Have you ever purchased a meat subscription box?
We’ve had several new customers come to us after trying meat subscription boxes, and they asked that we compare buying a cow versus a meat subscription service that’s delivered to your door.
Why compare the two, we asked? They’re completely different options. However, since they asked, we thought we’d give it a try.
Our conclusion (spoiler alert!) is that the two are really apples to oranges. We think buying a cow wins the comparison, but we’re very biased. That shouldn’t surprise you!
In this post, we specifically compared three areas: cost, convenience and knowing your farmer/quality.
Here’s how we think the two stack up when compared to each other.
Cost: Will I really save money buying a cow vs a meat subscription service?
There’s a big financial savings on beef when you buy a cow.
At Clover Meadows Beef, you get a quarter beef for about $7.00 per pound (a quarter beef is $775 and we guarantee a minimum of 110 lbs of beef, but our average is usually around 130 lbs of beef). A quarter beef includes 50 pounds of ground beef, and the remaining 60 pounds of meat is in filet steaks, ribeye steaks, strip steaks, sirloin steaks, brisket, roasts, stew meat, ribs, soup bones, and more.
We know that $7.00 per pound for grass fed ground beef may not seem like much savings. However, the key to remember is that when buying a cow, you don’t differentiate between the cuts of beef. For example, you get grass fed ground beef for $7.00 per pound AND all other cuts for $7.00 per pound.
That means you’re getting a ribeye steak for $7.00 per pound, which is usually $16.00 – $20.00 per pound at the grocery store. That’s a savings of $9.00 – $13.00 per pound, just for one ribeye steak. Now, multiply that savings for all other cuts like filet, strip steak, sirloin, filet, brisket, roast, etc. The savings really start to add up!
Most meat subscription services offer a beef box that includes 8-10 pounds of beef for about $125.00 per month, which is $13.00 per pound of beef. Depending on the cuts of beef in the box that month, it may or may not be a good deal.
For example, spending $13.00 per pound on ground beef is much more than a grocery store. However, it’s a good deal if the box only has ribeye steaks in it…unfortunately, we’ve never heard of a box that’s only filled with premium steaks!
Convenience: Is buying a cow more convenient than a meat subscription service?
Let’s talk convenience. Everyone has their own definition of convenience. For us, we define convenience as being able to do something with little effort. In the case of beef, that means we want to 1) avoid multiple trips to a grocery store and 2) have the right cut of beef on hand to make dinner.
Yes, we totally agree that having things delivered to your door instead of going to the store is incredibly convenient. We can’t imagine life without 2-day delivery.
Avoid multiple trips to a grocery store
But, buying a cow isn’t like a weekly grocery store run. Typically, our customers order from us once or twice a year. That means there’s only one time they pick-up beef for the whole year, or we deliver it to their door.
Once the beef is delivered, it’s in their home freezer until they run out. We think walking to your own freezer for beef is much more convenient than waiting on a beef box to arrive in the mail. Do you agree?
Have the right cut of beef on hand to make dinner
The second part of convenience is having the necessary cuts of beef on hand to make whatever you want to make.
When you buy a cow, you have so many options on what to make. Do you want to have a quick and easy taco night? Great, you have lots of ground beef available. Do you want to make a fancy steak dinner? Awesome, you have lots of steak cuts to choose from too.
With a meat subscription service, whatever you decide to make is based upon what’s in the box. That could be great on some nights. However, if you need a quick dinner and you’re out of ground beef, what are you going to do?
Quality Beef & Knowing Where Your Food Comes From
When buying a cow, you know where your food comes from and you get quality beef.
Do you know where your food comes from? Many people don’t. That’s so sad to us.
The food you eat affects your health. If you know where your food was grown or raised, you can make more informed decisions to maximize quality, freshness and nutritional value.
When you buy a cow from a farmer, you will get to know the farmer. Maybe it’s through personal conversations or just their social media pages, but you’ll get to know them.
You can ask questions about how they raise grass fed beef and you can choose a farmer that aligns with your values. For example, we feel strongly about all of our cattle being pasture-raised so that they’re enjoying the sunshine and green grass. That may or may not be important to you.
In addition, when you buy a cow you’re supporting your local economy. For example, when you buy from our farm, you support us and about 20 other local entities like our veterinarian and animal nutritionist, the farm store where we buy fencing and other farm supplies, the beef processor that processes and packages the beef, local government (via our county and state taxes), and many more.
With a meat subscription service, you don’t get the opportunity to know your farmer. You don’t know where their beef comes from or how it was raised. And most likely, the subscription service isn’t in your hometown, so you’re not supporting your local economy.
As you can tell, we’re really biased about buying a cow from a local farmer. That’s not surprising.
When we tally up the scores above, buying a cow comes out ahead in all categories.
So, that brings us to the question of who should consider purchasing a meat subscription service.
Who should consider meat subscription delivery service?
We think they’re great for those that don’t have access to local, farm-fresh food. Or, those that don’t have the ability or desire to store large quantities of beef.
Is that you? Many people have access and they’re just not aware of it.
If you want to purchase farm-fresh beef (or anything else that’s farm-fresh), we recommend visiting your local farmers market. You’ll likely find several beef farmers there, and you can talk to them and try a few steaks and ground beef before you purchase from them in bulk.
If that doesn’t work, contact your local Extension office or USDA office and ask for a recommendation of a local farmer that sells beef directly. If you’ve never heard of these offices before, do an online search for the closest one to you. You’ll quickly see that these offices often partner with local universities and they offer lots of free information on a variety of topics — like buying a cow, planting a garden, running small business, and so much more.
If all else fails, there’s always internet searches. There are also some sites that aggregate local farmers, like EatWild or Local Harvest. These sites can be great, but keep in mind that farmers have to pay to be part of these sites. Therefore, the lists aren’t all-inclusive.
One more thing!
Do you want to learn more about beef? Below are a few popular beef posts and recipes you may like. In addition, we have an entire ebook about beef that goes through purchasing and preparing beef from a farmers perspective.
- Buying a Cow. How Much Beef Is It?
- Is It Done Yet? Why Every Kitchen Needs a Digital Meat Thermometer and the Best One
We have a weekly e-newsletter where we share about farm happenings, when our next beef availability is, and all things beef. When you do, you’ll get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer.