Gathering around a ritual animal slaughter has been a tradition since the beginning of time. Back when everyone hunted for food, eating meat was considered sacred because you had to work so hard to get it. But even in this day when we can walk into a supermarket and buy anything we want, no matter the season, the celebration of whole animal butchery is making a comeback in many communities. Take Cochon555 for example, a 14-city tour that celebrates nose-to-tail pork and supports small farms trying to break into the sustainable pig farming business. In Charleston, Blood on the River strives to educate attendees on the importance of humanely-raised livestock with a fun, all-day event that harkens back to the time (before refrigeration) when meat was broken down and cured.
As this style of cooking has become more mainstream in restaurants and homes around the country, whole animal shares are an increasingly popular way to buy and consume meat. Small, sustainable farms allow customers to purchase whole, half, and even quarter shares of animals, which are broken down into cuts, packed, and shipped right to their doorstep. Not only is this a sustainable way of eating (because most farms won’t slaughter the animal unless it’s all accounted for), but it’s also cheaper to buy the meat in bulk — that is, if you’re used to buying high-quality meat from a butcher rather than the mystery stuff from the grocery store.
Here, we talk about three different companies and farms that sell animal shares so you can stock up on the freshest meat possible.
Ethan Lowry, co-founder of Crowd Cow, wanted more transparency about where his meat came from — and to pay lower prices than he could find at his specialty grocery store. So he launched Crowd Cow, which works with small family farms that care deeply about how their cattle are raised and the quality of meat they produce. Here’s how it works: different cows are featured on the site, and you can choose between grass-finished and grain-finished breeds. Add the cuts you would like to your cart and make your purchase. You won’t actually be charged until the cow “tips” and the company raises enough money to purchase the whole cow. The meat is dry aged, packaged, and delivered to your door for a flat shipping rate, no matter how many shares you buy. Crowd Cow offers shares of traditional cattle, with American Wagyu and chicken coming soon.
This ninth-generation family farm had roots in the mountains of Switzerland before the family immigrated to the United States in 1892. Here, the great-great-grandfathers of Julie and Tony Rossotti worked side-by-side to establish the ranching community of West Marin, California. Today, they produce some of the most humane and sustainable pasture-raised veal, goat, duck, and chicken in the country. Veal shares are offered in whole, half, and quarter amounts, and you can purchase either a whole or half goat. For those who are still skeptical about veal, know that Rossotti doesn’t raise calves like the industry does. Rather than being kept in crates to inhibit muscle development, young calves roam free in the pastures alongside their mothers until six months of age when it’s time for processing. For reference, that’s the same age pigs are slaughtered for pork; chickens are processed at three to seven weeks. So, if you eat meat and want to enjoy pasture-raised veal, there’s no reason to feel bad about it, especially if it’s from Rossotti.
The motto of this beautiful Tennessee farm is “know your farmer, know your food.” Owners Jenny and Darrin Drake are always there to answer your questions about the meat they raise and sell. Natural, ethically-raised livestock is the name of the game, so you know you’re getting the absolute best beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey when you buy from Peaceful Pastures. While they sell cuts of all of the above, they also offer beef and pork in quarters, halves, or the whole animal. Customers put a deposit down on a share (a quarter pig can be purchased outright for $265), then the final cost is determined on the size and weight of the animal they process for you. Not only does Peaceful Pastures sell delicious, juicy, sustainable meats, they’re also skilled cooks and offer dozens of recipes on their website, so you never have to question how to prepare any of the cuts you buy.
Get the Gear
If you decide to go in on a whole or half animal share, chances are you won’t have enough space in your regular freezer to store all the meat. We suggest investing in a large freezer that you can dedicate solely to your new bounty. Here are some of our favorites.
Frigidaire 17.4 Cubic Foot Upright Freezer – $498
This freezer is smaller than some, but it’s certainly mightier than many. The ArcticLock walls can keep food frozen for more than two days in power outages, and it’s designed with three shelves and five door bins to keep all of your juicy meats organized. There’s even a safety lock that automatically pops out the key so you never get locked out.
Igloo FRF472 Chest Freezer – $500
This 7.1-cubic-foot freezer has a compact design and extra durable exterior—it can take a little abuse if it’s wedged into a tight space as it doesn’t get dinged up easily. It has a drain cap on the bottom for simple manual defrosting and offers plenty of space to store your new cuts of meat. It also features a basket at the top so you can keep certain things handy and easily within reach.
GE 10.6-cu ft Chest Freezer – $329
Designed with three lift-out, sliding bulk storage baskets, this freezer is built for convenience and utility. It keeps all of your meat and other frozen goods ice cold with an easy-to-adjust temperature control system. It’s also Energy Star certified, so it’ll help you save money on utility bills without sacrificing performance.