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Opinions on local meat producers and meat CSAs?

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I'd like to get your opinion on in-state producers of meat that provide delivery to the Boston area, including meat CSAs.

I'm aware of Stillman's meat CSA and I'd heard of a couple in Concord, MA (I think) that had a similar arrangement. There was also a farm selling meat at the South Station Farmers Market, but I have not seen them recently.

What options are out there and has anyone used them? Ideally, I'd like to find a source of locally (and ethically) grown meat that is reasonably priced.

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  1. I've been buying meat from Chestnut Farms at the Arlington Farmer's market for several months, and everything I've gotten from them has been fantastic - tasty, well-packaged, and reasonably priced. I've bought pork sausage, grass-fed ground beef, sirloin steak, pork chops, bone-in chicken breasts, split chicken breasts and eggs. The woman and her daughter who run the stand are delightful, and really care about their animals' well-being. The cows are all grass-fed, so the meat is very lean, which some people aren't used to, but I think it's great if you don't overcook.

    The Arlington Farmer's Market is on wednesdays from 1-6; Chestnut Farms also has a meat CSA which I haven't participated in.

    http://chestnutfarms.org/

    1. I have been a happy Chestnut Farms CSA member since March. I signed up for a year at 10 lbs/month. Pickups are monthly in the lot that the Arlington Farmer's Market is located; during market season you can pick up your share as well as shop at the market on Wednesdays. Best part is that even though you sign up for a 6-month or 12-month share in advance, you pay in monthly installments when you pick up your meat. Makes budgeting easier for us.

      We've gotten a mix of beef, pork, chicken and a bit of lamb (more lamb coming in the fall). I've loved the beef and pork the most and can really taste the difference. Really couldn't be happier with the whole arrangement. I have tracked what we've gotten each month and can send you the spreadsheet if you want more details. Just leave an email.

      1. I have also become interested in joining a Meat CSA. I contacted Chestnut Farms and will be starting in September. So far, they have been very responsive and I am looking forward to starting. Glad to hear that others have had a good experience.

        1. Also want to add a recommendation for Chestnut Farms. I bought sweet italian sausage from them at the Arlington Farmer's market and it was excellent. Well flavored, very lean and delicious in the eggplant/tomato/cousa stew I made.

          1. We didn't sign up for the CSA, but I buy meat from Stillman frequently, and always find it to be top quality. Fianlly managed to score a chicken today (yay!), and I'm looking forward to roasting it soon. We have been considering reducing our meat intake significantly, and only eating Stillman or other locally produced/responsibly raised products. I do find that choosing this option means paying a lot more for your meat, but cheap meat (like those supermarket family packs) is really a false economy: what you save on dollars from your pocket, you pay for in many many other ways.

            1. One more vote for Chestnut Hill Farm....we split a 50 lb share 30/20 with another couple, and we easily go through 30 lbs a month (but we are gluttons, your mileage may vary). Love the bacon, love the variety. I've also enjoyed beef from River Rock Farms, though I haven't ordered for a while - I think they do home delivery if you order $50 or more, and it's dry aged. Word on the street is that the expanded whole foods in fresh pond also has dry-aged beef, not sure of its provenance, however....

              1. That farm that was at South Station (Dewey Square) is Austin Brothers farm - they're now doing the Central Square market on mondays. They said that there just wasn't enought interest at Dewey Square; I hope there's more in Cambridge - it's great to finally have a meat vendor there. I got some eggs ($3 for a dozen) from them yesterday and they made a nice omelette last night. On their website (http://www.austinsfarm.com/index.html) they say the meat is free of added hormones and antibiotics in the feed. Their meat prices are quite reasonable - can anyone who's tried them comment on quality?

                I'm also a fan of River Rock Farm - their prices are pretty high but all their meat (including the cuts that go into their ground beef) is dry-aged, so you are paying for quality. I especially like that they often have fresh cuts available at the market, in addition to the wider selection of frozen. I got some ground beef there last week and had some excellent burgers and froze the rest in patties for future use.

