"There is no doubt that 100% whole animal butchery is difficult. It can be more expensive to buy whole animals, it's a lot more work, and you have to educate customers on what to do with all of the unique and unfamiliar cuts."
'Whole animal' or 'whole beast' butchering refers to using the entire animal, a practice that was once commonplace everywhere. The mass production of meat post-World War II saw its emergence as a cheap commodity, which meant many butchers slowly began trading in the labour-intensive craft of breaking down whole carcasses with the convenience of outsourced boxes of pre-cut meat purchased from factories instead of farms. And who could blame them? It is a business structure that is less risky, as a butcher can purchase large quantities of the most popular cuts of meat and simply change them according to seasonal demands. Instead of worrying about selling braising steaks in the height of summer, they can simply unpack a box of sirloins and patties ready for barbecue season.
There is no doubt that 100% whole animal butchery is difficult. It can be more expensive to buy whole animals, it's a lot more work, and you have to educate customers on what to do with all of the unique and unfamiliar cuts. You're also left with a lot of off-cuts and bits at the end that you need to either turn into another product like sausages or pay to dispose of. However, as consumers become more conscious of what they eat, begin asking where their food comes from and learning how best to minimise food waste, it is steadily gaining popularity again. Artisan craft butchers are making a resurgence, and we are proud to be joining the movement.
At Lúnasa Farm, we have made the conscious decision to run a nose-to-tail operation and sell all of our pasture-raised pork and grass-fed and finished beef in boxes. The benefits are multi-fold and here are a few of the reasons why we have chosen this business model:
- Zero food waste: Using every single part of the animal minimises food waste, which is important for creating a sustainable food system.
- Traceability & connection: Meat boxes provide you with full traceability of the product so that you know exactly where and what animal your eating came from. So small is our operation that we can tell you the name of the heifer you're eating and show you photos or videos of her happily grazing our pastures, if you wish. Building a connection with where your food comes from and how it was raised is deeply satisfying.
- Economical: Buying meat in bulk is the most economical way to purchase meat. The price per kilo is equally distributed across all of the cuts, so while €14.50/kg for grass-fed beef mince may seem expensive, €14.50/kg for premium steaks is considered cheap.
- Respect: Utilising every part of the animal is the most ethical form of meat consumption. We feel a duty and responsibility to not only provide our animals with the best life possible, but to honour them by ensuring that no part of them goes to waste. It is the ultimate sign of respect to the animal whose life was given up to feed us. You don't have to look back very far to see how sacred animals were to our ancestors.
- Low food miles: Purchasing meat boxes direct from a local farm equates to fewer food miles. Not only does it not have to travel far, it also means fewer trips to the butcher shop or supermarket. This is true for all types of produce.
- Food security: If there is one thing we can learn from the chaos surrounding the empty supermarket shelves and food rationing during the recent global pandemic, it's that you should always keep a well stocked kitchen.
- Nutrition and flavour: Many of the less desirable cuts that are included in our meat boxes are the tastiest and most nutrient dense cuts. Tough muscles and collagen rich joints that require slow cooking are both delicious and very simple to cook.
- Cooking skills: Receiving cuts of meat that you wouldn't usually purchase encourages you to be adventurous in the kitchen. It's also a fun excuse to invite your friends over for a feast and to share your new culinary skills. Don't worry - we will be there with you every step of the way, providing recipes, cooking tips and advice if you ever need it!
- Support: By purchasing our meat boxes you are supporting our small family farm. Instead of having to sell hundreds of individual cuts of meat (thousands over the course of a year), we only need a few dozen repeat customers to purchase our meat boxes. Small farms are the backbone of rural communities and need as much support as possible to keep local economies thriving.