Monday, February 21, 2011

A Meat Manifesto (Care of HoCoVittles) And Questions About Wagon Wheel Ranch

If you're the type of person who wants to eat local, then you have to love Twitter and HocoVittles -- who joined a recent Twitter conversation on the subject with a link to a 44-page pamphlet about Maryland meat producers.

The University of Maryland publishes the listing, which provides an animal-by-animal breakdown of farms.  You get a few words about their methods and then contact information.  The local joints include lamb, beef, pork, and more at Smallsville in Clarksville, Clark's Never Sell The Land Farm in Ellicott City and Woodcamp Farm and Wagon Wheel Ranch in Mt. Airy.

Does anyone know the Wagon Wheel Ranch?  It is listed as selling all kinds of meat.  The Web site suggests that you place an order in the spring, then wait until they raise and butcher the animal.  Anyone done this?

(Update: Check out the comments, including a link to Eat Wild that includes more information.)


Kat said...

We've been getting meat at Wagon Wheel Ranch for the past couple of years. We split half a cow with another couple (you tell them how you want it butchered, preferred thickness of steaks, etc). When you place the order, they give you an approximate time when it will be ready; when they tell you to c come by, you go pick it up. Our half-cow came to six copy-paper size boxes of meat, all shrink-wrapped and labeled for our convenience; after doing the math, we figured we'd paid about $5.50 per pound: a bit pricy for ground beef, but not bad for cuts like filet and NY strip, and of course it's all grass-fed and local.

We've also bought a lamb, half a pig, and another half a cow from them since then - all great meat, very tasty, no complaints. Just make sure you have enough freezer space when you order.

Marcia said...

Not Wagon Wheel, but we've been getting beef from Nick's Organic Farm in Potomac for a number of years. When I first went looking it wasn't as easy to find the different meat producers as it is now. I wanted to buy beef that has not been fed grain mixed with animal by-products, which I believe is how many human health problems get started. Nick's beef fits the bill perfectly.

I pick mine up in Buckeystown, not at his Potomac farm. The flavor is like the beef my uncle used to raise. We have never been disappointed.

If you can possibly swing it with your budget, I highly recommend buying your meat from a local producer. Not just for the environment, but I believe you will have "cleaner" meat that is better quality than the mass produced stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anyone out there get any of the meat offerings from South Mountain Creamery delivery service?

Sarah said...

We've gotten some of the meat through South Mountain Creamery and have been happy with it.

We'll be getting a quarter cow in the spring from a friend's farm hopefully.

Sarah said...

Oh, and another resource for this can be found here:

A little more detail on some of these places; not sure how they match up with UMD's info.

HowChow said...

@Kay (or anybody) What do you do with a half-cow or a half-pig? I'm wondering where I would store that. I also wonder how I would want it butchered. I don't really know meat that well. I think I'd also need to learn to cook roasts or cuts that I just don't eat now. And I guess you have a special freezer for copy-paper boxes of meat?

I'd be open to a guest post for anyone with some photos and advice to share!

Penny said...

We buy from Wagon Wheel Ranch. I have nothing but positive things to say about them. The meat is delicious, great quality. We do not buy half a cow, we get a "Tastes of the Farm" box -- I believe it's about 30 lbs of meat or so, mixed variety. You can pick your variety; we get beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. This option doesn't appear on the website, but it IS on the order form.

The owner goes to great lengths to respect both customers and animals. Long story on that, but I can't say enough about Wagon Wheel Ranch. Also, when the meat's ready, they give you multiple options for pick-up dates, and are flexible regarding your time.

30 lbs of meat is a good amount to get if you have a small freezer, as we do. We live in an apartment, and have only the space the cheap fridge that comes with the apartment provides. And we have plenty to fit in that freezer besides meat (the kitchen aid ice cream maker bowl, for example). 30 lbs is just the right size for us.

Marcia said...

You can get a small chest freezer for a reasonable price. If you want to eat local, and take advantage of farmer's markets in season, the freezer will be useful for so much more than storing meat. We bought one when we were in a townhouse and put corn, tomatoes, green beans, etc as well as meat in there. Come February all that stuff tasted pretty darn good !!

HowChow - you can still eat carefully and use larger pieces of meat. You won't eat them every day, maybe cook one a month or so.
You know grass fed beef is fairly lean.

