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Best Meat CSA or Freezer Order?

  • j

Since Kerr farms went out of business, I'm considering getting a freezer order or meat share.

My priorities are:

1. Humane/Natural/Local, not necessarily certified organic, or entirely grass fed, but NOT factory farmed
2. Quality: has to be properly flash frozen, and packaged. I have no tolerance for any kind of freezer abuse, or rancidity. If the product is of excellent quality and flavour I will be willing to spend more.

3. Cost: I can't justify Gasparros, Healthy Butcher, Whole Foods or Cumbraes prices anymore. I used to buy larger quantities of beef and chicken when Fiesta has it on sale. Thinking that if I buy bulk directly from the farmers, the cost will be more favourable...as I'm not paying the overhead of downtown storefronts.

These are the places I've narrowed down. Can anyone comment on their attributes wrt above (Humane/Natural, Quality an Cost)

Stoddart Family Farm
http://www.stoddart.ca/

Twin Creeks
http://www.twincreeksfarm.ca/index.php

Beef Connections
http://www.beefconnections.ca/

Berreta
http://www.berettaorganics.com/

Any others you'd suggest based on experience?

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The Healthy Butcher
565 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V, CA

Cumbrae's
481 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

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  1. Two stand out, beefconnections and Cumbrae, in my limited experience.
    Stoddart and Twin Creeks are pricey, Berretta also, a kind of holding company for many suppliers.

    At Cumbrae's I order small steaks from cheaper parts of the cow: shoulder, flatiron, bavette and others that their butcher can recommend. Always good and reasonable, for a special occasion.. Stephen's videos on the site are very informative.

    At beefconnections I can talk directly to the farmer, Robert, who represents his beef, chicken, pork and lamb, and beef from several neighbors. I had one visit to the farm (Mt. Forest) and it was memorable, and I'd like to go back.

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    Cumbrae's
    481 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

    1. I've been buying a lot of my meat lately from Heatherlea Farm Market, on Winston Churchill Blvd. in Terra Cotta/Belfountain. They raise their own Black Angus cattle, mostly on pasture with a bit of corn/grain to finish. They sell their own meat, as well as lamb, pork, poultry, bison, etc. from small, sustainably minded farms -- numerous cuts, most of it vacuum packed.

      The rib-eyes I've had from them have been extremely flavourful and tender and I've just ordered bone-in, cap-on rib steaks (a cut they don't normally do) from their next slaughter. The rack of lamb and lamb shoulder I've bought from them are some of the best I've ever had.

      They also sell a variety of Ontario-made condiments and local produce. And their owner-made frozen chicken pot pies are out of this world.

      Heatherlea's website lists the names of the producers whose meats they sell, and has a price list, too. http://www.heatherleafarmmarket.ca/

      6 Replies
      1. re: Tatai

        Thin cut steaks and chops are the bane of country abatoirs. You really have to request 1.5 " to get 1 "!.
        I think this is because farm housewives have to provide a big dinner meal to the farm workers (dinner means 1-2PM) and thin cut steaks and chops are quickly prepared.
        The country abatoirs have been slow to adapt to the weekend BBQ with thick cuts.

        1. re: jayt90

          Huh? Who said anything about thinly cut steaks? Heatherlea's standard for steaks is 1 inch. And they ARE 1-inch thick. And if you want 2 inch steaks, you'll get 2 inch steaks.

          1. re: jayt90

            Just recounting my experience with country abatoirs; no reflection on heatherlea, which may be different.

          2. re: Tatai

            @Tatai, this is what I've been looking for, their prices are really reasonable compared to Whole Foods, Healthy Butcher etc. Is all the meat frozen? Have you tried the poultry?
            It will be nice to make a day trip up to Terra Cotta.

            @jayt90 What have you ordered from Beef Connections. Is their ground beef nice?

            I bbq'd the most best 1.5" Rib Eyes for fathers day from Whole Foods. They were on sale 1/2 price....$15/lb instead of $30/lb. A 1.5" steak is going to be %50 more expensive than a 1", I can see why frugal farmers would cut em thin.

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            The Healthy Butcher
            565 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V, CA

            1. re: jnine

              I've ordered beef boxes, large chickens (hens have the run of the place!) and a half side of pork (3/4 Berkshire) from beefconnections. The ground beef, from English breeds such as Hereford, Angus, and Shorthorn, was
              $3/lb last year and has an old time taste. They deliver to specific areas.

              1. re: jnine

                jnine, all of their meat, including their own, is sold frozen. As I said, the beef and the lamb that I've had have been phenomenal -- extremely flavourful and tender. Buying from Heatherlea has required a bit of an adjustment for me as I'm used to buying fresh meat and poultry and now have to plan my meals more in advance and defrost accordingly. But the price and quality are well worth it. I, too, had been shopping at the Healthy Butcher but found the prices staggeringly high.

                Another bonus is that the farmer/wife and her daughter-in-law who run this lovely shop are delightful and extremely accommodating. And it's an extremely easy drive from Toronto and environs. (And if you take Hwy 410/10 and turn west on Forks of the Credit Rd. to get to Belfountain, the drive is spectacular, as is the drive through Terra Cotta if you go that route.)

                I have tried their chicken (both whole and cuts) and it's been very good.

            2. Healthy Butcher has a "naturally raised" option now that is much less expensive than the dry aged organic. I purchased a bulk quantity and got 10% off. You can request a specific farm as well... I liked the Faul Farms beef. Although Healthy Butcher isn't the absolute cheapest I think they take great care in cutting and vacuum packaging and the quality is always impeccable.

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              The Healthy Butcher
              565 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V, CA

              1. The Eatwild site is very useful for finding naturally raised, pastured meats.
                Check out:
                http://www.eatwild.com/products/canad...

                3 Replies
                  1. re: bindearle

                    One farm I didn't see listed here is Field Sparrow Farms, which we've been buying our meat from. They are lovely. We get a 10-lb/month CSA, and they do full, half, quarter, and boxes of beef in the winter. Really nice - totally pastured beef, and we get pork and lamb and chicken too (all naturally raised).

                    http://www.fieldsparrowfarms.ca/about...

                    1. re: apilati

                      I've been meaning to post about Field Sparrow Farms too. I did a single season mixed share this summer and it turned out really well. We were really impressed with the richness of the beef and lamb and they were a pleasure to deal with. We also liked that they don't skimp on the quality cuts, we ended up getting a lot of lamb chops and T-bone steaks. Also they do drop-offs at the same times and locations as the KEG CSA so it's extra convenient for KEG members.