This all started when I ran across a Facebook post by Jacquelyn Leffler.
It stated: “Let me help you fill your freezer with our Kansas Cattle/Beef Raised on our 4th Generation Farm & Ranch in Americus, KS!
“I sell our beef through my custom beef for butcher business, Leffler Prime Performance.”
Hey, I thought – that’s right here, right now. I really could do this, buy an actual cow, and not worry about what’s going on at the store.
Still, I had no idea how to make this work, what the pitfalls are, what questions I should ask. So I met my neighbor, Osiel Garza, in the driveway to get some education.
“Normally, a steer is what is being sold,” he said. “They’ll pick out choice ones, they’ll feed it throughout, and set aside a date as far as when they think it’s right to butcher. Normally they’ll weigh anywhere from 700 to 1100 pounds.
“If you know a local rancher, get with them as far as what the steer would cost. It’s very easy to find out what the market value on a steer would be, you look it up on the internet any day.
“You buy the live steer on the hoof, so if it’s a thousand pounds, and the cost is a little bit over a dollar a pound, you can do the math… you pay that rancher, then he transports it to the locker - his choice or your choice.”
Osiel said after you butcher and render, you’ll end up with about 650 - 700 pounds of raw product, called the hanging weight.
“After that, the butcher has a set price, what he charges to butcher the animal. I think right now, normal is about $3 a pound, maybe $4 a pound.”
Osiel says then you can make requests on how you want the meat processed: ribs, roasts, ground. And you get to keep the tongue, liver, heart, tail, as long as those organs pass inspection.
“The benefits of it, it’s grass fed … it’s not hopped up with nitrogen, food coloring. You won’t get that with the locker. The farmer is normally antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grass fed. Granted, all these farmers do keep their animals healthy, so they vaccinate how they have to, but they don’t put hormones in for growth.”
Alrighty, then! I asked Osiel how I should go about locating a rancher, or hog person or a chicken raiser.
“If you can find the tea and the coffee at Bluestem, there’s a pegboard and you can find all you want.”
Finally, Osiel recommended a Facebook page called “Shop Kansas Farms.” It’s pretty amazing and educational. Finding things close enough to drive to is a little hard, but not impossible. Of course, once our Farmers market opens back up, we can just go a couple of blocks.
Osiel remarked that there is such a demand for meat, and a bit of panic setting in, so a lot of people are selling directly on Facebook.
“We just went and got raw milk and raw goat’s milk, to make cream to make cheese.”
The nearest meat lockers are Olpe, Allen, Alma, Alta Vista, Yates Center, Burdick – and there is a custom processor (not a locker) in Osage City. Emporia, home of Beef Fest, has plenty of options for us, so you really won’t have to go too far afield.
Some meat lockers rent space on site to keep the meat, if you don’t have a freezer at home, and meat lockers are state-inspected.
Osiel says his current processor is booked through October, so if you buy a steer now, it would probably stay with the rancher until the processor can schedule it in.
As I scrolled through the Facebook page, I saw everything from duck eggs and honey on the comb to elk and water buffalo – yes, there are water buffalo in Colony, Kansas!
Corbie Miller (location unknown) posts: “Lots of folks here buying larger than normal amounts of meat to put in freezers. Here’s a few tips for the new ones.
It needs to be in a NON- frost-free freezer if kept for very long.
Pork only stays good for about six months while beef is usually good for a year or so.
Write the date on every package so you can rotate.
And I very strongly suggest having a small 1000-2000kw gas generator just in case. Honda and Yamaha are two good ones that are ultra-quiet, reliable AND produce good clean electricity that won’t harm today’s sensitive electronics.
In other words protect your investment. And when this virus stuff is all a bad memory continue to support the local producers, lockers, etc.”
Matt Perrier of Eureka posted: “We will process four Dalebanks Angus long-yearling heifers in early June. These were pasture-raised and have been finished on grain for the last 150 days. Two will be processed at Woodson County Prime Meats (Yates Center, KS), the other two at Olpe Locker (Olpe, KS).
After payment, we will deliver heifers to each facility. Buyer is then responsible for processing instructions, fee and meat pickup.”
Well, that doesn’t sound too hard. If a whole cow is too much, round up some friends and invest in actual ranch-to-table beef. Let’s get cooking!
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While searching for regional meat lockers I came across Bolling’s Meatery and Eatery. What a name! It’s not too far, Iola, and looks like a fun road trip. The restaurant is closed for now, but the meat market is wide open with prime rib, pork shoulders, whole chickens and lots more. Read all about it at https://www.bollingsmarket.com/about-us.