Start a Buying Club for Quality Local Meat

When you collaborate with neighbors to buy meat in bulk, you won’t have to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

| August/September 2020

This group is learning hog butchery together, and plans to split the meat among its members.
Photo by 

For decades, efforts have bubbled from the ground up to raise animals with respect for their well-being. This includes a conscientiousness for the quality of their deaths as they become food for people, and a regard for them that isn’t wasteful or careless. Usually, these values are accompanied by care for the land and the human workers that make good meat possible. These efforts have gained momentum thanks mostly to farmers and the direct relationships they’ve built with individual customers who desire good food.

Direct sales between farmers and consumers are somewhat removed from the mainstream. These relationships have led to a revival of the art of butchery, a new interest in meat preservation, and smaller economies of scale in meat processing. But these relationships aren’t big enough or affordable enough to serve everyone, nor are they able to exist unencumbered by the challenges ingrained in the industrial food system.

The coronavirus global pandemic resulted in meat shortages due to panic buying.
Photo by
 Adobe Stock/bartsadowski

The result is that smaller-scale efforts toward good meat happen on two fronts: wealthy communities, where sales from farmers to buyers tend to be certified, advertised, and taxed; and rural communities, where transactions between hunters or livestock producers and buyers are communal and outside of regulatory oversight. It’s time for these interests to unite and focus cohesively on a functioning system that serves animals, people, and land.

Cure for a Crisis

As I write this, the coronavirus crisis has made the need for shortened supply chains painfully clear. Meat processing facilities are closing because of working conditions that spread disease and endanger the safety of workers. If plants don’t reopen in time for finished animals to be processed, a bottleneck at the farm level will lead to lack of sales. This will increase costs for producers, as they face feeding more animals through the winter than they have forage or stored feed to accommodate. Animals will be culled and euthanized. At the worst, plant workers and farmers will continue to put themselves and their families at risk, and animals not euthanized will flood into auction houses as the temperatures drop. And grocery shelves will empty quickly.

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