Buying good-quality local meat can be very expensive and not always accessible for cash-strapped carnivores, locavores (people who like to eat local) and low-income urban populations. ‘Meat shares’ – clubbing together to buy a whole cow or sheep directly from the farmer – can be a cost-effective solution, providing you have the storage space for it.
The Meat Locker is an initiative to get more people to buy meat from local farmers to strengthen local agriculture and economy by providing shared walk-in freezers to store bulk purchases.
Inspired by a system popular in the 1940s, Matt LeRoux, an agricultural marketing specialist, launched The Meat Locker scheme with two walk-in freezers in Ithaca and Corning, NYC. Through the use of a shared economy model to purchase meat, this preserves small farm viability.
Meat is purchased directly from the farmers, removing additional cost associated with the middle men in supermarket supply chains and delivering a premium above commodity pricing to the farmer: “A whole or half animal costs less dollars per pound of weight than grocery store meats that come from distant places,” says LeRoux. “Bulk meat purchases are affordable for consumers and pay the farm a fair price (which the farmer sets) so it is a “win-win” and gives our region a better chance to feed ourselves.”
Centralised freezers are also more energy efficient. As Le Roux notes, one of his motivations was realising that one 3m (10ft) by 4m (14ft) freezer would be more energy efficient that 100 small home freezers running at the same time: “Long-term, I would like to see more community freezers in cities, and more people buying meat from local farms to the point that current farms can expand production and new farms can enter.”
Matthew LeRoux, CEO, Finger Lakes Meat Project
USA (New York)