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A variety of packaged frozen meat wrapped in plastic or paper Gail C. Keck
MYSTERY MEAT: Having a freezer full of meat can be reassuring, but it’s important to keep track of the inventory.

T-bones on Tuesday

The Back 40: What’s in your freezer?

One day several months ago, someone got a little distracted wrapping meat at our local custom butcher shop. At least I hope that’s what happened. Otherwise, there’s someone out there who doesn’t know the difference between a rump roast and a stack of T-bones. It was labeled as rump roast, and — from the outside  — the brown paper package looked about the right size and shape, so I had no reason to suspect a mix-up until the meat was thawed and I was heating the oven.

To be clear, I wasn’t upset. How can you be upset about realizing you’ll be having steak for supper? Rump roast may be a great meal, especially with a little horseradish, but steak is a celebration. On the other hand, if the package labeled rump roast had turned out to be liver, I might have had a different perspective. And I’d rather not be unwrapping mystery meat on a regular basis.

Ordinarily, we keep our freezer well-stocked with our own home-raised beef and pork. The problem I usually have is managing inventory. It’s tempting to eat up all the bacon and steaks first, but eventually that leads to a series of monotonous meals made of ham hocks or hamburger.

I have a feeling that might be a lesson lots of first-time freezer meat buyers will be learning in the months to come. When the COVID-19 crisis disrupted the meat supply chain, livestock farmers started seeing increased demand from consumers for meat to stock their freezers.

From what I’ve seen, most buyers do their research ahead of time, so they understand that they can’t have the whole steer cut into steaks. But others don’t seem to know a brisket from a soup bone. I’m not sure what they’ll do once they work through the ground beef.

Locally grown uptick

For a while, it was nearly impossible to find a freezer in an appliance store or an open appointment for custom meat processing. In my area, custom processors are always booked a few months ahead, but now it might be best to book a hog appointment before the pig is born.

In May, one of our steers went lame, and we decided we needed to get him processed sooner rather than later. But the first frazzled butcher I called was already scheduled into 2021. I was able to find someone who could take him sooner — the end of October.

I didn’t waste any time in setting up appointments for the other animals I knew I’d have ready in the fall and winter. And, fortunately, the steer’s limp got better rather than worse, so he’s finished out well after all.

I could have sold more meat than I had available this summer, and I’m hoping that increase in demand continues. The question is whether the customers who came out of the woodwork during the crisis will turn out to be repeat buyers. I’m hoping they get hooked on the idea of knowing where their meat comes from, along with the security and convenience of having a well-stocked freezer.

Keck writes from Raymond, Ohio.




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