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Checklist for buying meat in bulk

With food prices on the rise, particularly for meat, fish and their animals’ products like eggs and milk, many people are looking for more affordable ways to purchase food and save on groceries. When it comes to this particular food group, bulk buying seems to make the most sense and is attracting more of a following. Meat and fish can be stored for a long time, if packaged properly. Therefore, if you expect to consume your fair amount of meats and fish over a period of a few months and have the freezer storage, bulk meat buying is also proving to be cost effective and practical. This assumes of course that you’ve done your research to compare prices, quality and service in your area and have defined which criteria are important to you and your family.

The traditional way of buying meat in bulk was to purchase half or a whole cow at once – this is no longer the case. With there now being a broader accessible market thanks to refrigerated delivery vans and the ability to mix, match and personalize orders, the bulk buying industry is catching up to the reality of their demand. There are tons of services and options in which you can pick your desired cuts of meat and fish; time or space out your orders and; split the orders between several households easily because the labelling and weighting is clear.

There are some pitfalls, however, when it comes to purchasing meat and fish in bulk so we created a checklist for you to guide you to the right decisions for you. We will help you avoid overpaying or being fooled by tacky marketing tactics or shady businesspeople. Make sure you feel comfortable with all of the items below:

1 – Transparent prices

One extremely important factor is transparent pricing. This means prices should be displayed in either price per kg or lb. (kilogram or pound). You will not only know what you’re getting and for how much but will also be able to more easily compare it to pricing you’re familiar with and against other companies’ pricing as well. The main goal of purchasing meat in bulk is that it saves you money.

In your searches you will see that certain prices can go up and down throughout the year due to market demand and supply. It’s common, for example, that the price of steak goes up in the summer due to more BBQing or that the price of certain fish fluctuates with their fishing seasons.

A transparent bulk meat order list may even go as far as updating customers on the cost changes and how that carries over to them, if at all. In contrast, meat companies that do not have transparent pricing might force the bundling of products together that forces customers to receive some product they were not intending to buy; only listing the price of the product but not the weight; listing the price of a product but not how much you will receive or; have extra fees tacked on to their prices, among other practices to camouflage their doings.

Further, quality meat is available in many places but buying in bulk can be tricky. A lot of ‘specialized’ companies these days push for bulk meat orders through in-home or digital pushy sales reps. Prices are masked by ‘yearly package’ price with some sort of ‘all-in package’. These types of plans are typically designed to mask the actual cost of what you are paying for and trap you with meat you don’t need or have space for at that time.

2 – Sourcing transparency

When buying a large volume of anything – especially food that comes with claims of superior quality or promises of certain ethical standards – you want to make sure you buy it from the right source. A good option would be to buy a quarter or half cow directly from the farmer, this way you know exactly where it comes from and you might even be able to personally vet the farm, the animals and the raisers. Transparency is important because if what is being offered is the same quality or from the same source as say, your local grocery store, why would you pay a premium for it from somewhere else? If you know exactly what you’re getting, from where and know the things that add to the meats value, like antibiotic-free or free range raising, you can justify a slightly higher cost and financially support causes, ethics and people you believe in.

It is probably best for most people to work with an intermediary like Papa Earth or other bulk meat delivery program or company because in most cases, if you visit farms yourself, they may not have the volumes of the specific meats and cuts you like on hand. Farmers will typically want to sell an entire cow, for example, so that they don’t end up wasting any of the animal’s meat. Bulk programs have many customers wanting different things. What ends up happening through these companies is that they become responsible for collecting your proteins and quantities for you and finding buyers for the other parts, meaning you don’t get saddled with products you don’t want or need.

Papa Earth provides the sourcing information, including certifications for all of our product categories and proudly only provides meat and fish products that are traceable to their batch.

3 – Proper packaging

Packaging is another extremely important criterion when it comes to bulk meat buying. Bulk meat orders can last you a long time, sometimes even over a year. The last thing you want is the product to go bad due to freezer burn.

Vacuum sealing and flash freezing offers a solution for this and should be the standard for packaging meat that might be left for last. The vacuum seal functions as of ‘skin’ made from BPA proof plastic. This prevents air from getting inside of the packaging and almost 100% ‘freezer-burn proofs’ it. Flash freezing makes sure the meat and fish is frozen so quickly that freezer burn won’t have a chance during the initial freeze.

These practices are also great because not only is the product still fresh when you get around to using it but the meat is frozen so close to butchering it (of course after any required curing time has elapsed), that excess water hadn’t had the time to accumulate within the meat fibers and it won’t shrivel up from dehydration when cooking.

Traditional butcher paper wrap still works quite well as well, however it cannot be vacuum sealed. Sometimes bulk meat providers use a combination of; vacuum sealed packs for boneless products and butcher paper for cuts with sharp edges like bone-in cuts since the sharp bone edges would cut through the bones anyways.

4- Delivery fees

Nobody likes to pay delivery fees but when it comes to bulk meat orders it’s more than reasonable to expect them. Bulk meat orders require delivery in a refrigerated reefer vehicle and that comes at a cost.

Typically, the savings of bulk prices outweigh the delivery fee anyway. When a meat delivery company charges a delivery fee it shows they are transparent in their business practices but are also informing you of a cost that might change your mind. Often the delivery fee is waived when you hit a certain threshold in volume. For Papa Earth bulk meat orders this is $1,250 and up.

