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Meat Shares

On a whim, I decided to sign up for the River Rock Farm beef share. I have been amazed by the taste and qaulity of everything I have received. Last night I made one of their flank steaks for a group of friends and they raved about it. The flavor is amazing but most noticeable to me is the texture of this beef. The variety of cuts in the share has been great too. Does anyone else have some success stories of non veggie CSAs? Id love to hear them.

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  1. Really happy with Houde Family Farm meat share. Great bacon and breakfast sausage, lean hamburger (too lean for actual burgers, but great for everything else) and really fabulous steaks. A little heavy on pork chops, which I don't particularly like, but plenty of other fabulous stuff. Delivered right to the house on a monthly basis, started at 15lbs, but had to cut down to 10/month because I just couldn't keep up (family of four with one carnivore, one omnivore, 2 pasta-tarian children). Regularly get ground pork, veal and beef that makes unbelievable meatballs.

    I signed up after reading sinclairs "The Jungle" and realizing that things haven't changed much. Continue because the meat is far superior (albeit more expensive).

    4 Replies
    1. re: tdaaa

      Another happy Houde consumer here. I don't find the hamburger too lean for burgers, though. I also love pork chops, so that part keeps me very happy! Last year when we went to Key West for a family vacation, I filled a cooler of meat and brought it with me, and it was SO worth the effort. My family loved the meatballs and burgers and sausage and bacon.

      I like the "extras" on offer as well- particularly the pork fat (for rendering lard) and veal bones (for stock). He also sells maple syrup and eggs (pending chicken happiness levels!)

      I've gone though the 10, 15 and 20lb shares and we're currently at 10. I have a backlog of meat due to various scheduling issues which have gotten in the way of doing much cooking the past few months. I actually would love to go on hiatus for a couple of months to catch up, but he just emailed out that he's finally just about at capacity (110 members now, no more than 120 in the next season that starts in June) and I worry that I'd lose my spot. I just need to crack down and cook it all! The only part I don't like is the lack of chicken (he can't legally move it over state lines).

      1. re: Chris VR

        Thanks Chris VR and tdaaa for pointing me to Houde. We just signed up and get our first delivery today! I'm very psyched. We'll see how well we do with a 10# share. My husband and I eat meat, but my son is somewhat of a pasta-tarian child as well!

        1. re: Chris VR

          Yet another happy Houde Family Farm CSA member here.
          Big thanks to Chris VR is in order on getting them across the border I believe!!
          Meat is great quality, tremendous flavor and perhaps a bit lean but that is because the animals live under the sky and eat mostly grass (the beef any way). They take great care of their animals and it shows. The bacon is AMAZING and is not pumped full of water, the ground beef and pork are lean but it is nice to not have huge puddles of grease pouring out of your meatballs!!
          The eggs are so far superior to what you can get in the grocery store you might think they had artificial coloring in them, the yolks are so deep orange, the whites are tall and tight.
          Know where your food comes from when and if you can.

        2. re: tdaaa

          I was indiffernt to pork chops until I had cajun style blackened pork chops at a local restaurant, not in Boston. This is the only way I make them now and they're great, just don't overcook - keep them juicy, I use Emeril's original spice mix.

        3. We've been getting meat from Chestnut Farms for about 8 months. The quality of the meat is great but what I'm REALLY loving is the fat. I save every drop of schmaltz and lard for cooking.

          I know a lot of folks prefer the "choice" cuts of meat, but I am also a fan of braising cuts and ground beef. It's versatile and, since it's from the CSA, it's safe for my 3-year-old to help make the meatballs.

          We get beef, pork, lamb and chicken (I think they offer a no-pork option), 10 lbs a month. Usually there is some bacon, pork sausage or lamb sausage in each month's share. In the warmer months they also offer eggs from their pasture-fed hens ($4/dozen). A few times my hubby's bought some extras, such as beef bones for soup - big shank bones for a buck apiece. This month he got a sheep's liver for free.

          The most challenging thing about the meat CSA, for me, is figuring out what to do with some of the lesser-known cuts of beef (butt flap, for example). The Home Cooking board has been very helpful with that.


