Go Grassfed. It's good for you, it's good for the planet, and it's good for farmers and animals.
For You: There's less fat, fewer calories, more omega-3 fatty acids, more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), more protein. Eating only grassfed meat linked to decreased risk of cancer, diabetes, some types of immune system disorders and cardiovascular diseases. Not to mention, the meat is more flavorful.
For the Planet: Managed rotational grazing increases the health of the soil and improves water quality. The stable soil system maintains more water, and thus prevents polluted runoff. These fields can store carbon from the atmosphere. This is the kind of farming that mimics nature and works with nature, and it's just a beautiful way to farm.
For Farmers: Feeding through self-sustaining pastures means farmers don't get locked into importing a lot of grain or growing a lot of grain. Being on pasture is better for animal welfare, they're grazing on delicious forage, which is very nutritious for animals.
Below, we have gathered resources to help farmers and consumers link up directly. Through our Amazing Grazing Directory, eaters can locate farmers in their region who are raising animals the right way. Through our Buying Club Toolkit you can download everything you need to start a buying club for your farm or in your community.
The Maryland Grazers Network generously funds the publication of Future Harvest's Amazing Grazing directory. In order to help consumers and grass-based farmers connect, we compiled this directory, intended to be a comprehensive listing of grass-based farms in the Chesapeake that sell directly to consumers.
We've just updated the directory for 2020. If you are a grass-based farmer interested in having your farm added to the next edition of Amazing Grazing, please fill out the Amazing Grazing Addition/Update Form Here online!
Buying clubs are cooperative groups of families and individuals seeking to share a bulk purchase of whole, half, or quarter animals. Why go bulk? Buying in quantity can be cheaper, save you trips to the grocery store, ensure you have meat on hand for longer periods, and give you the chance to cook and enjoy a variety of meat cuts. Further, a buying club can connect you to likeminded people and introduce you to the grazers growing your food. The following guide will help you form your own Go Grassfed buying club!
Step 1. Learn the Landscape
Every buying club needs a leader at the start. So take time to learn the basics:
- Find out what's available in your area. Using the Amazing Grazing directory, make a list of farmers near you to contact. Discuss your buying club idea with at least one local grazer to find a farmer willing to sell whole animals.
- Learn what types of animals are available wholesale. Then learn what kind of, and how many, cuts are available from quarters, halves, or wholes of different kinds of animals. Know from the get-go: limited amounts of certain cuts are available, and you will have the opportunity to cook new and varied cuts. Before processing, farmers may send your club a “cut sheet” to select what cuts, ground meat, and bone-in or boneless selections you would like to place with the butcher. Cut sheets typically list the options between different cuts or ground meats available during butchering and your club can collectively decide on your preferences. Farmers may also fill out the cut sheet themselves and provide your club with a variety of cuts. Learn more about cut sheets, different cuts of meat, and how to cook them in our Buying Club Toolkit.
- Learn the freezer space requirement buyer club members would need for quarters, halves, or whole animals. The rule of thumb is one cubic foot of freezer space for every 35 - 40 pounds of packaged meat.
- Ask your farmer the price range for quarters, halves, and wholes, and be prepared to share this with potential members. Bulk meat pricing varies based on the type of animal, production practices, and from animal to animal. When selling an entire animal, farmers typically price the meat one of three ways: a standard price per whole animal; a set price per pound for the carcass/hanging weight; or a set price per pound per final product weight. You may have to calculate the approximate price per pound; ask your farmer for guidance and visit the toolkit for a more detailed explanation of wholesale pricing.
Step 2. Recruit members
Now that you have learned the basics of bulk buying, it’s time to recruit members. Consider how many families will be sharing your bulk purchase. Sharing your idea word of mouth with family and friends, via social media and email, and by posting on neighborhood and regional forums like nextdoor.com. You will need to inform your club’s members and prospective members about the range and quantities cuts the group will be splitting, and at what cost and storage requirements. Be prepared to discuss if you will split cuts and costs evenly, if certain members plan on taking greater shares than others, and what process you will use to allocate the meat amongst members to everyone’s satisfaction.
Step 3: Order and Pick Up
With your club now formed, place your order! Your farmer may deliver or you may need to pick up your bulk purchase from the farmer or the butcher. Plan to bring enough coolers to transport your meat home to your freezers. Discuss logistics with your club to decide if one member will pick up and distribute the meats or if each member will pick up their share individually. After pickup, meat should be stored in a freezer until you are ready to cook individual cuts.
Step 4. Let’s Eat!
Now it’s time to enjoy your delicious bounty! Grassfed meats are leaner and flavorful and cook differently than grain-fed meats. Encourage all club members to purchase a meat thermometer to use to cook grassfed meats to perfection. Learn more about grassfed meat cooking techniques and recipes in our Buyng Club Toolkit.
Download our Go Grassfed Guide to read about the benefits of choosing grassfed meat. It includes our step-by-step guide to starting a buying club. If you'd like one or several printed copies of the guide mailed to you, please email email@example.com.
Go Grassfed Tasting Events:
Throughout the Chesapeake region this fall, we're working with select farmers and farmers' markets to offer cooking demonstrations, recipes, education and samples to spread the word that grassfed meat is not only better for the farmers, animals, and planet - but it tastes the best too!
2020 Events TBD
WORKING WITH FARMERS TO IMPLEMENT AND IMPROVE GRAZING MANAGEMENT AND REDUCE FEED COSTS.
Grazing just makes good farm sense. Dairy and beef cattle, sheep and goats are ruminants that are meant to be grazers – and are healthiest and happiest when they are grazing on lush pastures. It turns out in today’s world of consumers’ interests in local foods, coupled with the high prices of farm inputs and labor costs, it just makes sense period. It’s better for the animals, the land, consumers – and especially for farmers.
But there are challenges. Grazing has become a lot more sophisticated with farmers debating the merits of mob-grazing versus New Zealand-style grazing, and countless variations in between. Transitioning from crops to pastures has tremendous benefits – but there is a tricky transition period. And that’s where the new Mountains to Bay Grazers’ Alliance can help. This 3-state Alliance (PA, VA, and MD) has received a $491,000 grant from USDA’s NRCS to support farmers interested in raising livestock on pastures.
Grazing field days, on-farm grazing workshops, conferences, and a quarterly Newsletter will connect farmers to educational opportunities and to each other. The key elements of the Alliance include: education on grazing skills, styles, and tools, and grazing cost share opportunities; direct one-on-one farmer mentoring help to farmers on their farms; and research on the farm economic benefits and the environmental contributions of grazing. The Alliance is a collaboration of farm groups (Maryland and Virginia Forage and Grassland Councils, the MD Grazers Network), farm consulting companies (Red Barn, King’s Agriseeds), agencies (VA and MD Extension, NRCS) and non-profits (Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Capital Resource Conservation and Development Area Council and Future Harvest).
To connect with the Alliance or receive the Mountains to Bay Grazing Alliance Newsletter, contacts are:
Virginia - Alston Horn, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org (540) 487-9060 or VFGC’s/Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Matt Booher at (540) 245-5750.
If starting a buying club for your farm or community feels overwhelming, let us help you! Our Future Harvest staff has the privalege of connecting with farmers in the region on a regular basis, and we've learned a lot building the Buying Club Toolkit. Please reach out to Deb Dramby at email@example.com for one-on-one support as you Go Grassfed.
This work is supported by the USDA Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Grant (FMPP) USDA-AMS- FMPP – Go Grassfed 2018-2021
Photo Credits: Virginia Cattle by Deb Dramby