EEC Forest Stewardship sells Katahdin sheep for meat. We have a very small operation producing only a few animals for slaughter each year. For those of you wondering how one purchases meat from a small producer like me here in Washington state- you have to buy the animal on the hoof. This means live, and once you own the live animal, we can then strike a deal in which I help you slaughter and butcher the animal. Why can you not just buy the meat after all that? Well, laws prevent anyone from selling meat not first passed through USDA inspection- there are endless reason why this is good legislation, and even with the FDA oversight, poorly handled commercial meat can still slip through- but that’s a topic for another time. Today we are tackling the challenge of small producers getting their meat to the public. It’s about live animals passing from person to person to avoid slaughter house regulations and costly commercial kitchens. If we had a large operation with hundred or even tens of animals to process, we’d be participating in industrial agriculture, and that’s not the mission of EEC. Though we do not have USDA inspection or a certified butchering space, we have you the consumer directly in touch with the animal they will eat, the farmer who grew it, and the clean, sanitary place the butchering will happen. So where do the flowers come in?
When we talk about cost, most people would prefer a bargain. When you look for flowers at Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, you’re going to pay about $25 for a fresh bouquet. When you look at fresh organic lamb chops at the seller in the butcher stall, you’ll see prices around $14/lb. No one bulks at these prices in the market, but when I post a lamb online for sale, at $400 (roughly $14/lb), people think it’s too high. They are willing to pay for the flowers at $25 a pop, but clean meat, from a local small scale farmer is just too much. This blows my mind a bit, until I go online and see “lambs for $75”. I promise you, those lambs are just a few weeks old, in need of bottle feeding, or no more than 20lbs. of live animal. I can also tell you they were most likely born in an industrial agricultural setting, with lots of chemical additives, in poor conditions. But hey, what a deal- and what a mess to deal with!
Our animals are at least 5 months old and weaned when sold, they are born and raised in a small herd on great pasture, with no chemical additives. A live hanging weight of our lambs is at least between 60-80lbs., and you’ll get a nicely wrapped set of cuts that come out to around 25lbs of good lamb. For more information on the breakdown of lamb weight and percentages, The Collie Farm ha written a great article. When you take into account all the variables of EEC lambs, our on the hoof cost is a great deal because we then offer slaughter and butchering services FREE with your purchase of the animal. That’s when the fun starts for you the consumer, because you can customize your cuts. If you want a leg of lamb with bone in, full rib rack, or large shoulder roast, we can accommodate. If you want tiny little steaks and grounds that can be done too. You’re getting a heck of a lot of bang for your buck when you take into consideration all the add-ons in that $400 lamb.
What I think people are missing in the cost of food is how much goes into producing it. This is a huge mission at EEC Forest Stewardship- connecting people to their food, how much goes into growing it, and how great it tastes when you put the time and energy into that production. We are also able to give a higher standard quality of life for these animals, because they are in a small, intimate herd with good rotating pasture feasting, quiet barn home, and good LGD friends to keep them safe. They get head scratchies (if they want them), open pasture with no chemical sprays, natural herd connection, and never a moment on a cement floor. It’s really the best life any domestic food animal can have, and at EEC, a lot of care goes into our animal husbandry practices to ensure a good quality animal at a fair price for you the consumer, and me the farmer.
So next time you reach into your wallet to happily pay that $25 for flowers, think of the lamb you could be buying (about 1 1/2 lb. of meat) and see the big picture. The worth of that meat is at least as much value as the flowers, though I would argue that wildflowers are free, and pasture raised lamb, custom butchered for you by the same person who raised the animal, is priceless. If you live in Western Washington and have interest in purchasing a lamb from Liz at EEC Forest Stewardship, please contact this farmer directly- firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even split the animal with a friend, or get a group together and split the cuts as you wish. A quarter animal can go a long way in a family freezer through the winter. Note that supplies is limited, and we slaughter in October, so expect your meat then. We can deliver, but prefer- and strongly encourage you to come to the farm to see the operation and meet the farmer on site where the animals are born and raised. We can even offer an opportunity to learn about animal processing so you get some hands on experience butchering your own food.