          3 Replies
          1. re: gimlis1mum

            Here is another endorsement for Chestnut Farms. Like gimlis1mum, I have been a member for eight months. The quality of the meat is outstanding, and the flavor is too. Just to dispel any worries about fat, yes it is tasty but no there is not too much. Overall, the meat is definitely lean. After all, it comes from animals that move freely about during warm weather months. If you visit the farm during one of their semiannual open farm days, you will see for yourself how they are treated. Kim has been outstanding in her willingness to be flexible when things have come up and I have had to make a special request of her.

            Just a minor correction about the eggs - they are always available at the beginning of each distribution session, but they do run out sometimes. Also, as the previous poster has noted, there is usually a cooler or two filled with all sorts of yummies at a dollar a package. Get there early for the best selection. I have scored beef tongues, soup bones, bacon ends, pork kidney fat (for making lard that is good for pie crust), and so on. There always seems to be a selection of offal - hearts, livers, kidneys from the various animals they raise.

            One final note. One nice thing about the 10-pound shares is that all of the meat comes in pieces that are about a pound or sometimes less. So, you never have to defrost more than you need at one time. From what I understand, the larger shares have some larger cuts, which makes perfect sense for a larger family that would consume a larger amount of meat.

            1. re: PinchOfSalt

              Thanks for the clarification about the eggs. My hubby usually makes the pick-up on his way home from work - I'll have to tell him to get there earlier so he can get the eggs, and more offal :-)

              1. re: gimlis1mum

                Even another endorsement for Chestnut Farms. We LOVE it. The quality is top notch, the flavors unsurpassed. I can't even eat supermarket chicken anymore, even if its organic/humane etc. Kim and her family are wonderful, I love reading her emails and as corny as it is, I feel warm and fuzzy knowing that we are supporting a local farm that treats their animals with love and care and even though we eat meat/animal products, we are not supporting industrial agriculture. They are true stewards of the earth!

          2. I've been doing the River Rock Farm beef CSA for the past two winters, and have really enjoyed it as well. The variety of cuts and the quality of the beef is outstanding.

            1. We've been with Stillman's meat CSA for close to a couple of years now and are extremely happy. We get a 10 lb/mo share. We buy no other meat now. I occasionally will get special orders from them too. I never even liked chicken until we started eating the chicken from Stillmans- now I even like the dark meat! I think the price is reasonable for the quality/localness/karma (it works out to $8/lb). Their eggs are fantastic too- huge orange yolks- but at $7/dozen the highest I've ever seen! My daughter gets a kick out of the green and blue ones though.

              1. One more vote for Chestnut Farm. I am a new member and am very happy. I've never been a part of any other meat CSA so I can't compare. I am a family of 2 and do 10 pounds a month and find that they provide enough of each meat for a good dinner for me and my husband. Although last month I received a single lamb shoulder chop so I'll have to wait for my husband to be away 1 night to eat it myself. I love using their ground meat - lamb, beer or pork - for meatloaf. My favorite part is finding recipes for meat that I have never cooked with and wouldn't if it weren't for the CSA. My only complaint is that twice now I've sent messages to them through the contact us section of their website with no response. Hmmmm

                1. I get meat from my father in law who lives in central Pennsylvania. I love the flavor and have learned to work with some non-standard cuts. But his farm is a bit out of the way. Does anyone know of a meat CSA that's close to Andover?

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Essex County

                    sadly i have a bit of a gripe. this is my second year with a river rock csa and though the quality of the meat is still outstanding i was dissapointed to see we received the same cuts of meat on both deliveries. While I am fine with flavorful, tougher, (cheaper) cuts of meat, this year that seemed to be the bulk of what was the in the share, while last year we got some of the "prime" cuts as well as the braising cuts. we split the share with another couple who called the farm about the problem and while they were friendly and said next year we could request various cuts i can't help but feel a little cheated. I understand they want to sell the restaurants their best cuts but we pay top dollar too.

