September 22, 2008

CONTACT:  Dan Strasser, Marketing Director
(615) 837-5298

Fill Your Freezer with Farm-Direct Meats this Fall

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Everybody knows that autumn is harvest time.  Lots of traditional crops are gathered in as frosts approach, and you expect grocery aisles to be filled with apples, hard squashes, sweet potatoes, nuts and all sorts of foods that come with the season. You may not know, however, that fall is also good time of year to fill your freezer with meats straight from the farm.

As the agricultural fair season ends in October, many beef and sheep farm families are looking to sell their pampered show animals so they can invest in new animals for the coming year. As beef cows get ready to calve in the fall and pastures cease to grow as much forage in cooler weather, beef producers need to free up pasture for new calves and sell the animals that have reached maturity during the past year.

As a result, top quality beef, lamb, and any number of meats are available now straight from the farm, from a local farmer.  Beef can even be “customized” fed the way you wish, aged to your personal tastes, then cut to the thickness you prefer—at no additional charge. Once cut, the meat is wrapped for freezing and ready to pick up. The savings and the quality of the meat are undeniable.

More and more farmers are actively seeking to sell products directly to the public.  By selling straight to the consumer, he gets more income for himself while passing on amazing savings and quality to you. At the same time, a movement toward local foods has dovetailed with increased national interest in knowing how food animals are raised and where they come from. Buying straight from a farmer guarantees you’ll know just about everything about your purchase. You can also choose whether you want an animal that’s been grain-fed or grass-fed, raised without hormones or antibiotics, or even the breed of the animal. Tennessee farmers employ all sorts of feeding and management techniques with their livestock; a little research will yield you the meat you feel best about buying.

Do take the time to educate yourself about the cuts of meat, aging and quality designations before you buy. Next, note the prices and cuts of meat in retail stores. That 99 cent hamburger is typically only 73 percent lean meat. The rest is fat and water. 

Hamburger straight from a processor or farmer is ground chuck or round, which is 80 percent lean meat, period. The really big savings comes when you consider the better cuts of meat. The grade of meat available in most retail outlets is typically only “select” grade, when “prime” grade is the best possible quality, followed by “choice”.

Prices for store brand ribeyes are usually select. Higher-end ribeyes which are brand named or certified to be a particular breed, are higher priced and will still be only choice grade. Additionally, many seasoned or packaged meats have had a water solution injected into the meat. That water has weight, which is part of the price per pound you’ll pay for.

For a whole farm-direct beef—which could easily be 500 lbs of meat—a typical price per pound will be about $2-3. Every cut, every pound costs the same, whether it’s prime rib or ground chuck—and it will be choice.  Depending on the animal, the way it was fed and other factors, it might even be prime. Keep in mind, too, that retail beef is not aged, which is vital to developing tenderness and flavor. Meat purchased straight from the farm, however can be watched carefully in the processor’s cooler and aged to perfection.

A whole beef can feed a family of four to six people for about a year, but it is not necessary to buy a whole animal. Find friends, family or neighbors to share an animal, or simply purchase a portion of the carcass from the producer or processor. Check with USDA inspected meat processors about buying only a portion, or particular cuts of meat.

Just about every type of meat, from beef and lamb to goat and pork, from poultry to rabbit and even emu, is available from a Tennessee farm or processor. If you decide to purchase farm fresh meat within the next few weeks, you could have your custom fed, cut and aged meats in time for the holidays. Visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture “Pick Tennessee Products” Web site at for listings of meat producers and processors across the state. Click on “Farm Fresh Meats” to access the lists.