Wednesday, January 11, 2012

From our Farm Your Face

Yesterday, was a big meat day here on South Pork Ranch. Three animals left the farm (via the livestock trailer on its way to the Eureka locker) while three returned to the farm via several coolers and assorted cardboard boxes.

Before November 2010, all our meat would go into two freezers in our basement where folks could purchase it through a freindly knock on the back door, but I always imagined 80 year old aunt Rosalinda tumbling down the back steps, so we opened our farm store. It also became inconvenient to crawl out of my evening bath in order to retrieve one pound of liver for a hungry customer.

Now, our meat (after being USDA inspected, labeled and vacuum packed) is sold out of two bartered upright freezers in our little farm store. Considering that meat travels over 1500 miles in the US before it gets to the consumers table we are happy that ours travels only 1/10 that distance. The Eureka locker, the only certified organic locker in Illinois, where we picked up over 1000 pounds of meat yesterday, is just 60 miles from our farm.

So, it goes from us, to them, to us and then to our customers. Farm to Face as we like to say. A really good system, except for the part where we have to put all the meat away in our store.

Frozen meat is how shall I put it?....Cold, yes that's the word I was looking for. It is COLD. It is times like these that we regret allowing our four children the option to grow up and move away. The days of young healthy, free labor were good days indeed.

 Meat from our last pickup being stored in the machine shed freezers, is relocated to farm store via the high tech kids wagon. Empty spots are filled. Meat in coolers in the back of the pick up are unloaded and complete the empty shelf filling. Once the freezers are filled, any leftover meat from yesterdays pickup goes in the machine shed freezers.

All meat is hand marked with a lot number so we can track each animal to its own package of burger or bacon. Some of our meat is pre-weighed but some like our beef jerky is not so I had to weigh them and write the lot number on them. Yes, I did try a stamp, but the packages are cold and not flat so writing the lot number by hand works much better. Maybe instead of all the free advice you could show up on meat day and help put some of this stuff away. Hmmmmm?

Meat must  be rearranged in the freezer into some sort of order. The method is complex. Beef on the left, pork on the right.

This is the PORK freezer. On a good day it
will mostly contain PORK
I once tried labeling each shelf with the meat located there but labels get moved or fall off so instead I try to put the meat back in the same area like I did the time before, but then I go and order an entire 1/4 cow made into beef jerky. That is over 100 pounds of jerky or approx. 200 packages of jerky which I forgot to plan for.

So meat is readjusted. And readjusted again. Keith is busy doing chores late since he had to leave early for the locker run. I'm just telling you that so you understand why I am doing all the meat adjusting. Someone has to milk and it ain't me.

Finally all 1000 pounds of meat is put away. We decide this would be a great time to sit down in the kitchen and get caught up with each other over pot of coffee number two. I've been up since 0330 and Keith has been up since shortly after that.

And who do you think shows up at that exact moment? Well the Illinois Department of Agriculture's meat inspector that is who. Seems its time for our annual inspection.

No problem, we give him a fresh cup of coffee and a few beef sticks to chew on while he finishes his paperwork at our kitchen table. Funny how he didn't show up until AFTER all the meat was put away



  1. Frozen meat IS cold, also lumpy and hard to stack without it all sliding off the stack and out the door and on to your feet. We are in the market for a small upright if we can find one...and to find some organic meat.

  2. Ugh, I HATE putting away frozen meat....and we only get a whole hog & half a steer! If I weren't so darned far away, I'd be there (with mittens on) to help long as you promised me a stick-o-jerky as payment! :)

  3. What Carolyn said...ditto. That's what friends are for - even if it does involve mittens and subzero temps. Lucky meat inspector. I wonder if others are kind enough to offer him coffee and a yummy snack.

  4. I hope the people in your area appreciate the advantage they have of getting organic, farm fresh meat that only traveled a short distance. So cool! Or should I say cold har har har.

  5. Well, Donna, you could always become least you wouldn't have to wrassle with the crazy meat inspectors. Then again, where would all the fun be?

  6. I live fairly far from you but the next time I am planning on getting close, I will swing by!

  7. Yes, where are all the people who love to make comments about you being your own boss during moments like this???? I hope they see that being your own boss means doing all the work fill-in for a "luxurious" sick day where you can really just be sick and no responsibility-free vacation day because there is SOMETHING that you must do with the animals every day. I admire all the work you guys do on the farm. I hope your frozen hands have thawed! Looks like you have a great system that works perfect for your farm store. I sure wish I lived closer; I'd be a customer!

  8. MBJ. For all the reasons you just mentioned...I love stacking the "chubbies" best. The long tubes of ground beef. Neat and pretty.

    Carolyn and Camille. If you showed up to help you would get more than just jerky. You'd get a porterhouse steak for sure!

    Karen, you know how folks in the midwest are, suspicious of anything "new". The majority of our customers still come from Chicago but each month more locals are trickling in. 50 years ago these fields were covered with dairy and beef productions. Now it is all corn, soybeans and confinemnet hogs but slowly the tide is shifting again.

    Zan, you are so right. Produce laws are minimal as long as the veggies are not "processed" . But give the USDA time, soon their ridiculous laws will affect the celery farmers as well.

    Julia, would love to meet you! We'll have lots of baby animals to see my March, Be sure to tell me you are a blog fan , it might get you a little free something

    Lana, yeah we are always amused by the folks who are rarely outside but always have comments about how we should farm. We have become experts at smiling and nodding.
    PS I love your generator potty. What a kick that must be to use. Vroooom!

  9. Oh I didn't even think of the cold!!! Ouch!! But reading about all that jerky has made me STARVING. I too hope your community starts to appreciate what an asset they have, I would love to be able to buy local, organic, grassfed meat, but as far as I can tell, we don't have quite that option. Yet. Hopefully this year we'll be our own organic, grassfed meat option :)

  10. I'm think of becoming a meat inspector, if only to be offered strips of Jerky!