How Much Would You Pay for Local Meat?

Local farmers are excited about the prospect of being able to sell more of their beef, pork, lamb and poultry to Kitsap residents, thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved mobile meat processing facility. The 45-foot trailer, custom-designed for that purpose, will swing into action in mid-June and make the rounds of six counties, including Kitsap.

Farmers and small-scale meat-producers in Kitsap County list a number of advantages to locally grown meat.

1. What you see it what you get. Joe Keehn, owner of Farmer George Meats in South Kitsap, raises his own cattle. He says, “The thing about buying from a local farmer, you can see what they’ve got. You can see where the calves have been born. You can see where they’ve been fed. Pork and lamb the same thing.”

2. According to Keehn, the animals are raised and slaughtered in a more humane way that animals raised in large, corporate feed lots or poultry farms. “The way we do our farm butchering, the animals are pretty much in their own environment,” said Keehn, who uses a gun to kill the animal out in the field before it’s bled and butchered. “They’re not crowded. They’re not pushed. It’s very humane.”

2. It’s healthier, they say. Much of the meat is organically grown, without the use of hormones.

3. It’s easier on the environment, advocates say. Currently USDA-approved meat must be trucked into the county, typically from Eastern Washington or the Midwest. That represents a lot of fuel consumption, said Jim Carlson of Minder Meats, who processes USDA meat for local restaurants and who has seen a jump in retail customers looking for custom-cut meats. Carlson is excited about being able to distribute locally grown meats. “It’s a smaller carbon footprint, that’s for sure,” said Carlson. “(Currently) an animal has a lot of miles on it by the time it gets here.”

4. Local meats taste better, say sustainable agriculture advocates. “Our quality is superb,” said Keehn, a plainspoken man, not given to hyperbole.

5. Although Keehn and Carlson admit they can’t compare price-wise to volume distributors like Costco and Walmart, both say their cost is comparable to high end products in grocery stores. Keehn, for example, sells sides of meat for about $2.79 per pound. After butchering, the cost for a variety of cuts, from hamburger to filet mignon, comes in at about $4.50 a pound.

Keehn and Carlson report an increasing appetite in Kitsap for local meat. While Arno Bergstrom, director of the Washington State University Kitsap County Extension office, reports an increase in the number of small farmers producing meat products.

Could it be a trend? Jim Freeman of the Kitsap Community & Agricultural Alliance thinks so, although he notes that some people hesitate to buy local meat simply because they can’t afford to pony up for a whole side of beef or a quarter of a pig all at once. With the new mobile meat facility in action, consumers will have greater access to smaller cuts of local USDA-certified meats through CSAs and farmer’s markets.

Regardless, local meat will probably still seem expensive to people who are used to buying meat with an eye to whatever is on sale, Freeman said. In fact, at least for now, locally grown products will remain more costly than grocery store goods simply because they are more labor intensive to produce. Freeman says that shouldn’t stop consumers from “making an investment” in local agriculture. As more people make local food a regular part of their diet, local farmers will have more incentive to produce more. With greater supply, the price will drop somewhat, and better yet, said Freeman, the farmers will actually be able to stay in business.

How much are you willing to pay to “eat local?” Take the poll on this blog.

10 thoughts on “How Much Would You Pay for Local Meat?

  1. Paying more per pound now or paying for it through higher prices of fuel? I vote less fossil fuel consumption. When we eat food trucked across the country and flown acreoss the world we are consuming the fossil fuel into our diets as well.
    I will pay more for locally raised beef

  2. I am always willing to pay more to get the beef that is organic/grown without hormones whenever I see it on the local shelf at Safeway (where I shop). I would do the same for this locally grown meat, provided that it is again, organic/grown without hormones.

  3. I would pay more to support a local meat vendor. I also support the free range, state grown, organic, non hormone, no by-product naturally fed, venison in my freezer as well.

  4. I’m also willing to pay more – and have paid more to shop locally.

    100 % grass fed beef is fine but they need grain for better flavor. I like the taste of grain fed beef with just the right amount of marbling for flavor but not hormone or enhanced grain.
    Which of the local meat vendors grain feed their beef?
    Sharon O’Hara

  5. Times are tough right now and when I get meat it’s usually what’s on sale in the value-pack size. Whenever I can afford it though, I’d definitely go for the local meat if it’s healthier, helps the environment, and last but not least helps the local farmers and vendors.
    Just reading this article about locally-grown meat is making my mouth water.

  6. Sharon – The meat experts I talked to said another advantage of local meat is that it can be custom raised. Some people like grass fed beef for the fact it is leaner and therefore healthier. Some like corn fed which results in the “marbling,” i.e. streaks of fat running through the meat, which does enhance the taste. Conceivably, with this new set-up one could through a CSA order meat to be raised as they like it, grass fed or corn fed.

  7. We raised two calves for about 18 months and all they ate was the grass in the back-40 until a few months before they were going to the butcher when we started adding grain to their menu. Best meat I have ever tasted. No hormones, no enhanced this or that… just beef.

    We kept a side for ourselves and had the other sides sold to friends about a month before Blackie and Whitie went down.

    From that experience, I would pay more for local grown if it was cut and packaged well and the facility met my expectations. No offense to the local Port Orchard butcher (everyone knows the name), but I have a hard time with the condition of their facility and would be more inclined to purchase from them if they were in a facility that appeared more clean and healthy.

    Kathryn Simpson

  8. The last time we bought bulk, it was placed in a close-by rented meat locker and the meat stolen within a week or two.

    The same ‘purchase to order’ should be applied to pork as well – if farmers locally raise pigs for market.
    Today’s lean pork is also far less tasty than the marbled meat of yesteryear…without the hormones added.

    The Chesterwhites (sp) also had the corner on the best breed for the most pork chops, pound for pound and its my experience than ‘leaner’ is tougher, chewy meat.

    Are local farmers taking orders yet?
    Sharon O’Hara

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