Hi, I’m Jason, and I blog over at Grassfed Geek. I first heard about Grass Fed Girl on the Balanced Bites podcast, and came to check it out! I had to reach out to Caitlin to say hello because it looks like we have a lot in common—right down to the alliteration in our blog names. After we got acquainted, we thought it would be great for me to do guest post here about sourcing grass fed meat, an area in which I’ve become very well-versed since my transition to a Paleo lifestyle.
Many of the people I’ve talked to about finding good sources of grass fed meat understand the benefits of both eating grass fed animals and supporting local farms, but they feel like it’s not that easy to get and that it must be expensive. I’ve also heard people express concern over the health and safety standards of these small farms. First off, let me respond to these concerns:
- There are more options for getting good quality meat than you think. We’ll talk about those later on in this post.
- You can get it at similar or better prices to conventional grain-fed meat. We save money by buying it in bulk and at the same price for all cuts.
- Small farms are subject to stringent health and safety regulations, too, and since you know the origin, you can investigate the quality yourself. The farm we’ve bought from most has said that some of their customers eat their meat raw all the time.
So keep these solutions in mind as I share with you my tips for sourcing quality, local grassfed meat, and let me help you find an option that works best for you!
What to expect in the purchasing process:
If you buy beef from a local farm you are most likely going to be purchasing a cow share, or a fraction of a specific, whole animal. Many farms offer shares down to 1/4 or 1/8th of a whole animal, which is great because you’ll know your beef came from one specific, healthy animal; and, since you’re buying a large quantity at a time, you will save on costs and trips to the farm. It takes a little bit of restructuring in your thinking to go from the normal weekly grocery store trip to purchasing months’ worth of meat at a time, but because of the huge benefits, many in the Paleo community are feel that it’s really worth making that transition. My wife and I love having plenty of nutrient-rich beef in our freezer to pull out to thaw when we need it.
One of the great things about purchasing a cow share is that you often can speak with the butchers who are processing your animal in order to make specific requests about your share. Do you want more ground beef or more stew meat? How thick do you want your steaks cut? How large do you want your roasts? Buying in a larger amount gives you the freedom to make those kinds of choices. It’s also really fun!
Some farms offer other types of meat, as well. Kookoolan Farms, which my wife and I have bought from here in Oregon, also offer pig shares and whole chickens for purchase. Figuring out what kinds of meat you’re going to want, and how you want to go about purchasing it really comes down to individual taste and working with the farmers. It also should be noted that there are sometimes options to buy individually packed meat by the pound, and be sure to inquire about this with the farmer if that’s what you’re interested in.
Finding a farm:
So now we know what to expect from the buying process, but the question still remains, how do we find a farm? My first and best recommendation is to check out EatWild.com and use their Shop for Local Grassfed Meat, Eggs & Dairy feature. If you go to this section you can use the map to select which state you live in, if you’re in the US, and see their list of farms and a Google Map of their locations. This site is really great. They list each individual farm with its location, what they produce, and their contact information. I recommend searching through until you find a few farms that are close enough to you and have what you are looking for in grass fed products. Remember, depending on the amount you purchase, you’re only going to need to go to the farm once every few months or less, so keep that in mind when you think about distance. The farms my wife and I go to are about 30 miles away, but we would be willing to drive a lot further if we had to; we’d just save up and buy more!
Once you’ve found a few farms that sound good take a look at their websites, read through their information, and start sending some emails! Look for sections that describe whether their animals are 100% grass fed and finished, or if they’re given grain in the last 30 days. Are they fed on pasture only, or are they fed alfalfa hay? How often will beef shares be available and what are the wait times like? Are butcher fees included in the price per pound or not? Do they specifically talk about the health and safety measures they take? What method of slaughter do they use? If you can’t find this kind of information on their site, ask them detailed questions in your email.
You can make up your own mind about all of these things, but you should be aware of them before you buy. You might decide that you want your animal to be 100% grass fed and finished, with no grain, or you may decide that some corn or feed towards the end is no big deal, but it’s up to you to know what you’re getting when you make a purchase. Don’t be shy about asking these kinds of questions, either. It’s important for you to know these things in order to make an informed decision about your beef. A good farm will have a lot of this info on their site, or they will happily answer every question you have. They should be wanting an informed and conscientious buyer who is aware of what they’re doing and why because having an informed public is how they’ll grow their business.
