Where’s the Beef? Supply vs. Demand at Monnett Farms

We’re more than half way through our first farmers market season and whew! what a time we’ve had. Being at the farmers markets is a wonderful and very rewarding experience. Benson and I have been producing grass fed beef since 2007. Before we started selling at the market, the only way you could buy our meat was to commit to a half or quarter of beef and have it custom cut.

This worked really well for us for a long time. But it was almost like a VIP club. We couldn’t sell to many people selling our beef this way. And while we LOVE all of our loyal custom order customers – we did want to share our product (which we think is wonderful) with more people. So, last year, we went through the process of getting several licenses and certifications through the state of Maryland. Under these umbrellas, we are permitted to have our animals butchered at a USDA inspected facility, transport the frozen meat back to our farm, store the frozen meat on our farm and sell the frozen meat at the farmers markets.

The markets have been tremendously successful for us. The popularity of our meats has created a problem that we didn’t think we’d have – not enough supply. Raising grass fed beef takes about three years – that’s time to breed the cow, a 9 month gestation period and then two years to finish the cow/steer on pasture/hay until it’s ready to market.

Pigs don’t take quite as long to finish. We don’t breed our own pigs here on the farm. Instead, we purchase “feeder pigs” (weaned piglets) from a local St. Mary’s County farm and we raise them here until they reach their finished weight, which is about 250lbs. It takes us about 6 months to finish our hogs.

The goat and sheep take about 18 months. Similar to the cows, we breed them here on the farm. The goat and sheep have a 5 month gestation period and typically you don’t want the lamb or goat to be more than a year old when it comes time to market them.

Custom orders (sides of beef and pork) are something that we continue to offer. This is what we started the farm with and an option we still want to provide people with. If you have the freezer space and your family eats beef/pork on a regular basis – this is the option we recommend. We also introduced a meat CSA this year, which was an option for people who don’t have the freezer space, but still want to “guarantee” their local meat supply. We reserve the rest for the markets so “everyone” can try our meats if they want to.

Anticipating what we need one, two or three years in advance is difficult – and we’ve outpaced our own expectations. We are scaling as quickly as possible, but with the type of farm we’ve chosen to have, that path is a little bit slower. Here’s what the rest of 2014 will look like for us…

Beef – Limited Supply Until September
We’ve just about sold out of our beef for the summer. There is one steer we reserved to take down to the butcher in mid-August, which we will have back in the early part of September.

We are sold out of sides of beef until 2015. If this is something you are interested in, we strongly recommend that you email us at sales@monnettfarms.com to be placed on our waiting list for first notification when we start taking reservations in January.

Pork – Sold Out Until mid-September
Wow do you guys like your pork! The pork we had at the market earlier this summer went very fast. We have several hogs to take to the butcher in late September and we’ll have those back in first weeks of October.

Custom pork orders for September are officially closed. We aren’t selling any more from this crop – however, we are adding a third buying cycle. These pigs will be ready in January. We’ll accept orders on a first come first serve basis through September 30th.

Lamb & Goat Meat – Available mid-September
We are very excited to start marketing our lamb and goat meat this year. This is our first year marketing the lamb and until now, we’ve only reserved the goat meat for ourselves or custom orders (whole goats). This will be at the market in mid-September. It’s unlikely that we’ll open up custom orders for the lamb/goat because of the limited supply, but you can still ask if you’re interested. Email sales@monnettfarms.com and we can discuss options.

Summer Farmers Market Schedule

We’ve been trying to stretch our meat supply out as long as we could, but we’ve reached the point where we’re just about sold out. That means we’ll have to take a break from the market until we have more meat in stock. This is a tough decision for us on a number of levels. First, we really like seeing you all every week. Second, we made a commitment to the market and the other vendors to be there. But, without much meat to sell at the market, it doesn’t make sense for us to be there.

Here’s the plan:

* 7/23 (wed.) – Prince Frederick Courthouse Farmers Market 11:30am – 3:30pm
* Vacation 7/25 – 8/1
* 8/2 (sat.) – California Farmers Market 9am – 1pm & CSA Pick Up
* 8/7 (thurs.) – Solomons Farmers Market 4pm – 8pm & CSA Pick Up
* Summer Break through end of August
* 9/6 (sat.) tentative date of return to the California Farmers Market
* Resume farmers market schedule:
- Solomons Farmers Market • Thursdays 4pm to 8pm
September 11th through close of market in November
- California Farmers Market • Saturdays 9am to 1pm
September 6th through close of market in October

Guide to Buying a Side of Grass Fed Beef

Updated: January 23, 2015

Buying a side of beef is a very economical way to purchase meats for a family. Depending on what cuts you select, you will end up with about 150 – 200lbs of beef that will last in the freezer for a year or more.

At Monnett Farms, we sell our beef by the hanging weight – which is the weight of a side of beef, hanging in the butcher’s cooler after the head, feet and organs have been removed, but before it’s butchered into the usable cuts. We sell a side of beef for $5.25 per pound (a quarter of beef is $5.50), a side of our grass fed beef weighs approximately 200 – 300lbs.

