Business NC reports on the growing support for “cow pools,” a system in which meat consumers invest in small-scale, sustainable agriculture, one cow at a time:
Megan Long has shared three cows and a pig with a group of like-minded families in Fayetteville. One woman buys the animals directly from a farmer then splits the meat into smaller shares for as many as 16 people. Long typically signs up for an eighth of a steer, anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds of meat, which fits in the freezer side of her home refrigerator, for about $200 to $300.
Beef from a single source, as opposed to, say, a package of grocery store hamburger meat that could come from dozens of cows, is the biggest reason Long joined. “I know the farmer,” she says. “I know the conditions. It’s not shipped from around the world; it’s right here in my area.”
Cow pools are similar to CSAs for farm-fresh vegetables. It’s a way to support local producers while cutting out the middle men. For consumers, that means lower prices and a guarantee that the animals have been raised in a humane, sustainable manner. For farmers, having a group of customers subsidize the cost of raising livestock takes some of the uncertainty out of the process.
Sampson County farmer Bill Dunlap polled his customers expecting to hear that they preferred his beef for its quality or safety, but he found that price and convenience were the biggest drivers for people who buy quarter, half or whole steers from him. Dunlap’s prices average $7 to $8 per pound, including expensive cuts like steaks or roasts. Similar cuts at the grocery store generally cost about $9 a pound and more.
Dunlap has no plans to compete with supermarkets — he doesn’t even advertise. The families who buy his service are willing to pay a $201 deposit and wait until animals are ready for slaughter. Last year, Dunlap raised 29 cows. This year, he’s planning on 30.
Read the full article here