One of the reasons my wife and I have chosen to regularly use Kookoolan Farms is how up front and communicative they are, as well as how humanely they do their slaughtering. They go to a level where they won’t kill an animal if the animal is agitated or showing signs of stress in any way. They will instead wait for another day because they find it more respectful of the animal and prevents the release of stress hormones into the finished meat. This was something that was appealing to my wife and I, but may not be as much of a priority to others, so it’s really about individual preference and choice. Get to know the farmers you like and their animals and you’ll build a deep relationship with your food that is very hard to find. We also like Mossback Farm in our area, since they are very communicative and friendly and their cows are 100% grass fed on their own fields.
Once you’ve sent some emails inquiring about their meat availability and gotten some responses, you can progress with whomever you think will work the best with you and get you what you need. Usually there will be some kind of wait because these are small farms who aren’t processing animals more than a couple of times a month, tops. Once an animal is slaughtered you’ll need to wait 10–14 days for it to be processed and ready to be picked up, so plan accordingly.
When it’s time to pick up your meat, find a time to make the drive and bring a chest cooler with you if possible to keep the meat cold. It will most likely be frozen when you get it, so if you have a long drive it’ll be best to keep it that way! My wife and I have found that we enjoy our occasional trips out to the country to get our meat; we make it fun and enjoy the drive knowing that we get high quality meats from animals who have lived like they’re supposed to. This experience has really put me in touch with my food, and has made me more understanding of my place in the food chain, and the connections we all have with the earth. Pretty awesome stuff.
Check out a post I did about our tour of Kookoolan Farms where we got to meet the herd and their dairy cows. Here’s a quick picture of me picking up our first (1/8) cow share from the farm:
Another great benefit of purchasing cow shares, besides quality and health benefits, is that farms will often let you take the organ meats, bones, and chunks of fat from each harvest—all FREE to customers of beef shares. For us Paleo people (organ meat and bone broth-loving, nose-to-tail eaters), that’s a huge plus. We want all that good stuff! We love having big bags of bones to make bone broth from, and are getting used to organ meats and love knowing they’re the best quality we can find. And they’re free! How great is that?!
U.S. Wellness Meats is a great resource for busy folks and their meat is second to none!
1. Have a cow, man!
We have done this several times and it is the best way I have found to save money! We found a farmer in a farming town about an hour north and we go quarterly to get our share of a cow, sheep or goat. Sometimes we find other friends to go in on it or the farmer will hook us up with another family. Grass fed beef this way is about $3 a lb for awesome cuts like tenderloin and ribeye. Also he throws in some extras like a tongue and organ meat no charge! Tip: A regular freezer can easily fit a quarter of a cow.
Find a grass fed farmer in your area at Eatwild.com
You can also get great grass fed beef here
The sign of great chef is taking a cut of an animal that many would throw away and make it into something delicious. -Anthony Bourdain
2. Eat organs
If you really want to save money on paleo you will need to get over your fear of organ meats (from grass fed or pastured animals). Liver especially is nature’s multivitamin so it is important to eat it weekly. I have several easy liver recipes such as duck pate and chopped liver. The tongue and oxtail are two more cuts that are usually cheaper. Check out my pate recipe and chopped liver with eggs.
3. Eat more fat
Grass fed butter, ghee and coconut oil are usually cheaper than meat. For example, when I eat 4 oz of meat with 2 Tbsp of butter, I get full way faster. Sometimes grass fed beef is cheaper when it has a higher fat percentage and this fat is the best kind to be eating because it is full of the fat burner called called CLA that is often sold as an expensive supplement.
You can also save money by making our own grass fed beef tallow because many farmers will give the fat for free. Try my recipe here.
4. Go to the farmers market
Grocery stores have a lot of overhead, employees, rent and advertising which is reflected in the price. Not to mention the cost of flying food that is out of season from Chile or New Zealand, for example. Buying direct from a farmer at an outdoor market a consumer sidesteps many of these costs.
5. Clean out that freezer
I see people doing this all the time: their fridge is full but they go out to eat because they are just tired of cooking or cleaning up. Another issue is that people forget what they have in the freezer because they are just not motivated to thaw it out.
Easy Tip: One thing I do is move meat from the freezer to the refrigerator then in the morning it will be ready to throw in a crock pot or just make burgers for an easy dinner.
6. Do a pantry double take
I have ton of cans of sardines and salmon in my pantry that are begging to be eaten. Sardines are great on a salad and cans of salmon can be made into an easy salmon cake recipe in a jiffy. I bet you have a lot of cans of meat sitting around too. Make a easy dinner and save a few bucks tonight! I get great sustainable sardines and salmon here.
7. Eat with the seasons
Apples in the fall are cheaper than in the middle of summer, same goes with strawberries in the middle of summer. Try to tune in with what is in season in your area or at least your country and it will save tons of dough.
8. Be like the French: use broth to stretch protein
In times of great hardship many cultures used broth to make their meat go further. I have read tales that this is how the French survived the revolution. By making a small amount of meat into a soup with lots of bone broth and veggies, a little can seem like a lot.