                    1. re: pocketgarden

                      What I think happens with river rock is that they sell wholesale as well and places like the Butcher shop will not except tops and shanks they want all the middle meats so the ribs,strips andf hips go to them and the CSA gets everything else. I ask someone at one of the CSA last year on how many customers they had and they told 80 in the program if most these farm are killing two or four cattle a week how they come upwith enough meat. if they only have 12lb of hanger out of those two cattle how do 10 customers get hanger?

                      1. re: pocketgarden

                        Interesting to hear this... when Houde was getting started I asked him if he'd consider farmer's markets or selling to restaurants, this is exactly why he decided not to do it. He said he thought he'd have his hands full with CSA customers and didn't have the capacity to serve both the CSA and another outlet with the quality cuts he wanted to provide. He does say on his website "We do occasionally purchase beef animals from like minded local farmers to supplement our supply" but it doesn't sound like that's a regular plan.

                        1. re: pocketgarden

                          this may sound like a silly question, but what would be considered a "prime" cut?

                          1. re: cassoulady

                            Anything you would expect to see in a steakhouse is "prime" - filet mignon, porterhouse, NY strip, ribeye, etc. The cheaper cuts are london broil, hamburger, stewing meat, etc. You see the same thing in the grocery store - the best cuts command premium prices.

                            Similar story for lamb - loin chops = expensive, leg roast middling, ground lamb less expensive.

                            I'm sure someone here knows the weight % of quality cuts vs. ordinary, but I would guess that 1/3 of the salable cow is quality and 2/3 ordinary.

                            1. re: tdaaa

                              Good guess...Kim, of Chestnut Farms, had a great explanation about how they do things & they way the meat cuts add up. It was in her november '09 newsletter. I couldn't find that on the web (many of their other newletters are on their website, and a great reading to elarn about how they run their farm), so I am cut & pasting from my email here:

                              "We have had several inquiries about offering a prime share. Rich and I have talked and analyzed and the bottom line is simply we can’t do it. We do not sell prime meats (almost never any steak or lamb and very limited pork) at farmers markets because we are first and foremost a CSA farm – our prime meats are already spoken for in the form of your shares. A cow will cut into over 60 percent ground meat. The percentage of meat that comes in non- ground form is not what the display looks like in the grocery store. The bulk of ground meat in this country goes to commercial uses (think Sysco), fast food and schools, prisons and other institutions – in our case one cow processed means one cow back in the boxes. The reason a CSA works for us is that we have a market for everything that we raise and by connecting directly with you we are able to pay our feed bills (most of the time : ) The reason it works for you is that you are getting great meat the comes from happy, hormone and anti-biotic free animals raised with love and sunshine. I know rib chops and Delmonico steaks are not your whole share, but at between $7 and $8 per lb they are a great value."

                              In order to offer prime shares we would also have to offer subprime or daily cut shares and take the higher end cuts from there – or they would come from shares. Although there may be a demand or more market for prime shares at this time we will not be doing them. I will continue to do my best to honor requests (special party, no lamb, no pork, extra chicken etc..) and appreciate your flexibility and support

                              1. re: gimlis1mum

                                I still can not figure how they can have so many people in each csa share when they process only a few cattle at a time? also the dairy farms that are using old cattle I do not what to pay 7 dollars a pound for stew beef,shanks and some ground beef from old dairy cattle

                                1. re: OLDCHEF

                                  I don't think that any of the meat CSAs mentioned in this thread is a dairy farm selling off its "old cattle." I know for a fact that Chestnut Farm most definitely raises beef cattle and does not have a dairy operation at all. Their beef is VERY tasty. I get ground beef in my share but I also get T-bones and other highly-regarded cuts. It is exactly as Gimli reports. By the way, my Chestnut Farm share includes pork, lamb and chicken along with the beef. So, I get a nice variety and one animal can indeed end up being divided among a great many people.

                                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                    sounds great I will have to check out chestnut farm I thought you just got beef. but houde has on the website they use dry cattle into ground beef and stew but you are corect they also raise steers thanks for info