Meat This! (An introduction to buying local meat)

We are lucky to live in such a rich agricultural community. It seems as if there is a never ending supply of amazing veggies, and with easy access to farm stands, most of us can swing into one just as easily as if we were going to the grocery store. If we can find our favorite sources for local veggies, can we also find favorite sources for local meat?  Christeena Marzolf, Owner of Falling River Meats, gives us some tips and a little of what to expect when buying local meats.


There are a lot of positives to supporting your local food system, especially when it comes to meat.  Once you’ve shopped the farmers markets regularly, you start to see and taste the difference between vegetables cultivated using different farming techniques. You’ll have a similar experience with meat. From breeding to raising to butchering to processing, every step that nutrient-rich protein takes on its way to your plate adds a dimension to the final experience of enjoying it.

For me, one of the most important aspects of growing meat is the care of the animals. Rejecting industrial farming techniques and supporting small-scale operations generally ensures that the animals you eat have had the best life and death possible. In a future blog post, I’ll share details about the way we raise animals and techniques our colleagues throughout the region use as well.

In fact, I could write an entire blog post about every benefit of shopping for your meat locally – and I probably will, so stay tuned! But for the sake of brevity, here’s a quick list of the benefits I talk about every time someone asks why people choose to purchase from us and our fellow livestock raisers:

  • Peace of mind knowing the humane conditions under which it was born, raised, butchered and processed
  • Supporting the people and institutions strengthening your resilient regional food system and rejecting the industrialization of meat
  • Participating personally in the food chain
  • Determining which cuts and amount per package are best for you and your family
  • Ensuring a whole year’s’ worth of meat is available to you in your freezer
  • Opportunities to try new recipes and cooking techniques with unique cuts of meat

Most of us were raised enjoying meat from the grocery store, so buying meat that isn’t already cut, weighed and packaged may seem daunting. Hopefully this and subsequent blog posts will help you navigate the differences between grocery store and local meat purchasing.

Meat Regulations 101

When you buy meat directly from farms as a quarter, half or whole carcass, the animal is generally processed at one of the region’s Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) licensed butcher shops. The WSDA is our state-run regulatory body that inspects custom butcher shops. WSDA regulates the processing of poultry and rabbits also.

The meat from these shops will say ‘Not For Sale.’ When you purchase from the farmer, you’re buying the ‘live’ animal and are contracting a butcher to process the animal into cuts – these cuts are not to be resold; they’re for the purchaser only.

On the other hand, packaged meat sold retail is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which inspects all large and small scale slaughter and processing operations. For local meat producers like us, access to USDA processing allows us to sell individual cuts at farmers markets and to wholesale accounts such as restaurants. The cost for this is higher and involves transporting the animals to a slaughter facility.

Learning about your farmer

Just like vegetable farmers, livestock farmers each have unique personalities, practices and philosophies. When you’re working with a local farmer, you can chat with them directly to gather the information that’s important to you and your family. You might want to find out about the following:

  • Growing practices: If you are concerned about growing practices, whether it be animal husbandry or type of feed, you should feel free to ask these questions before you place a deposit on an animal.
  • Approximate weight: Your farmer will not be able to guarantee an exact weight or know at the time you put a deposit down how much the animal will weigh. They can, however, give you an estimate based on past animals, to give you an idea of how much it will cost.
  • Deposit: Find out how much they expect up front. This is generally not refundable, it’s a guarantee to the farmer that you will purchase the animal and they will not sell it to anyone else.
  • Time until processing: Animals are generally ready for processing in the fall. Small scale operations do sell out, so find all of this information out early in the spring and get your deposit in.

Choosing what to purchase

How much meat do you eat? It may sound weird as a livestock producer but I am all for people eating less meat. I truly believe our diets need to be balanced, and while meat is a part of my diet it is not in every meal. That being said, choosing what your family needs will totally depend on how much meat you consume and your ability to store that meat.

An easy rule of thumb for storage: 1 cubic foot of space will store 40 pounds of cut and wrapped meat. For example, a whole beef yields 600 to 800 pounds of cut and wrapped meat. If it’s 800lbs you will need about 20 cubic feet of storage.

