The Best Kept Secret in Buying Local Meat?

They want to know who produced it, how it was raised and that their money stays in the community.

If that sounds like you, the livestock auction barn at your local fair may be your ideal shopping destination this summer. You can chat with the young farmers, scope out the animals and see the impact of your purchasing power. On top of that, it’s a whole lot of fun.

How it works
Youth who raise animals as 4-H or FFA projects bring them to their local fairs to be judged. Some classes of animals will return to the farm, but market animals are sold for meat. While the prices are determined by the bidders, there are often plenty of high-quality animals that can be purchased at reasonable costs. And because it’s your animal, you can have the meat cut and seasoned to your specifications.

Here are three simple steps you can take toward filling your freezer with local meat:

  1. Contact your fair board or county Extension office ahead of time and ask how your particular sale works. Ask how much you might expect to pay for the type of animal you are interested in. Check on arrangements that need to be made for transportation and processing. Many fairs have a system in place to handle these logistics, just be sure you know what they are.
  2. Find out how the bidding process will work. This can vary from fair to fair.
  3. On the sale day, arrive a little early to register, meet the exhibitors, learn about their animals and get a good seat.

If you don’t have room in your freezer for all of the meat, consider going in on the purchase with friends or donating some to a local food pantry (Ask for options—some meat lockers even rent freezer space for a small fee).

In any case, you’ll learn that your money paid for good work, you’ll meet the people behind your food and you’ll provide a young farmer with invaluable experience.