Apr 14th, 2012
Buying Grass Fed Beef in St. Louis
Today I was on a mission. I decided to go shop around St. Louis for organic grass fed beef mostly, but also was interested in bison, pork, chicken and other wild meats/fish. Here is the chronilogical order of my trip today.
This was a far drive from Brentwood, but a wonderful experience at a local place store owned by former Blues player Terry Yake. The grass fed beef started at around $4.50 a lb, with pre-made patties around $5.50 a lb. I also picked up some brats that were $7.99 a lb and beef brats for $8.99 a lb. The bison was $9-10 a lb. They had jerky, ground patties, preseasoned meat and much more deliciousness. They also had reasonable prices on nitrate free pork, organic chicken, fish, and anything you would expect at a store like that. If you live close by or want some variety, I would highly recommend T-Bones for smaller orders for value, variety, excellent customer service and supporting local owners. However, depending on where you live, highway K and N may be a little far for a weekly trip.
2) Whole Foods – The Vatican of organic foods. You are probably aware of Whole Foods service, presentation and overall experience. They really have done a great job of commercializing organic foods, but that does come with a price. If I had to estimate I’d say their prices are typically about 20%-30% higher than other places depending on the product. But you know you are getting 100% organic products. Their 85% grass fed beef was $6.99 a lb but had a discount of $5.99/lb for orders over 3 lbs. All of their other cuts are more expensive, but all relative to typical meat prices. I love their bulk food section where you can stock up on hard to find foods like brazil nuts (high is selenium, which boosts Thyroid production). Their hot foods section is probably the best value you can find for healthy lunches too. At $7.99 a lb you can get a lot of quality meat. Personally, I’d eat a smaller amount of veggies and eat more at a later meal. The pre-prepared foods add excellent variety and convenience. This is like the Wal-Mart of organic in terms of convenience, and typically this is where I would do most of my organic shopping after a Costco trip.
3) Trader Joes – The reigning “low cost” organic provider disappointed me. I’ve been hearing people tout for years about how they’re much cheaper than Whole Foods and I didn’t find that to be the case on meat. The grass fed beef was $5.99 a lb, the free range chicken was the same price ($5.99 a lb) but they had a much smaller selection. I would agree that their produce is more inexpensive than Whole Foods, but in my opinion not enough to make a second trip. A few of the items that I did see with a lower sticker price was due to inferior quality such as grain fed beef. Overall, they have some good stuff, but in my book Trader Joes is a little over rated.
4) Costco – I highly advise going here first because you can save a lot of money stocking up where you can here. They don’t have grass fed beef, but they have hormone free chicken, free range eggs and a ton of organic veggies.
So at the end of the day I collected my receipts and did the math. If I have to eat 20 lbs (250 g of protein a day, not including the 50 g worth of protein shakes) of meat per week, at an average of $8 a lb (bison – $10, beef $6, chicken $6, salmon/fish – $8), I’d be looking at $640 a month in meat alone! Since that’s not very sustainable, I went back to the basics and contacted a local farmer named Larry Hammer to inquire about buying whole cows of grass fed beef. I was very happy with Larry and his prices. I informed him I will be purchasing half a cow from him when they are ready around June 1st. I strongly encourage you to do the same. Here is the pertinent information about his cows:
- They are grass finished, meaning they never TOUCH grain, even the last couple weeks they at the butcher shop/
- He requires a $400 deposit down, and sells in half steer increments. The average total cost is around a grand.
- Steers range in weight from 900 to 1400 lbs hanging weight. After they are butchered they lose about 25% of their weight.
- When its all said and done, you pay around $3.33 per lb. Compared to $6-25 at Whole foods that’s a pretty good savings! Hell 90% lean beef at Wal-Mart is more expensive! The only burden is fronting the money.
- You will get plenty of steaks, ribs, and quality meat, but I recommend having the butcher do most if not all of the roast into ground beef. If not you will just waste it! When I got my first cow last year I was amazed at how much roast there was. It was around 40% of the total cow. I’m all about the slow cooker, but ground beef is so much more versatile. Remember that you have complete control over how the butcher arranges your cuts.
- You can go to the farm and see how they are raised. Think about that movie Food Inc…
- He said that he has a network of 2 other farmers so he usually gets orders filled within 90 days year round, but the May/June or fall time is typically the best time to purchase your steers.
- If the $1000 is a little strong, or you don’t have a deep freeze big enough to handle it, you can go in half or smaller increments with people and split it up evenly. This is excellent for the first time buyers so they learn what they are getting into.
- You can get deep freezers on craigslist for cheap, or do what I did. I shopped around and found one with a ding on it for a 30% off discount. They last a long time and are well worth the money. I would recommend getting the biggest one you can fit in your basement Mines a 20 gallon, which is on the larger side.
- Contact Larry Hammer at: (314) 838-5848. His farm is in Florissant, MO.
Since this posting, I have been recommended to localharvest.org, a solid web-site that refers you local farmers markets in your area. Also, Sappington Farmers market on Watson in Crestwood had an excellent selection of natural Pork, organic veggies and high quality food from local farmers.
In “Episode 10: When To Buy Organic”, we’ll learn when its worth it to spend the extra money on organic and when you can save a few dollars by not buying natural or non-organic products.