Get my easy broth recipe here
Or buy some already made here but please avoid store-bought because of MSG and other dangerous additives.
9. Use Gelatin
Gelatin has 12 grams of protein in two tablespoons! I eat it in smoothies, puddings, jello, and pies. I have even heard people putting it in their coffee. It helps with arthritis, preventing wrinkles, liver detox, cellulite and so much more. It is so cheap to buy when you think about the cost per serving. You can also just congeal your bone broth for extra savings.
Find Grass fed Kosher gelatin here from Amazon
Or find another brand I like here.
10. Shop at warehouse stores
Buying clubs like Costco and Sam’s have amazing deals on many great Paleo food items. Costco even have started having Kerrygold grass fed butter at my Costco year round. They have organic lettuce, carrots and broccoli at the one here in San Francisco. Also they have great deals on frozen organic berries and organic green beans at Costco (Sorry we do not have a Sam’s club here).
Buyer beware: I do not tend to buy my meat here because it is not grass fed, only organic meaning cows will be fed an natural diet of corn which creates a poor fatty acid ratio. Watch out too for farmed fish that is fed corn and soy also ruining the omega’s 3 balance. Chicken from buying clubs has issues even if it is organic. Read more about my guide to good chicken/ eggs here.
Bonus Tip: Buy meat/fish on special or marked down then put it in the freezer to stop time. I often see things marked down on Friday sales at Whole Foods then I stock up and put them in the freezer. Sell by dates are just that and things can last a lot longer when frozen.
Wanting to get started on Paleo?
Not sure where to start?
I recommend this great little guide with over 90 full color recipes, shopping lists and more!
Get this great e-book for getting started on a grain free lifestyle!
I loved my grandma’s Ambrosia salad as a kid at family reunions but I am sure it had crazy stuff in it like marshmallows and duke’s mayo. This is my attempt to recreate those flavors and warm memories with this rejuvenating spring recipe.
I am obsessed with Gelatin as many of you know because of it’s amazing healing benefits. Read all about it’s health promoting properties and see my great Ambrosia recipe here.
I was honored to post on my friend Karen’s Living Low Carb One Day at a Time Blog while she is on the Low carb Cruise.
A little background about my husband
My husband has always been an athlete and hasn’t had to worry too much about his weight. He was an award-winning swimmer in high school and also excelled at track and field (throwing a discus). He is also a good soccer player and has a game every week with a group of friends.
He is 6’2, he’s naturally muscular and he has always subscribed to the theory that exercising more is all that matters when it comes to weight loss. But a few years ago his “run more” approach was no longer working. Plus he had some injuries that kept bothering him no matter how long he rested between work outs.
When we went on a trip to San Diego in Fall of 2011 I took a bunch of photos (as usual) and my husband did not like what he saw. He had gained about 15 pounds above his normal weight of 210-215. He was feeling a little uncomfortable at 232 lbs when we went on the trip, but you would never know it since he is always smiling and confident.
Trying a 30 Day Paleo challenge: (aka life without bread)
I convinced my husband to try Paleo in October 2011 (over a year after I started) and he saw some great improvements in his body composition. He felt more energetic after his 30 day trial and he never turned back to his old bread-gorging ways. The best part was that he convinced himself by trying the diet and experiencing the benefits first hand. I was excited that he let me take a before and after photo but he has not let me share it….until now!
He found that nagging aches and pains went away, not to mention 15 pounds of extra weight!! He even found that he had more focus at his demanding day job where he works hard as chef at a busy hotel in downtown San Francisco, CA.
Meeting like minded people
My husband attended to the Low Carb Cruise in 2012 and that experience really bonded us. Plus it was good for him to meet a lot of other people living a Paleo lifestyle, with whom he had things in common. Read all about the cruise here.
We were inspired to write a cookbook!
After seeing results in his own health my husband decided to help me teach a Paleo cooking class in the summer of 2012. See some photos of the cooking class here.
That was such a success we decided to write our own cookbook incorporating both of our backgrounds.
Read the full post about our cookbook and see sneak peak photos here:
A bit of background
If you read my blog or follow my Facebook page you know I love to eat nourishing traditional foods that heal from the inside out. Being on the Paleo diet since summer 2010 has helped me a lot with my health. When I started back then I had adrenal fatigue so bad I could barely get out of bed. I had driven myself to exhaustion on a low fat diet full of tofu and fake foods. I ran two half marathons in 2010 which basically flat lined my cortisol. I had always pushed myself with exercise or extreme diets since I was 15 years old. I constantly thought I was lazy or unmotivated if I was not suffering on a treadmill or starving on low calorie meal plan.