The average weight for the following animals will give you a ballpark, and gauge if you need a whole or half or a bigger freezer.

Whole Animal

Average range of weights


600 to 800 lbs


180 to 250 lbs


60 to 110 lbs


60 to 110 lb


What am I paying for?

This part may vary substantially depending on how your farmer handles their business. Generally, you will be responsible for the following:

  • Deposit on the animal
  • Remaining balance determined by final hanging weight
  • Slaughter fees, half fees if you are only getting half of the
  • Cut and wrap fees
  • Extra charges for any specialty processing, such as smoking or curing

From Harvest day to pick up

The farmer will determine when that animal is ready for processing and arrange for the butcher to slaughter it. If you are a whole-animal eater or are interested in some unique and tasty cuts, you will want to let your farmer know you’re interested in being there for the big day.

Most people choose not to keep the parts the butcher removes in the slaughter process, like the intestines, organs, and other parts of the animal not usually included in modern recipes. If you’re game for it, though, you can arrange to pick up the “offal,” as it’s called, from the butcher on the day of slaughter. Using the offal will give you serious localvore points in certain crowds, and can result in all sorts of tasty and nutritious treats.

For beef, slaughter day can provide a few great meals for your family. Cuts like the hanging tenderloin cannot survive the aging process and are generally discarded. It’s also a good idea to take the tail (oxtail), tongue and cheeks on slaughter day also. Stay tuned for more recipes and info about unique cuts of beef and other meats!

The butcher who cuts and wraps the meat will contact you to get your cutting instructions. You get to make decisions about the way your meat is processed, including sizes of roasts, thickness of cuts for steaks, flavors of sausage, and weights for packaging ground meat. If you are unsure about what you want, let the butcher know, they can help you make those decisions.

Once the meat has been cut and wrapped, it’s ready for pick up! You’ll get a call, and it will be up to you to pick up the meat as quickly as possible, especially during the busy season, butchers have limited space in their freezers and you may be charged a storage fee if you delay. But seriously, why would you wait? You’re doing this because we all know there’s nothing like fresh meat! Welcome to the local meat revolution!

Check the SnoValley Tilth Member Directory to find your local meat producer.

To contact Christeena or learn more about Falling River Meats, visit their website!

Farm King County – Farm Resources at the Ready


How many hours have you spent searching the world wide web for farm related information? Farm King County launched this past spring as an antidote to the endless internet search.  The foundation of this effort is a web-based directory of farming resources that contains information relevant to starting, operating and growing a successful farm enterprise.  This project is a collaborative effort of multiple organizations committed to expanding the local agricultural economy and while the project is named for the most populous county in the state, its resources are relevant to farm businesses beyond its border.


Find information about state soil surveys, resources about FSMA and food safety, flood and weather information, dates of upcoming events, or submit an email to receive technical assistance from professional advisors. Whatever you are looking for, make Farm King County your first stop for information, services and technical resources that can help you establish or grow your farm business.  Do you have employees who are more comfortable communicating in their language of origin? Their collection of translated written resources is extensive, especially regarding FSMA and Food Safety.  Better yet, this is a project that aims to grow and change as farmer’s needs do the same so check out the website and use the resources but also let them know what additional information you’d like to find there!








Request for Proposals: Feasibility Study and Business Plan



SnoValley Tilth is excited to announce that we have received funding from USDA Rural Development to lay the groundwork for a produce aggregation and processing facility based in the Snoqualmie Valley.

We are seeking proposals for qualified consultants. Please click on link below for a PDF of the RFP. The deadline for proposals is September 1, 2016.

Produce Processing Feasibility Study and Business Plan RFP

Community Roots Day at Carnation Farmers Market


A market of bountiful produce, celebrating the intersection of community, health & agriculture.

Come to Carnation Farmers Market’s Community Roots Day on Tuesday, June 28th. Stay for an hour or two (or three), support the Carnation Farmers Market and SnoValley Tilth. The last Tuesday of every month is always filled with loads of market fun and lots of fresh foods! 