5- Certification labels

For the folks who want to make sure their products meet expectations such as being ‘organic’, SPCA and ‘wild caught sustainable’, always make sure to do your homework and double check your bulk meat provider’s website or ask them for these labels. Even when not presented on their website, sometimes they still might be certified. A great example of this is halal meat. Did you know that most goat and lamb on the Canadian market is Halal certified but not always marketed as Halal? If you don’t poke around, you might only search for keywords, not knowing which things might just be standard practice and therefore go without mention.

You can check Papa Earth’s list of certification labels is displayed under the ‘Certification Partners’ tab.

6 – Option to try it out in a smaller batch

This one is a luxury, but in our opinion one worth indulging. Before committing to a bulk purchase, whether it’s meat, fish or anything, it’s important to try it first in a smaller batch. Yes, you will pay a bit more for a smaller batch when you are considering the costs per lb or incurring delivery fees but it’s worth it to make sure you will like what you get and enjoy the service.

Papa Earth offers a subscription box service and curated boxes in which you can try out their quality starting at $125.  Their subscription boxes don’t mandate to stay in a subscription. When a company tries to sell you on the idea of ‘buying without trying’ be leery, this is a big red flag. In most cases, it is not possible to return meat for health and safety reasons as the sellers have no way to be assured that the products have been properly handled.

7- Freezer

Having the right freezer: Another extremely important factor for considering a bulk meat order. Make sure you have the right freezer and enough capacity. Most freezers will do an excellent job in maintaining temperature but it’s worth it to consider what type of freezer works best for you. Energy efficiency and space efficiency can make a big difference.

We recommend chest freezers, the horizontal laying ‘deep freezer’. They are typically a bit better on energy efficiency because when opened the cool air says in the freezer. This helps the meat and fish to always stay at relatively the same temperature until you are ready to use it.

Upright freezers don’t present any real danger to the meats. The slight difference is that the cold air will come out quickly when opened. Upright freezers are popular as they are typically easier to organize and because they stand tall vertical, will require less space. It is best to store meats in the actual freezer itself and not on the door shelves, if you have them, as it is colder in the innermost part of the freezer.

8 – Warranties

Some companies offer warranties on meat and fish when purchased in bulk. Often these warranties are unnecessary and a waste of money. If you have a good freezer and make sure that you deal with a company that packages their meat correctly, it should be unnecessary to have to purchase a warranty with your order as vacuum sealed packages are not at risk of freezer burn.

As nothing is 100% bulletproof, a good idea to avoid food waste is to check your bulk meat order periodically and simply eat the packages that you suspect may have broken seals first and cook all the meat from one package when it is thawed. In case of a long-lasting power outage your home insurance should cover you for food wastage (make sure to check your deductible and read your coverage policies), which makes buying an extended warranty often unnecessary. Remember that once meat is thawed out it’s better if you have leftovers for the next day or meal than to rewrap it yourself and toss it back into the freezer; it isn’t a safe health practice to refreeze any excesses.

9 – Contracts & financing

Some companies offer bulk meat orders that involve contracts. The contracts stipulate the terms of the deal and when it comes to bulk meat it often involves financing and warranties. Be aware that when you finance your bulk meat orders you will be paying it off in instalments, which involves interest. Often the provider will not showcase what the actually interest rate is but you can count on paying for it as a customer and swelling your personal costs. If you aren’t quick with your math, you pay significantly more than what you assume you will be spending when your payments are smaller and manageable from month to month.

You should instead, look for companies like Papa Earth that don’t obligate you to sign contracts and perhaps offer a lower bulk entry that is affordable to you in one payment. Papa Earth’s bulk entry level of $1,250 is a very low entry point compared to the $3,750 which is often offered as the lowest bulk entry level by most bulk meat and fish vendors.

10 – Tacky marketing promotions

Watch out! The bulk meat order industry has seen a transformation over the last 20 years.

What used to be the farmer selling a full or half/quarter cow at the farm turned into an industry with time-share selling type of sales tactics involving pushy sales reps and big marketing teams. Some companies tainted the industry and gave it a bad reputation due to extreme high and non-transparent prices (price camouflaging), not honouring warranties, aggressive sales reps and false sourcing claims.

A trick often offered is a ‘free freezer’ upon purchase and promising a price lock for up to 3 years. The truth is that nothing is free and meat prices fluctuate. When these types of offers are presented, the costs are always covered in the initial package price and you’ll end up overpaying. The cost of the freezer might be added to the cost of your order by simply pricing the meat higher and these companies might assume the most a meat or fish product might cost over three years and price their products so that they would still make a profit if the costs were to increase to those higher levels. Always do your due diligence; check the company’s reputation, ask to try in a small batch first, demand price list and do your research online. Use this article as a guideline of what to look for and to guide the questions you ask.

Papa Earth bulk meat orders

As far as we know, Papa Earth offers the best bulk meat orders as far as we know in Canada. With Papa Earth bulk meat orders, you can count on the best quality and local meat, proper packaging, certified products, transparent and easy-to-read prices and, you will always have the option to try our products first through our box service. Our box service is our most popular service but when you have the space for a freezer and enough consumption volume bulk meat orders will make the most sense.

If you have any questions about our meat subscription programs, curated boxes, corporate gifts, bulk meat orders or anything else, please feel free to get in touch with us by email or personal message on Facebook or Instagram.