicken. And wild-caught salmon. Even when it wasn’t easy to get, I found a way. We are big believers in always eating organic, pasture-raised meat and wild fish. There is simply no better option.
This is one of our local farmers. He is always so nice when I go in to pick up meat!
What happens when you order a quarter cow?
For starters, get ready to stock up on some really great meat! Our quarter cow order was about 145 pounds and consisted of meat and bones. Here’s what we got:
We got dozens of 1-lb packs of grass-fed ground beef, t-bone cuts, sirloin cuts, round roasts, chuck roasts, tri tips, and a bag of large bones for bone broth. Then some more cuts I can’t even name. I think we took home a little more than we could even store! Good thing our family was ready to take some off our hands when we got home.
One thing to keep in mind when you order beef in bulk is how to store it. Make sure you keep your freezer at 0 degrees F or lower, and that there is no auto-defrosting feature that most common freezers have to make ice cubes. We got a chest freezer off Marketplace for only $50, but still plan eat the meat relatively quickly (i.e., several months as opposed to a whole year).
One of my friends Ashley from New Hartford Angus Farm wrote a post about the best practices for freezing large amounts of beef so be sure to check that out here.
Watch: Quarter Cow Unload
Benefits of Buying Local Meat
If you can get access to local meat, there are many benefits.
When you buy pastured chicken or cow (which means the animal eats the grass) you’re eating the same grass that they are. Which means if the cow eats a processed meal and is fed antibiotics, you’re in turn eating processed food and antibiotics.
I have heard that this is a similar phenomenon to eating local honey. When you’re eating an animal that’s pastured in your area, you’re helping your body adapt and grow with the local soil, bugs, plants, and ecosystem as a whole.
Another benefit is growing relationships in your community. Back in the olden days and still some today, farmers shared resources, tips, tools, animals, and even land. One farmer may raise beef and another chicken, and another produce and vegetables.
Why does this matter?
Because it gives you, the consumer, total control over your food and, ultimately, your health and longevity. If you only ever buy your meat from X company and your veggies from Y company and you’ve never met either of the owners or farmers, how do you know the food is really safe? You can’t see how the sausage is made, as they say.
Today is March of 2020 and as I’m writing this the Coronavirus is going around the country. Hopefully this will be looked back on as an unfortunate outbreak but one that we ultimately come out the other side of. But guess what? During the time of “quarantine” I am sure happy I know where to get good meat and produce because it’s just down my street. It’s kind of like having an extended family of people to shop from.
What if I don’t live near farmers?
It’s nice to live near farmers, but if you don’t then that totally doesn’t mean that you can’t still get the benefits. You just have to be a little more creative.
9 Ways to live Farm-to-Table in the City
We used to live in the city and there are so parts about living in the city that are hugely beneficial in terms of access to food. You just have to know to look out for them. Also, growing your own food in an apartment or city home really isn’t as hard as you might think. Here are 9 different ways you can live farm-to-table in the city.
Watch: How to Live FARM TO TABLE no matter Where you Live
1 – Grow your own vegetables
If you are someone who is intimidated by this, don’t be! It’s truly as simple as getting a pot, putting dirt in it, and planting a seed. Kale, radishes, and tomato are three veggies that we grew the first year we ever grew anything in our tiny backyard. We had no clue what we were doing and were successful with all three.
Even if you just grow one veggie all year, you’re getting the benefits of 1) saving money on food and 2) eating food from your own soil, which is so nutritious for you. Don’t have dirt? Just use a windowsill of your house and let the sun do all the work through the window. I used to have a greenhouse going on in the apartment I lived in when I lived in the city 🙂
In our small backyard we built a stand for our trough planter box. You can see all the details and get more inspiration for backyard gardens in this post here!
2 – Find local food
You can find a local farmer, a farm stand, a neighbor with a beehive, or someone down the street with a lettuce garden. We get our honey from one farm, our beef from another, and our veggies from a farm stand which pulls from several farmers. The cool thing about shopping locally is everyone helps each other out, and so once you’re in the food loop you just know where to go.
3 – Shop at a no-name local grocery store
Don’t get me wrong I love going to Whole Foods or even Costco (actually I really hate going to Costco now a days) but I find myself going less and less and here’s why. Locally-run grocery stores carry different products and are usually more likely to have local food. Our local grocery store is the only place I know that carries raw milk, for example. Also, look for a co-op in your area. Co-op grocery stores like PCC (if you’re local to us you’d know that one) can be really great to get local pasture-raised eggs, for example.
Side note – did you know the word “LOCAL” isn’t regulated by the FDA? Just like words like “natural” or “fresh”. They mean absolutely nothing. I was talking to our butcher the other day, and he said that an animal could have lived it’s life somewhere far away but if the meat is processed in a certain state then it may contain the label “local”. That’s pretty deceiving, right? So what I suggest is looking up the farm names and seeing if they really are “local” to you.
4 – Raid your Pantry for Artificial Ingredients
That’s right! Really, one of the best ways to live a more farm-to-table lifestyle is to simply try to eat as much whole food as possible. But this takes some time, y’all. Many people including myself are intimidated at the thought of cooking. If you are intimidated at the idea of learning how to cook, but yet your’e reading this post, then the time is now for sure!