                For really low prices, locally-raised (but I don't know what their farming practices are) Blood Farm in Groton is worth the drive. I've had a fantastic pork shoulder there, though also a steak that was definitely not aged (not that they claimed it was) and kind of bloody-tasting. I'd want to try more before I passed judgment on their beef generally, though. Prices are great, though - as cheap as the supermarket.

                2 Replies
                1. re: MichaelB

                  I've been very happy with River Rock beef. They deliver and/or you can order from them in advance to pick up at the various farmer's markets they frequent. I have tried their NY strip, sirloin, and hanger steak and have been happy with all. Don't know about whether they meet the ethical standards of concern to you but I do like the beef.

                  1. re: MichaelB

                    River Rock is terrific! Used to buy from them at Northern Ave (now Dewey). the best of the meat vendors those two markets have had. So sad when the owner passed away last winter but hope they can keep going.

                    Northern Ave was a little better for meat sales than Dewey because you could toss your purchases into your car and drive off, that and the fact that River Rock is SO good!

                  2. I have subscribed to Stillman's meat CSA for about 7 months now. Overall I have really enjoyed the taste of the meat, especially the ham/pork as they raise the most delicious pigs I have ever tasted. The poultry is also amazing - we received whole chickens in the 10lb distributions a few times and they have been a real treat. The lamb is also delicious. They are also branching out to do more things like smoked meats. All very good.

                    The distributions have been very generous, my guess is that we receive slighly more than 10 lbs in our bags every month. The share of ham/lamb/other meats is probabably around 30:30:40. I think we pay about $7.5 a lb.

                    The main problem with the CSA arrangement, however, is that you don't get any (or little) say over what comes in your bag. Sometimes the cuts are almost too small for a couple, so I have to wait another month to get a pair to serve it together. Also, sometimes I get cuts that I probably would not normally use (e.g. breakfast sausages). It is at times hard to keep up with the meats - last weekend I was finally forced to pull a roast out of the freezer to cook it despite the weather because I need the space in the fridge for the next distribution. Finally, a lot of the cuts are less traditional so it takes some creativity to continuously cook the items. If you went to a farm and bought bigger quantities a few times a year, you might have more control over these things.

                    But, I am still VERY happy with the CSA and I plan to continue as a subscriber this fall and into the winter. They are great people and I am very happy about supporting their efforts.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MaggieMuffin

                      Thanks to everyone for their input.

                      A quick question about Stillman's -- How is pick-up? We used to subscribe to their vegetable/fruit CSA with pick-up in JP and found it to be a bit of a pain. There were certain times when you felt like an extra in Lord of the Flies. Not really the fault of the Stillmans, there were just mobbed and having trouble dealing with everyone. Has it gotten better?

                      1. re: slowcookedbeef

                        I'm not a member of the meat CSA, though I'd love to be (can't quite swing the cost), but I've been a Stillman's member for something like 7 years now. I agree that the JP pickup is a bit of a zoo, though over the years I learned to accept that - and I think things did get better, as well. The last couple of years we were with JP I made a point of volunteering to help with the CSA handout once or twice in a season, and the procedure did seem to be much more streamlined.

                        However, when they started offering a Sunday CSA pickup at Clear Flour Bread in Brookline, we jumped on that - the JP pickup required getting from Allston to JP with a car, and Clear Flour is about 12 minutes walk from my house with a granny cart. Glenn's son-in-law Aidan Davin runs the Brookline CSA, and it's much smaller and much easier to deal with. (OTOH, it doesn't have the associated farmer's market, so you can't just step over and purchase something you wanted but didn't get in your box.)

                        I know that they're running a meat CSA pickup there as well, and I think you would find it a much less hectic experience.

                        1. re: slowcookedbeef

                          The pick-ups are Sundays at Clear Flour in Brookline. I think they do another pick-up another night of the week (maybe Thursday?) in JP. It is kind of a pain. This is another disadvantage of the CSA vs. purchasing bulk arrangement.