Want Local Meat? Join a Meat CSA

Maybe you want to eat local and support food businesses in your area, or maybe you're worried about the availability of meat in the grocery store. There's a good solution that gives you reliable access to high-quality meat from local farmers: a meat CSA. We've given you the rundown on community supported agriculture, but if you thought a CSA share was just for vegetables, we're here to give you another look.

In a nutshell, a CSA connects the consumer directly with the food producer. CSA members purchase a portion of what the farmer grows, called a share. Generally, the share is purchased upfront at the beginning of the season; that way, the farmer knows exactly how much they have to grow or produce for a set number of customers, plus they have the money to purchase what they need to farm that season.

How Community Supported Agriculture works

For fruit and vegetable CSA programs, you generally pick up a box of organic produce for 2-4 people each week from a central pickup location. The produce in your box depends on what's in season and what kind of growing year the farmer is having.

Meat CSAs operate the same way, basically. A customer purchases a meat share and in return, they get a set amount of meat from the local farm on a regular schedule, usually weekly or bi-weekly.

Many farmers who offer meat CSAs are smaller family farms. They tend to use sustainable, free-range, and certified organic farming practices, which means the meat you get is not only good local food, it's good-for-you local food.

Unlike vegetables and fruit, meat is not as dependent on seasons, but you may find variety in what's available in your area throughout the year. Your subscription will be for a set time (usually four to six months), and with each pick-up, you'll get between five and 15 pounds of meat (sometimes offered as 1/4, 1/2 or a whole animal), depending on the share size you purchase.

Most meat CSAs offer some combination of beef, pork, and chicken. You might get ground beef, pork chops, bacon, steaks, sausage, or whole chickens. Usually, there's an option where you pick your preference or swap in something, but always check the farm's rules for the CSA upfront if you have a lot of picky eaters.

How much does a meat CSA cost?

While you can find more sustainably-raised meat without hormones or antibiotics in the grocery store these days, it's often expensive. If you live near a good farmers market you likely have access to better-quality meat there, but the advantage of a CSA is that you know how much you're spending on food in advance and it's usually cheaper than buying in bulk than buying piece by piece.

If you're not sure that the cost of a meat CSA is worth it, compare the cost of grass-fed beef at your local Whole Foods or other grocery stores with that of a CSA. I'll note that in my region, most CSAs run around $85 for 10 pounds of meat a month (around $8.50 a pound). As an example of a combined beef and pork share, 10 pounds will get you approximately a pound of ground pork, two pounds sausage, a pound of bacon, two pounds of a variety of pork, two pounds of ground beef and another two pounds of other cuts of beef.

Because it's a relatively short-term commitment, a meat CSA is something you can sign up for once and see if it works for you. It's a great way to get to know your farmers, support local agriculture, and buy good, sustainable meat.

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