Cow pooling thoughts

The Gainesville Cow Pool group is taking off quite well, I am thrilled to say. We have 23 members, one producer who’s already sold a pig through the list and is about the slaughter another, and a 400lb cow pool pick up next week. I was emailing with a prospective member and thought it’d be helpful to post it here as an intro.

The cow pool is a legal way for people to opt out of the industrial meat system. We source the animals ourselves (by reaching out to farmers and ranchers) and then coordinate the butchering ourselves through small local custom butchers. By paying for the animal and the butchering as two separate transactions we are able to sidestep current laws against farmers and butchers selling non-USDA-inspected meat.

Each cow pool coordinator has his or her own system. I do not do all of the coordination for the Gainesville Cow Pool group but I do most of it. Here’s my system:

  • I find the animal and negotiate the price
  • I find the butcher and get the price, cut instructions, etc.
  • When the animal has been butchered, I go and pick up the meat
  • I front the money for the butcher and the farmer
  • The meat is already portioned into 25# shares
  • I bring the meat back to my house
  • Everyone comes to my house the same day as I pick it up and pays me for their shares

There are no deposits paid ahead of time, that’s too difficult to manage. It does mean that if you sign up for a share you must without fail pick it up because your share has already been paid to the farmer/butcher. Each member of the pool either picks up their share or they get someone else to pick it up.

Gainesville Cow Pool is specifically aimed at middle and lower income families. I try my best to keep all prices for beef and pork under $5 per pound for cow pools. This means in your 25# share you will get half ground meat and half steaks and roasts. No one gets to choose what cuts they get. The butcher divides out the cuts as evenly as possible. I place much more emphasis on “free range” than I do “organic” but I do try to find farms that offer both, like the farm we are getting our current cow from.

Everyone in the pool is encouraged to find new sources and coordinate their own cow pools. The mailing list is for anyone interested and is a common information-sharing group to find people to participate.

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