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Cow-Pooling: great for consumers, but what about the farmers?

Cow-Pooling – the practice of getting neighbors, family and friends together to buy meat in bulk to reduce costs and make use of the entire animal-was recently featured in Time Magazine. Time illustrates a $10-$12/lb price difference when comparing the price of cow pooled strip steak to the price of strip steak sold at Whole Foods.

Cow-pooling is being promoted as an excellent way for consumers to make purchasing high welfare, pasture raised meats affordable, but do the farmers benefit from this practice? On Twitter, weblogofweeds asked us this question and we posed it to Animal Welfare Approved farmers, Dr. Patricia Whisnant, of American Grassfed Beef and President of the American Grassfed Association, and Will Harris of White Oak Pasture’s Grassfed Beef.

Dr. Whisnant said, “Cow pooling is a great way for the farmer to sell a whole carcass and [for] the consumer to benefit from volume purchasing. It is the cheapest way that you can purchase our beef. I also appreciate what it does for word of mouth advertising.” Patricia also appreciates the experience her customers have when they purchase beef this way. She said, “They leave with more than the beef – they take home to their family and friends the story of how this beef is raised differently. Honestly, I think it makes it taste even better to them.”

Will Harris agreed, “Moving sides is my preferred way of selling our beef. It removes the burden of inventory management from my shoulders. We make a large sale, and there are no residual cuts that we have to deal with. Because it is the most cost effective way of purchasing beef, it allows people on a budget to buy our beef.”

However, while cow-pooling is beneficial to both consumers and farmers, the concept of using the whole animal is still very new and probably a little scary to many consumers. Harris said, “We sell several sides of beef every month, but my experience is that this sort of beef purchase suits only a narrow segment of the market; not every consumer knows what to do with liver, shanks, tongue, and other less mainstream cuts.”

To help customers with this dilemma, Patricia and Mark Whisnant provide their American Grassfed beef customers with a booklet of recipes and instructions for how to work with these less familiar cuts.

For more information about the Whisnant’s farm visit http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/, and for more on Will Harris” farm visit http://www.whiteoakpastures.com/.

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