Buying things like potatoes, meat, vegetables, dried beans, and flour to make bread will last you a really long time. But you do have to know how to make them. With the millions of YouTube videos available now, this is just too easy. Consider this fact too – artificial ingredients in food may contain carcinogenic ingredients that could increase the risk for cancers. And who wants that? Not me. So you either invest more of your time and money in learning how to cook now, or you pay your time and money later. Not to sound brutal… but it’s true!
We raided our pantry and organized it to keep only the essentials – check it out here.
5 – Use your bones
For years I have made a whole roasted chicken at least one time per week. I hate to admit but I probably threw away dozens of pounds of leftover meat and also hundreds… yes, hundreds… of dollars worth of free bone broth. But like I said in my point about learning how to cook above, you don’t know what you don’t know!
It turns out, making homemade bone broth is one of the easiest things you can do and saves you so much money. Make sure to check out a recent blog post I wrote on how to make homemade bone broth. All you need is an Instant Pot, water, and apple cider vinegar. I had no idea it was that easy!
With one whole chicken, you can shred leftover meat for chicken tacos or chicken soup. Then, use the bones to make bone broth. With the bone broth, you then have a base for your sauces, chilis, soups, and homemade seasonings. With its numerous health benefits, I think homemade bone broth is one of the modern homekeeper’s best kept secretes.
6 – Go to Farmer’s Markets
I discovered farmer’s markets when I was living in the city of Seattle. My now husband was living in a different city at the time and we were just dating, but he would drive up to visit me on Sundays and we would go to the market together. That was several years ago. And here’s the funny part – now, as I just stated up above, we ordered meat from our local butcher out in the country. And guess what – that Butcher said that some of his biggest sales come from selling at the farmer’s market that we used to go to!
So the point is, farmer’s markets are a real thing. They are farmer’s selling their own food. I don’t think I realized I could have gotten meat at a farmer’s market at that time, I think I just thought it was flowers and knick knacks. But I guess I didn’t know what to look for!
So go to your local farmer’s market and while you’re there you can ask around and get to know other local farmers. Pretty soon, you’ll have a resource for everything – meat, veggies, fruit, and yes, flowers!
Don’t know if you have any farmer’s markets near you? Try this:
farm-guide.org – This website is specifically for those in the PNW, but has great detail about where to get the kind of meat and produce that you’re looking for. So much detail here I could probably spend all day on this page!
localharvest.org – This is for anyone in the US to enter your zip code and it’ll give you some local farmer’s markets near you. I wish I would have known about these resources a long time ago!
7 – Order Food Online
There are several online ways to order food and have it delivered to your door. We are very picky about our food, so the only mail-order service we’ve tried was for meat. But I’ll leave a link for several more so you can do your own research.
Butcher Box – this is a great way to get grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, chicken, pork, and even wild salmon. If you don’t have good meat near you or don’t have time to find a local farmer, this is a great option. The meat arrives in a dry-ice frozen container on our doorstop and you can pick the plan that best suits your needs. Super simple to use and the meat is fantastic. We only cancelled our subscription when we found a local farmer for our beef.
Thrive Market – we haven’t tried this company yet but plan to for items in bulk such as flour and herbs. I’ve heard good things about Thrive Market, and they have everything from beef/poultry/pork to household goods, vitamins, and supplements.
Grass Roots Coop – I just found these guys after a quick Google search and it looks like another way to get grass-fed, pastured meat. Give them a look and see how they compare to Butcher Box.
8 – Get a good old-fashioned cook book
Not the kind that just gives you recipes, but one that actually teaches you HOW to cook. How to ferment vegetables, how to make bread, how to roast meat, and so on. All the ins and outs – what you should do, shouldn’t do, lessons learned, and the politics of food over time. My favorite book for learning all this and more is Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. This book teaches you everything about everything.
I reference this cook book whenever I need to know if I’m doing something right. The book does have recipes, but it also provides you the education to learn about your food and how it interacts with your body. Something that I think our world today lacks a lot of knowledge for!
For more beginner homesteading books, check out this post or grab my FREE book, a Beginner’s Guide to Homestead Living!
9 – When all else fails, buy some plants
One thing you can control is your home environment. Buying seeds to plant flowers, or buying already potted plants, is less than $5 and provides you some great farm-to-table benefit. As humans, we breath in oxygen and out carbon dioxide. Plants are like our twin sibling because they breath in carbon dioxide and out oxygen. So it’s a great way to balance and circulate the air quality in your home.
Plus, plants just look pretty! During the holidays last year I did a post on 5 Christmas greeneries we put in and outside of our home. It has some good ideas for any time of year!
More Farm-to-Table Recipes
Learn how to make Sourdough Starter HERE
Easy Roasted Chicken Dinner HERE
How to Make Bone Broth HERE
Rustic Sourdough Bread HERE
How to Make Milk Kefir HERE
We just ordered a half! I love having a freezer full of good local meat!
This was a great post, thanks for sharing!! We just ordered a half! I love having a freezer full of good local meat!
This was a great post, thanks for sharing!! We just ordered a half! I love having a freezer full of good local meat!
I love buying my staples from farmers at farmers markets. I’ve become friends with some and it’s great to know I’m supporting their livelihood. Haven’t purchased a quarter cow yet but maybe I will someday and split it with other family members! Thanks for all the great resources on this post.
Alexa Gibbons says
That’s what we did and split some with my parents – and we’re going through it pretty quickly! Highly recommend! 🙂