P90 Noir said...

I've been considering one of the "Taste of the Farm" boxes from Wagon Wheel. We have a small chest freezer but I'm still a little nervous about having enough space. Last year we had some great steaks, roasts, and burgers from Woodcamp. We also had great chicken, burgers, and sausage from Breezy Willow.

Kat said...

We actually have a stand-up freezer so can stock more meat than most (but I live in fear of losing power). Also, we actually only end up with a quarter of a cow/pig because we split the purchase with another couple (I know they have a chest freezer for extra storage). I'd estimate that a quarter of a cow would pretty much fill up the freezer part of a refrigerator/freezer.

We don't tell them exactly how to butcher it, but they do ask us our preferred thickness for steaks (1") and whether or not we want organs (yes!).

As for learning to cook with different cuts, the answer is generally as easy as doing a quick search online. :) The Cook's Illustrated New Best Recipe cookbook does a pretty good job with different cuts too.

If you do end up buying from Wagon Wheel, good luck -- I've had nothing but good experiences with them.

Jenn said...

We did the 30lb. Taste of the Farm sample box for the first time this past year, and have nothing but nice things to say about the experience. You can choose from a variety of offerings depending on what type of meat you prefer. The owner has always been very enthusiastic, encouraging us to email him with what particular cuts of meat in our box we liked in order to "tailor" our next box. Our kids enjoy visiting the farm on pick up days, watching the peeps and baby sheep. If you're lucky, you can get there when they have eggs available. We're debating about increasing to the 50lb. box this year and possibly also getting a half pig. We like that we know exactly where our meat comes from and that it was raised in an environmentally and animal friendly way.

Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

I sent an email to Brian at WWR wondering how and if they sold just the cow, lamb and chicken organs. I was mostly interested in cow hearts, stomach, kidneys, intestines, tongue and whole heads minus Brain. Chicken Gizzards, livers and hearts and Lamb stomach, heart and kidneys and the whole head. So if you are interested into Offal or Head-to-tail cooking here is his response:

"Yes, you can buy all of what you listed. Cow heads or also lamb,goat,pig heads.

We process chickens at the farm so we have lots of gizzards,livers

We also allow people to process goats and lambs they buy from us at the farm and throw away lots of heads. If you want the stomach I have a guy that will clean them for 5 dollars for you or you can come and clean them yourself.

The organs from cows are 2.50 per pound. If the organs from lambs come from lambs we take to the butcher they are also 2.50 per pound,if its from animals slaughtered at the farm it just be the cost of a guy to clean and save them for you. For the chickens,if its only livers its 2.50 but if you take the livers and gizzards it would be 2.00 per pound (thats a lot of livers and gizzards)"

HowChow said...

I am fascinated by how this works. I'd love to hear what you got in a 30-pound box, maybe how you stored it and how you cooked it too. (And doubly fascinated by a "quarter cow" or such.)

If anyone has some photos and wants to write a guest post, send me an email. I'd love advice for people who are thinking about doing this.

HowChow said...

@Brandon -- If you ever go buy a bunch of organs, I'd love a tasteful photo and a guest-post description of why and what you did with them. A bridge too far for me, but very interesting.

P90 Noir said...

There's an article in the Post food section today that adds to this discussion.

BeerGuy said...

I see what you did there.

Meat ____ manifesto.

Jessie Newburn said...

Buckland Farm. Heritage pigs that root around in their wooded piggeries, get belly rubs and lots of love, and are able to live piggerific lives ... that's where I'm getting my pork this year. Looking to go in with a person, family/group/others to co-purchase a pig. Added benefit? We can visit the farm and meet the pigs.

Carrie Megginson -- for those of you back-in-the-day Oakland Mills High folks -- is the lady farmer of Buckland Farm in Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

I buy fresh eggs, chickens, and beef from England Acres (about 10 minutes east of Frederick on Rte 70). The farm sounds similar to Wagon Wheel. I appreciate being able to walk around the farm and see for myself how the animals are being treated. The beef is pasture-fed (grass!).

I started with a 30-pound variety box and have moved up to a chest freezer for a half-cow. It's well worth the price and cheaper than Wagon Wheel. I also invested in a crockpot and find it's very, very easy to cook for a week just on Sundays; toss a roast or a chicken in the crockpot with salt and pepper, and not have to cook for days.