FAQ's about custom pork shares - and what's new for 2023

FAQ's about custom pork shares - and what's new for 2023

Frequently Asked Questions about Alluvial Farms custom pork shares - and what's new for 2023. 

"Why buy in bulk?"

If you have storage space and the funds to purchase upfront, buying meat in bulk - what we call our "custom shares" or "quarters, halves, and wholes" - can be a rewarding, cost and time effective way to buy from a farmer or rancher you trust. It allows you to try cuts you might not otherwise be able to get, and saves you a bunch of trips to the butcher. Buying your pork protein for the year all at once means a trip to your freezer is all you need to get a delicious meal on the table - from weeknight family to hosting special guests. 

Bulk meat purchasing does require a little planning, and that you be able to make some decisions along the way which we hope this guide will help you with. Please also contact us directly at any time with questions, comments, or concerns. 

 

"In looking at the website for a half share, it shows a $200 deposit but does not list a per-pound price.  Just says total price $775.  Can you tell me the price per pound for a half share, please?"

For many farms, when buying meat in bulk, you're buying a "share" of a live animal. Historically this is because that farmer is likely working with a butcher who is not inspected by the USDA, and their "WSDA custom exempt" butcher license requires the farmer to pre-sell animals, so the eater assumes liability for the quality of the butchering. Traditionally the farmer would charge you based on the weight of the animal after slaughter. This is also known as “hanging” or “hot carcass” weight and is measured just after the animal has been killed and the viscera and skin are removed, and before it has been hung in a cooler to chill down for cutting and wrapping. 

In this "custom exempt" system, you would pay two parties: the farmer and the butcher. You would be asked by your farmer to pick up your meat directly from the butcher, and at that time you would pay the butcher a "slaughter fee" and a “cut-and-wrap” fee. The farmer would ask you to fill out a “cut sheet,” which would tell the butcher which cuts you prefer, like steaks, roasts, bone-in or boneless, ground, etc. The more specific your requests, the higher the fee.

For our first seven years in business Alluvial Farms charged one price per pound of hanging weight that included both the farmer's and the butcher's fees. For example, in 2022 our price for a half hog custom share was $7.75/pound, based on hanging weight. Our hogs hanging weight or hot carcass weight is 200 pounds on average, so a half share price in 2022 was 100 pounds hanging weight x $7.75 = $775. 

It is important to know that hanging weight includes the weight of some blood, water, bones and fat that will not ultimately be included in the product you receive. With our pigs, we track hot carcass weights and pounds of meat received after cutting and wrapping and we have found that we get about 62% of hanging weight back as the bones, fat, organs, and muscle cuts that we pass on to our clients. 

It always seemed a little disingenuous to me that I was charging a price per pound, but that weight did not represent the weight of the product that my customers would actually receive. Using the 62% rule, a half hog share from a hog that hung at 200 pounds would be 62 pounds, though we have tended to return closer to 75% of hanging weight to the customer in our shares. So even though our price was quoted as $7.75 per pound, since that was based on hanging weight, the effective price per pound for product you received with a half hog share in 2022 is actually $10.3/pound. This is still a savings over our retail prices, which for many of our cuts are higher than this. 

Even though we have been selling custom shares, all of our butchering has been done under USDA inspection, to ensure higher quality wrapping in a transparent vacuum sealed package. In 2022 our amazing butchers at the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative in Burlington let us know they would no longer be able to cut and pack individual halves and wholes for individual customers in order to streamline their own workflow. They needed to have one cut sheet for a lot of carcasses, and be able to pack like cuts with like. 

We figured this was the perfect sign that it was time to update our custom share pricing structure. It no longer makes sense for us to base our custom share price on hanging weight, since you no longer receive a literal half hog, cut up just for you at the butcher, and boxed for you at the butcher. 

For 2023 you will see a flat fee for a half a hog that is based on last year's $7.75/pound for 100 pounds hanging weight. $775 is our new flat rate for a half hog share. Since we now pack all custom shares by hand, we will be able to guarantee the mix of cuts and pretty closely the actual weight of the half hog share that you will receive and put in your freezer as 75 pounds. If you wanted to math this out you would get $10.3/pound. At first glance it might seem like we raised our price from last year, but hopefully after reading this blog you will understand the difference between how the price per pound used to be defined, and the new system we are proposing for 2023 and beyond.  

"Previously there were options to customize the order but that didn’t come up this time with the deposit payment, can we still customize?"

 Yes! On our current custom share order page there is a form towards the bottom of the page that will record your custom cutting instructions. Please complete this form before placing your deposit for a share. Starting in 2023 we will offer three different cut sheet options: the Cured share, the Fresh share, and the Kid Friendly share. Please visit the custom share page in our online store for a complete list of weights and cuts that will be included in each share. The lists below highlight only the customizable cuts. 

- the Cured share: cured ham roasts, bacon, sliced hock, butt shoulder roast, and a mix of unseasoned ground pork, sweet Italian links, and breakfast links. $60 per half for bacon and ham processing will be added to balance due at time of delivery.

- the Fresh share: fresh leg roast bone-in, fresh sliced pork belly, sliced hock, country style ribs and steaks, unseasoned ground pork in 1# packages.

- The kid friendly share: Leg roasts to ground pork, bacon, hock to ground, butt shoulder roast, and a mix of unseasoned ground pork, sweet Italian links, and breakfast links. $30 per half for bacon processing.

In addition to capturing your preferred cut sheet, the form will also ask:

- Desired delivery month,

- Delivery location,

And if you want to:

-Include rendered lard instead of back and leaf fat ($40 add-on),

-Decline or confirm delivery of the pork head (cut in half with cheeks on),

-Pack the share into two equal portions for splitting between two households - available for half and whole hog shares only.

- Join our annual custom pork share subscribers list for subsequent shares - we will automatically invoice you at the beginning of the year for your down payment and schedule your delivery according to your request.  

- Finally the form includes a place for "Exceptions, add-ons, and notes" where you can let us know if you want to make any changes to the cut sheets we outlined above. We will do our best to make it all happen. You can also let us know if you want to add on any links or extra amounts of any cut when we pack your share. Or any other notes ...

"How much space do I need in my freezer for my custom pork share?"

And for a fun throwback, check out this video we made in 2019 of Matthew packing a half hog custom share into an above fridge freezer to demonstrate the amount of storage space you will need...

"When should we anticipate our share being ready?"

Timeline of a custom share order with Alluvial Farms:

Make a down payment for your share through our online store to hold your place in our schedule.

Let us know your desired delivery month, and select custom options in the form at checkout.

Alluvial Farms will email you roughly one month before your desired delivery date to confirm timing and your cutting instructions.

Once your share is cut and wrapped at our butcher, we will pick it up for you, inventory all cuts, and schedule a delivery or farm pick up.

At that time we will also email an invoice for your balance due that you can pay online with credit card or bank transfer, before your delivery or pick up.

Then the fun begins - delicious, healthy meals featuring local pastured Berkshire pork are just a walk to your freezer away.

"What if I have tried the share once, I know it works great for my family, we want to get one every year, and we don't want to have to remember to come back and put another down payment every year?"

There is a place in the online form to let us know you would like to be added to our subscription program. This is simply a way to take one more to-do off your list if you have tried the share and know you would like one every year. Instead of you having to reach out to renew your down payment each year, we will email an invoice for your down payment and a link to the customization form each year in late December or January, and schedule your share for your desired month. 

 

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