what questions should i ask when buying beef from a local farmer or rancher?

Purchasing beef from a beef farmer or rancher in your local community can seem like a daunting or intimidating experience, but it doesn't need to be! We've created a simple FAQ guide to help you go through the entire process smoothly. Also, we've compiled a list of questions that may help you better understand the beef you're getting and be satisfied with the entire experience. Lastly, visit our Community Sourced Beef page to find a beef producer in your area. 

How old is the animal?

Any decision to cook beef is going to result in amazing flavor. With that said, older cows that are being sold won’t offer the same steak and roast experience as a younger animal, and are mostly used for ground beef.  However, older animals may come at a discount and still offer great-tasting ground beef. Many grain-finished cattle are harvested around 15-18 months of age. Grass-finished cattle are usually older because they take longer to finish on grass. Whether grass-finished or grain-finished, you’re still going to get an exceptional experience at the dinner table.  

Will it be processed in a state-inspected facility? 

All beef must be processed in a state-inspected facility, and every producer in our community directory has stated their cattle are processed in a state-inspected facility.  

What do you estimate the quality grade to be? 

Quality grades are different than USDA inspection, which is mandatory. A quality grade is prime, choice, select and is voluntary. It is a sign of how much marbling they anticipate a steak to have, and the prime will have more marbling than choice, and choice more than select. The majority of animals harvested in the United States grade at least choice. A beef producer CANNOT guarantee the quality grade since this can only be done after harvest. However, they may be able to give you an estimation.

Visit this USDA website for more information about quality grades.

When will it be available to harvest? 

When you purchase beef, you are working around the schedule of the rancher and the livestock they are raising. Some things you can’t rush, and beef is one of those. The rancher also has to work around the processor’s schedule.  

Who is the processor, and will I be able to choose how the processor cuts the beef? 

Every local processing shop handles things differently, so ask what the expectations are when it comes to filling out your cut chart. Once the animal is dropped off at the processor, it is no longer the producer’s responsibility, so your contact will be with the processor.  

Does your price include processing or do I need to pay that separately?  

In most cases, you’re purchasing the whole, half, or quarter of a live animal. That animal is then taken to the processor where you will pay a processing fee based upon the total pounds you go home with

Has it been grain-finished or grass-finished? 

All beef is wholesome and delicious, and cattle spend the majority of their lives on grass. The big difference between grass finished and grain finished is the taste. Some people prefer the taste of grain-finished, and some people prefer the taste of grass-finished beef. If it's important to you, just ask.     

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