Learning the hard way
I also found out in spring 2010 that I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and that really put a cramp in my style. I found a Weston A Price nutritionist who taught me that I could eat a wonderful diet full of fat and grass fed protein while healing myself. This discovery brought amazing, like-minded nutrition friends (such as Balanced Bites) into my life and I have been hooked on Paleo ever since.
Slow and steady wins the race
I have been on the mend for the past three years even though the process is slower than I had hoped. Stress management, proper nutrition, and sleep are always the on the front burner. I even got the news on a few days ago that my thyroid antibodies are 1/3 of what they were when I was first diagnosed. They went from 600 to 200, which means my immune system is healing and the attack on my thyroid is slowing down. I feel like I am on the right track!
My husband tries a Paleo challenge
I convinced my husband to try Paleo in October 2011 (over a year after I started) and he saw some great improvements in his body composition. He felt more energetic after his 30 day trial and he never turned back to his old bread gorging ways. The best part was that he convinced himself by trying it and experiencing the benefits firsthand.
He found that nagging aches and pains went away, not to mention 15 pounds of extra weight!! He even had found that he had more focus at his demanding day job where he works hard as chef at a busy hotel in downtown San Francisco, CA. See his before and after photos here.
Teaching A Cooking Class
In the fall of 2012 Juliette Starette co-owner of San Francisco Crossfit asked me to lead a cooking class to teach her students about how to cook some new and interesting Paleo dishes.
I had never really thought about doing a cooking class before before but since my husband is a professional chef I asked for his help. He came up with a wonderful, meaty menu that adapted many of the dishes he grew up with to Paleo parameters.
I especially enjoyed teaching with my husband and some people said we had a banter that reminded them of Ricky and Lucy of “I Love Lucy”. The class was a big hit and all the participants loved the Mediterranean inspired cuisine.
Two schools of thought coming together
This experience of working so well together at the cooking class gave us the idea to write a cookbook melding our two styles. My cooking style focuses on the therapeutic angle emphasizing traditional grain free foods, full of nutrient dense staples like grass fed butter, liver and bone broth.
My husband draws his inspiration for his dishes from his home city of Algiers, which is on the Mediterranean Sea next to Morocco and Tunisia. He grew up eating lots of wholesome ancestral foods, including organic fruits and vegetables, wild sardines, pastured eggs/chicken, and traditional slow cooked Tagines with grass fed beef or lamb.
A variety of tasty influences:
We decided to include the healthy aspects of the Mediterranean diet in our e-book with lots of seasonal vegetables, olive oil, wild seafood, fresh fruits, raw dairy, nuts and seeds, omega 3’s from fish and grass fed animals with pastured eggs and poultry. Our book also has many anti-inflammatory herbs/spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cilantro, ginger and saffron that will wow your palate.
The southern Mediterranean region is “melting pot” of flavors after many invasions and occupations from the north (European) and Middle East, making the food especially vibrant and exotic.
Many of the recipes my husband has learned are passed down from his hearty Berber ancestors. Many of these recipes are not written down and only known by family members. These traditional people have made their home in the mountains of Algeria and Morocco for thousands of years living off the land.
Algeria was French colony for 130 years, ending in 1962, which also influenced the food of the region. My husband also incorporates French flavors into many of our dishes including lots of rich buttery sauces, soufflés and custards.
Cooking Full Circle: our southern Mediterranean tour
Our culinary experience became full circle April 2013 when my husband took me to Algiers for two weeks. We also visited Paris for one week and I saw how popular the Magreb cuisine was there too. The food is straight form the ocean or fresh picked from the field the same day. The food was so simple yet the spice combinations took your taste buds to another world.
I was overwhelmed with amazing vegetable dishes, grilled meat skewers and slow cooked Tagines that melted in my mouth. Eating a Paleo diet in Algiers was a breeze because the people there still include traditional and ancestral foods in their diet.
I was thrilled to get authentic cooking lessons from my mother-in-law who has been preparing fresh dishes for her 9 children for over 50 years. My sisters-in-law even contributed a few recipes and showed me their personal culinary touches. I was overwhelmed with the warmth of the people there and was delighted to see how life revolves around home-cooked, nourishing family meals.
Bringing the flavors home to you:
We are putting all the fresh flavors of the Southern Mediterranean together in a wonderful new e-book!
It has all the flavors of the region without the hard to digest grains and legumes. Most recipes will work with healing lifestyles including: Paleo, Primal, Gaps, SCD and low carb diets.
If you eat grains feel free to add them to any dish for a comforting meal. These nourishing recipes will cover all the gastronomic bases with plenty of extras.