One of the most economical ways to eat high-quality meat AND stay within budget is to purchase meat in bulk directly from the processor. Generally, they take animals straight from the farm and harvest the entire animal. Then sell the whole or half of the butchered animal directly to customers. In reality, it truly is a farm-to-fork situation.
Contact a Meat Processor
How do you purchase bulk meat? Firstly, you will need to contact a meat processor. Many work directly with local farmers and can tell you if they have any available pigs not spoken for. Also, this can be done by buying a pig directly from the farmer and working with the processing plant they use. With the purchase of our pork, we ordered our pig directly from the processing plant.
Secondly, you will need to place your cutting instructions. Here is where you would say how many pounds for a roast you want. I typically like to get 3-4 pounds. This way the roast will fit in the slow cooker and we may have a few leftovers. Learn from me, larger roasts do not fit in slow cookers!
Also if you want thick-cut pork chops, such as an Iowa chop, you can do that too! An Iowa Chop cut on a pork chop is the pork version of a porterhouse steak. Usually cut at least 1 ¼ inches in thickness. Once in and a while if the wind is just right I am pretty sure all of us Minnesotans can smell their grills in the summer.
Choosing how you want your meat cut is truly one of the best parts of ordering meat directly from the butcher. They will help you too if you are not sure what your typical pork cut is and suggest how you may want to change it.
Prepare Your Freezer
Thirdly, you are going to want to do a freezer cleanout. I will plan our weekly menus around what we have left to eat in the freezer before our bulk meat is ready for pickup. My kids have a love-hate relationship with the freezer clean-out weeks. Fries with every meal, paired with freezer-burnt veggies. Yum...
Pick Up Your Meat
Each processor has a different way you pick up your bulk pork purchase. Usually, you have up to a week to pick up your meat after they call to tell you it is ready. It is crucial that you do not leave your meat there for longer than they ask. Your meat is taking up valuable freezer real estate and they cannot cut more meat until they have room to freeze it.
Next, when you pick up your meat you are going to want to bring every big cooler you own. If you need to, borrow coolers too. You do not want your meat to defrost on the way home. Not only do you have to get home with the meat, but you also need time to be able to put it all away in your freezer. Thawing and refreezing conditions are not ideal for keeping the meat as fresh as possible.
Pack Your Freezer
This is the stage of purchasing bulk meat that has the potential to be overwhelming. Cleaning out your freezer BEFORE you pick up your meat is so important. Organize your meat in a way that makes sense to you. Your future self will thank you!
How Much Does It Cost
Here is the part that can be tricky. You need to put aside some funds every week out of your grocery budget. Buying bulk meat can take a chunk out of your weekly expenses but in the long run, it will end up saving you money. All the pork you purchase is $2.99 a pound. By comparison, bacon can run $5.00 - $8.00 a pound for high-quality thick-cut bacon from the grocery store. Making those summer BLT's much cheaper!
The average whole hog hanging weight is 220 pounds. If you only want half then you would get 110 pounds of meat. Hanging weight is what the butcher will tell you after the insides and other not-so-pleasant things have been removed. It is usually 60% of what the pig weighed while it was alive.
We ordered a whole hog and the hanging weight was 206 pounds this time around. It will last us usually a year, except for the pork roasts.
What was included:
- Six Packages Pork Chops - Two Chops in Each
- Six Pork Shoulder Roasts -3 to 4 pounds Each
- Four Packages of Spare Ribs - Half Rack Each
- Seventeen Packages of Thick Cut Smoked Bacon
- Twenty-nine Packages of Ham Steaks
- Ten Packages of Smoked Pork Chops - Two Chops in Each
- Ten Packages of Breakfast Links - 14 Links in Each
- Twenty-five Packages of 1 Pound Plain Ground Pork
- Two packages of Braunschweiger
How Will We Use All of This?
In place of getting a large ham, we have them cut the whole ham into ham steaks. We always have great intentions of eating the entire ham but inevitably everyone is sick of ham on day four. Ham steaks are great to pop on the grill in the summer!
Grand Champion Bacon! Can you smell it? Paired with Gluten-free Swedish pancakes for supper! The ultimate trio of Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato is otherwise known as BLT's in the heat of summer.
Plain ground pork is a blank canvas just begging for spices. Due to most of the premade Italian, breakfast sausages, and brats containing garlic and onion, we opt to get them plain and make them on our own.
Pork shoulder roasts. We use them to make carnitas, Cuban sandwiches, and BBQ pork. With a whole hog purchase, you only get six roasts. This will NOT last us a year, unfortunately.
Plain pork chops. I will use these seasoned with lemon pepper, in a potato casserole that I loved as a child. They also work breaded with gluten-free panko and baked in the oven.
Smoked pork chops are great grilled for a simple, classic summer supper. They are already cooked. All you need to do is heat and eat!
Pork spare ribs. These are going to be perfect to cook on our smoker! We will need to either make two packages or make extra sides to feed everyone!
Skinless pork sausage links. I love that the ingredients in these do not contain onion, garlic, or high fructose corn syrup! I can safely enjoy these!
To be perfectly honest, we usually pass the braunschweiger to my friend Julie's parents. They LOVE it! We have never tried it.
However, we are going to try it for the sake of research this year. If it isn't for us, we will pass along the other package as usual. I will not be eating it because it contains onion powder.
Break down the Cost
Let's break down how much filling our freezer with pork costs.
We pay extra for additional processing for certain items because we are fancy like that. This time around based on our cutting instructions we paid extra for:
- Smoked Pork Chops - we pay an extra $1.15/per package. Total of $19.55.
- Skinless Pork Sausage Links - we pay an extra $1.75/per package. Total of $17.50.
- Hanging Weight of Hog, 206 pounds at $2.99/ pound. Total of $615.94.
- Grand Total after a $6 service charge is $658.99
Where Is Your Meat Processor?
For anyone local, we love Sailer's out of Elmwood, WI. Once inside you can see proof of their success. Hanging on the walls are numerous awards, enough that I couldn't count them all. Wall-to-wall meat in coolers, a display case filled to the brim with meats you can order by the pound. It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It requires a pit stop at Kwik Trip for a Big Buddy filled with the only good choice, Diet Coke. I may or may not throw a lemon slice in my purse to add to it. A must-have for road trips through the winding roads of Wisconsin.
We usually make the trek to Elmwood twice a year. Once to pick up our whole hog and second to pick up our half of beef. It is wise to not do this at the same time of year. Otherwise, your freezer will not have enough room for all the frozen meat goodness. Which means you may end up calling your mom to see if she has any room. Thanks for the freezer space mom!