Buying Directly from a Farmer – Why Do It?

Here at Leaping Lamb Farm, we’re getting ready for the fall processing of the lambs born last spring. As Scottie talks to our customers about putting down their deposits to hold their purchases, it’s gotten me to thinking about why my husband and I choose to buy animal shares directly from farmers.

  • chasingsheep-scaled500x500We like directly supporting small, local farms with our dollars, rather than middle-men and shipping companies.
  • We know the farmers and the conditions in which the animals live.
  • We know what the animals are eating, and that they have room to roam and graze.
  • When buying a whole animal (more about that in a minute), we know that we’re buying one animal, rather than cuts or ground meat coming from several different animals.
  • In our opinion… it just plain tastes better! (Plus, none of those foam trays!)

In the past, we’ve purchased a third of a pig (not enough!), a whole pig, and twice have purchased a quarter of a cow. We’ve also purchased a lamb from Leaping Lamb Farm and will definitely do so again this year.

Wondering about freezer space? That was a big question for me when we started buying shares in animals — how much freezer space did I really need? Depending on the animal you’re buying, you may need a chest freezer. A lamb from Leaping Lamb Farm takes up about two paper grocery sacks, while even a quarter cow and half a pig take up much more room.

USDA?

So, how come at some farms the customer buys a share of a live animal, versus buying cuts of meat in some farm stores or at farmers’ markets? It has to do with whether or not the animals were processed by a USDA-inspected facility. Our lambs are processed at a “custom-exempt” state licensed facility located in Harrisburg. Such facilities are exempt from continuous inspection (they are inspected once or twice a year by the USDA), but may only process livestock for the owner, the owner’s family, and non-paying guests*. This is why farmers will sell you a share of a live animal, making you the owner of that animal. Here at Leaping Lamb Farm, we sell whole lambs, and our customers can make arrangements themselves to split the share, if they wish.

Without getting too much into the politics of it all, there just aren’t enough USDA-inspected facilities in Oregon, and those that exist are extremely busy, and require hauling the animals long distances. Hauling is a stressful occurrence for the animals, which many people believe can affect the flavor of the meat.

*Source: Check out this informative pamphlet from OSU about using custom-exempt facilities in Oregon. It’s written for the farmer, but I’ve found it really useful as a customer to understand the process.

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Pro Pasture

Leaping Lamb Farm is a partner of the Pro Pasture Campaign by Friends of Family Farmers.

The flagship program of  this campaign is Pro Pasture Fridays (PPF). PPF is farmers, ranchers, consumers, food purchasers, retail stores, chefs and restaurateurs joining together to promote agricultural practices that put a high value on family farms, animal welfare, public health, the planet and our local rural economies.

We encourage you to take a look around your area and support your local farmers who are raising pasture-fed animals!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about cuts of lamb, and recipes!

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    […] last post was about the reasons for buying an animal share directly from a farmer. Well, that’s great, but what if you’re not experienced with cooking the various cuts […]

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