The yield after butchering the side is usually around 60-70% of the hanging weight, depending on the cuts you select. The weight reduction is the result of lost moisture during the aging process, bone removal and the cuts you requested. Our meats are vacuum packed and sealed for long term freezer storage.

A side of beef feeds our family of four for a year. This will keep in a medium size chest freezer. You’ll need two or three medium/large size coolers to transport it home.

How Much Does It Cost?

As mentioned above, at $5.25 per pound, a side of beef will cost between $1,100 and $1,600. You’ll get about 150lbs to 200lbs of meat – so the average cost for the all of your beef cuts will be between $8.00 and $12.00 per pound.

You’ll get a mix of beef cuts – from ground beef, which sells at the market for $8.00 per pound, to premium steaks, which sell at the market for $15 to $28 per pound. When you look at it this way, the savings are obvious.

What Do You Get?

When you buy a side of beef, it will be custom cut to your specifications. Once your deposit has been received, we’ll supply you with our Grass Fed Beef Order Form – it’s easy to follow and will walk you through each section of beef. If this is your first time ordering a side of beef, don’t hesitate to call us for help. We’d be happy to make recommendations and help you personalize your order.

Butcher's Guide to Side of Beef
Image: Beef Cut Chart from The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat by Applestone & Zissu, Clarkson Potter Publishers 2011

Butchers Guide to a Side of Beef

We use Faquier’s Finest Meat Processing as our USDA butcher. The following guide is for sides of beef – if you are ordering a quarter of beef, please note that there is a standard order. This is due to the fact that the beef needs to be cut the same from each section. Our order form has a list of what cuts you can expect.

Beef Cutting
There are four specific sections (two of each, one per side) of beef and a few miscellaneous items. Ground beef (hamburger) is always a given just how much is determined by how each section is cut.

Choosing Steak Thickness & Roast Size
* Steak Thickness is to your preference (average is 1”).
* Roasts size in pounds is to your preference as well (average is 3 to 4lbs)
* Ground beef can be packaged in 1lb, 2lb, 6lb and 10lb packs

Sections of Beef

Beef Cuts Chart
Image: Beef Cut Chart from the National Live Stock and Meat Board, published in The Complete Book of Meat by Phyllis C. Reynolds, published 1963

The Rib
There are seven ribs per side for this section. The butcher can cut Bone In Rib Steaks, Boneless Delmonico/Ribeye Steaks or Rib Roasts.

The Rib Roasts can be done in one of two ways: by the Rib or by the pound. For example, a 3 Rib Roast is heavier in weight than a 3lb roast. For a side of a beef, you can select two of the three cutting options.

The Chuck
The chuck is the largest section on each side of any beef. It is made up of the Arm and the Blade. For this section, you can choose two cutting options from the following:
* Steaks (bone in or boneless)
* Roasts (bone in or debone, rolled & tied for an additional $1.50/lb)
* Stew Meat (for an additional $1.50/lb)
* or Ground Beef

The Loin
The most popular steaks come out of the loin section. For a side of beef, you can close the have it cut one of two ways:
* Standard Cut – includes Bone In Steaks of T-Bone, Porterhouse and Sirloins (this is how Benson and I personally order our beef)
* Optional Cut – includes Boneless cuts of Filets, NY Strips and Sirloin Strip (top sirloin)

The Round
The round section is broken down into four smaller sections:

The Eye Round: The smallest section of the round can be butchered one of three ways:
* Eye Round Roast, a long, tube shaped roast that can be cut in one or two roasts per side depending on the size chosen
* Eye Round Steak, a round medallion size cut
* or Ground

The Top Round: This we can cut one of four ways:
* Roasts
* Steaks
* London Broil (approximately 2” thick and/or 2lbs a piece)
* or Ground

The Bottom Round: This section can be cut one of three ways:
* Roasts
* Cubed (for an additional $1.50/lb)
* or Ground

The Sirloin Tip: This section can be cut one of three ways as well:
* Roasts
* Steaks
* or Ground

The Miscellaneous Items
These items can either be kept as they are specified in the descriptions below or ground to add to Hamburger. In choosing these miscellaneous cuts, you are not losing anything from the above sections.

* Flank Steak, a thin steak from either side of the groin area
* Short Ribs, from the plate of the animal and are cut in 1” wide to 3” long
* Stew Meat (typically 1lb packs), this comes from the whole animal. They are nice meaty sized chucks that are too good to add in with the hamburger
* Brisket, this piece of meat comes from the chest area and is wonderful to put in a smokehouse for a nice long slow cook
* Soup Bones, our butcher makes soup bones from the four shanks starting at the top cutting about 1” thick slices down to the end. The upper portion slices have more meat compared to the lower portion. The meat can be removed, with the bones saved – great for making stock or as dog treats
* Tongue, there is one per cow – please ask us about the tongue if you are interested
* Organs, again, reserved by special request
* Hangar Steak, there is one per cow – we typically reserve this and sell at market, please ask us about this cut if you are interested

Special Instructions
If there is something specific that is not covered in this cut sheet, please let us know. The butcher can accommodate most special requests. If you would like your Ground Beef made into hamburger patties, please add an additional $0.75 per pound and choose which size: 1/4lb, 1/3lb or 1/2lb patties in 1 or 2lb packs.