1. What kinds of animals are available through Cow Pool Gainesville?
So far we have done cow, farm raised pig, wild hog, water buffalo, goat, deer, and turkey. We’re hoping to do lamb this year.
2. How do you find the animals? Where do they come from?
Each coordinator finds the animals, usually through friends of friends, talking to people at the farmer’s market, or through postings on places like Local Harvest. I like to go out and meet the farmer, see the animals and how they’re raised, but not all coordinators do this.
My criteria for choosing farms to buy animals for the Cow Pool:
Local- the farm must be within an hour’s drive of Gainesville
Free-range/grass-fed- All of our beef is 100% grass-fed. Right now our cows come from GreenWay Farm in Alachua. You can read about GreenWay Farm here. Pigs are kept on pasture, not concrete, or they’re wild. All other animals must be free-range and pastured.
Usually not “organic”- None of the farms we currently source animals from are certified organic. They all use as few chemicals as possible and have diversified farms using many sustainable practices.
3. How does the pool work?
This is how I run the pool when I am acting as coordinator. Other coordinators may do it another way.
I post to the cowpool Gainesville yahoo group. You sign up for a share. My husband & I front the $1500-$2000 to pay the butcher and farmer up front, and then we are repaid when everyone picks up their shares. Pickups are at my home in NW Gainesville in the evening (usually on Wednesdays) about 2 weeks after the signup. I leave work, drive to the butcher, sort the meat into milk crates, weigh each milk crate/share, and bring the meat back to my house. Everyone MUST pick up within 1-2 hours. I do not have a deep freeze and the meat thaws quickly.
Pig shares are usually 10# each. They will be half ground and half steaks and roasts. The meat will not be smoked or seasoned. Cuts will come in vacuum-sealed plastic and each cut will be labeled.
Cow shares are 25# each and will be roughly half ground meat and half steaks and roasts. The cow will be dry aged 2 weeks before the meat is cut & packaged. The meat will come in vacuum-sealed plastic and each cut will be labeled.
4. Do I get to choose what cuts I receive?
No. Everyone receives the same weight of meat but the sorting is random. Shareholders are welcome to trade among themselves.
5. Does my share include organ meats?
Sometimes. If you ask for organ meats, soup bones, fat, or other offal when you sign up for a share I will do my best to get them for you.
6. Where is the animal butchered? Is the butcher USDA certified?
Almost all of our butchering is done by Crawford’s Custom Meats in Worthington Springs, north of Lacrosse. Crawford’s is a “custom cut butcher” and is not USDA certified, which means all meat will be labeled “not for sale”. Other coordinators may choose other area butchers.
7. How much does it cost? Are there membership fees?
We do everything possible to keep our shares under $5 per pound. Beef is usually right around $5 per pound, pork is usually less. There are no membership fees.
8. What else does the cow pool group do?
In 2011 we had our first workshop! A group of us drove out to Crawford’s and learned how to butcher a hog and make fresh sausage. I hope we can do more workshops!
9. Do you take SNAP/EBT cards?
No, we do not. I have no way to cash those in. The cow pool isn’t a business, it’s a community cooperative. We don’t have a business license, pay business taxes, anything like that. I don’t take credit cards either. Cash or checks only.
Have more questions? Post your question here as a comment and I will add it to the FAQ.
Ready to sign up? Join the Cow Pool Gainesville yahoo group here.