For our June Community Roots Day we are excited to welcome our neighbors in town, Hopelink Harvest, who will be facilitating a cooking demo with fresh goodies from the market and informing us about their important role in our community. Jack Ballard will be hosting an open-mic night for our Music on the Grass Series, providing musicians of all levels and experiences t21232457679_261fb586eb_zo have the opportunity to perform; this is especially geared towards youth musicians and all are welcome! One of our market artists, Joe Lee Davidson will be teaching children how to make their own coloring book and we will have market bingo happening all day to give young market goers the opportunity to meet their farmer and learn about what is in season at the market.  You can also ‘Take a Walk with the Doc’ around town with our resident doctor, Dr. Jodie Murdoch, to learn more about the markets role with health and wellness. Tolt River Family Medicine will be sharing Emergency Preparedness Information, and Market Tours will also be available upon request lead by our wonderful market ambassador. Join us in participating in a few of these farm-y activities and in celebrating our Community!


21448817816_7bcf4b15cc_zCommunity Roots Day is a special event to celebrate education, art, and culture at the farmers market. With cooking demos, children’s activities, and live music, Community Roots Days are a wonderful addition to our market and make the Carnation Farmers Market more than just a way to support your local farmers, but also a way to eat, learn, and create.



The Carnation Farmers Market is open every Tuesday from 3-7 pm right in the heart of downtown Carnation.

Fish Farm Flood Committee Update

Photo Credit: Mitchell Haindfield

What would the Snoqualmie Valley look like if we had the perfect balance of farming and wildlife habitat? How different would it look from how it looks today? As long as farmers have been farming, there have been conflicts about farmland and fish habitat across North America. Here in the Snoqualmie Valley, environmentally conscious farmers and landowners have planted many acres in shrubs and trees for fish habitat improvement. Despite the benefits of these plantings, when they occur on productive farmland, they take that land out of production, permanently.

King County created the Fish Farm Flood Advisory Committee in the Fall of 2013 in order to get advice on how to balance the competing needs of farms, fish, and flood risk reduction. Four Snoqualmie Valley farmers are volunteering their time to serve on that Advisory Committee and are working with other committee members to find solutions and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. I got involved in the process about a year ago, when one of those farmers came to SnoValley Tilth and explained the pressure they were under. The four farmers were increasingly worried about making major decisions without broader community consultation. It was clear they needed support. 

The King Conservation District (KCD) stepped forward with some funding to actively engage the community in the conversation. This initiated a project to talk with landowners and residents across the Snoqualmie Valley about their thoughts on issues surrounding the Fish Farm Flood process. Two KCD staff, the Executive Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance, and myself are the team conducting these discussions.

We have now spoken to about 50 Snoqualmie Valley landowners and residents and I am amazed by the amount of consensus there is in our community. The large majority of landowners and residents are concerned about predicting and managing flooding and fixing drainage issues on farmland. 

Many exciting and innovative ideas have come from these discussions, such as the idea to create a distributed flood monitoring system that would allow people in the floodplain to upload pictures and other data in real-time, during a flood event. This information would be invaluable to people located downstream where that flood has not yet reached, and it would also create an archive of flood data that would help us understand how floods are changing over time. 

The data we’ve collected through these consultations has helped the farmer representatives feel more comfortable representing local landowners and farmers as they grapple with an agreement, which the Advisory Committee is now drafting. The County’s intention is to have that agreement signed by all Advisory Committee members by the end of May 2016. 

Hannah Cavendish-Palmer

SnoValley Tilth Board President

For more information:

Come to our April Potluck and Presentation if you would like to learn more about this process.

April Potluck Topic: Fish Farm Flood Progress Report

April 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Carnation Tree Farm  |  31523 NE 40th  |  Carnation, WA 98014

Learn about the Fish Farm Flood project, its potential outcomes and the structure of the agreement that is coming together.  There will be a discussion and a Q&A session. This first hour is for sharing a potluck meal; the second hour is devoted to our discussion or presentation for the evening.

Visit the county’s Fish Farm Flood website for additional information: King County Fish Farm Flood Website