- Dakota Black Popcorn— Our first year giving out popcorn to the CSA! See this week’s newsletter for directions on how to make stove top popcorn.
- Bunched Rapini
- Yellow Cipollini and Red Onions
- Red Beets
- Carnival Winter Squash
- Celery Root
- Salad Mix— Mix of beet greens, escarole, spinach, baby kale, Brussels Sprout greens and rapini.
This week is the last article in our meat series. Today we will be talking about meat CSAs.
As we talked about earlier, it is illegal to sell meat by the cut or by the pound unless it is processed in a USDA inspected facility. This option can be prohibitively expensive for a small-scale producer, however, many small farms are able to find a market for their meat even after the added cost of using such a facility.
When talking about meat CSAs, therefore, farms organize their memberships in many different ways. The way that the CSA is organized is based on factors such as scale of operation, farmer and customer preference, proximity and pricing of processing facilities, type of animals being slaughtered, etc. I will outline some of the general ways in which these sorts of programs play out based on how the meat is processed.
Inspected Meat CSA
The advantage of buying meat that is processed in an inspected facility is flexibility (in the legal sense). Not only can you buy your meat by the lb. or in cuts, versus portions of animals, there is no limitation on how your meat is delivered. Farms will often deliver to a convenient off-farm location for you to pick up on a regular basis. Some will even deliver right to your door (though this is rare).
For a meat CSA, inspected processing translates to the option of the farmer selling and distributing small quantities of meat on a more frequent (weekly or monthly, generally) basis. For you, the member, this means that you don’t have to buy a freezer with the capacity to hold months worth of meat—although you may be paying the farmer to store it for you. Depending on the operation, this could translate to fresher meat.
If your CSA processes it’s meat in a non-inspected facility, there are limitations to how they can sell it. By law they can only sell their animals in portions (not by the lb. or in cuts), which means that you will be purchasing a relatively large quantity of meat at a time, and need to have a freezer in which to store it. These types of CSAs function differently than your weekly produce pick-up as deliveries are usually monthly or seasonally.
“The Grey Area” and On-Farm Processing
Some farms take advantage of “the grey area” around the USDA’s meat processing laws with regard to CSA programs. In a CSA program, members don’t pay for food on a per-item basis, but instead pay for a service which provides them a portion of whatever food is produced. The laws regarding meat processing do not explicitly address this type of sale, and so much is left to interpretation.
There are a number of exemptions for on-farm slaughter. A farmer is allowed to slaughter any animals (of his own raising) for his own consumption. In Oregon, there is an exemption for the direct sale of up to 1,000 poultry birds that are slaughtered on-farm in a non-licensed facility.
Many meat CSAs will take advantage of these exemptions and will process their own poultry. The on-farm processing and sale of non-poultry animals is legally risky even under the CSA model and is therefore much less common.
There are many meat CSAs in the Willamette Valley, and if you look closely enough you will probably find one in your area (although there seem to be fewer that sell to Salem). Be aware though, they fill up quickly each season as the demand is high. You may have to wait for an opening. Regardless, CSAs are a great way to know and support your local meat producer while guaranteeing yourself some very high quality meat.
We hope you have enjoyed this series of articles on meat production. Enjoy this week’s sdshare.