Meat Subscription Boxes

(Photo courtesy of ButcherBox)

After spending most of the year cooking and trying out new foods, I found that social media seemed to pin me down as a foodie.

As such, I experienced a flood of targeted advertising about gourmet food that would be shipped to my door. Examples of products included frozen salmon, mushrooms (yes, really), grocery store rejected vegetables, jerky, and last but certainly not least — frozen meat packages.

Sending meat through the mail was a little strange to me, but during COVID I could see the interest in having things shipped to one’s door. Indeed, these services have been seeing increased use during the pandemic. While people may choose these meat subscription boxes for convenience, it is important to note that companies also make bold claims about the product. Before you purchase a plan, make sure you do your due diligence — especially if buying locally/regionally is important to you.

Some businesses were transparent about where they get their meat, and it should take one or two clicks on their website to get that information. While I found a lot of United States-based ranches that supplied directly to subscription box companies, one of the largest ones, ButcherBox, gets their grass-fed beef mostly from Australia. If that surprises you, know that the United States imported approximately 1.7 million metric tons of meat so far in 2020. Australia sent about 286,000 metric tons, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Not all businesses I researched were so transparent about their supply chain. A company being evasive about how they procure their product should be a red flag for consumers. One website touting its local sourced meat gave incredibly vague details about the farm they partner with. Only describing it as “a ranch three hours from Chicago.” Great! I suppose that narrows it down to just six states then. In other cases, there may have been a farm name given with a fancy logo, but little evidence of its existence outside the webpage. Often, typing the farm’s name and city on an internet search engine can go a long way to finding out if the place really exists.

Aside from country of origin, also look at how much meat you will be receiving per box and adjust to what your family usually uses. What may seem like a great deal quickly fades as you find out that a 6-ounce steak is classified as a “meal” according to the company. Look for prices per pound, as well as any possible shipping costs that are tagged on the price afterwards.

While these subscription-based companies seem interesting, I would strongly recommend checking locally first. There are great farms in Le Sueur County and nearby that can offer similar meat cuts, with some that even have local delivery. By visiting you can search for farm direct products. Often, you can talk directly with the farmer, and ask questions if you are curious about how they raise their animals.

Shane Bugeja is the extension educator for Blue Earth and Le Sueur counties — Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources.

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