Farmstead Meatsmith FAQ

What services do you provide?

We slaughter and butchery livestock for small farmers in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. We teach classes on traditional methods of slaughter, butchery, curing, and charcuterie. We have an online subscription membership for folks wanting to learn these traditions but are unable to attend our classes.

What’s unique about Farmstead Meatsmith?

We are the only custom processor and butcher practicing traditional peasant methods and ideology in the country. We service small scale, local farms and offer the whole animal in return. Your return includes all the parts, the odd bits, like heads, feet, and offal (organs, blood, etc).  For more information on the tasty abundance of fat on our pork, check out our Pork Harvesting information.  

Can I come visit your farm?

We are not offering farm tours at this time. The best way to learn about our business and farmstead is to attend a class. Please check out our pork, sheep, and hen & rabbit classes here for more details and dates.

Do you take interns?

We don’t have an intern or volunteer program at this time. We are a small family business and don’t have the infrastructure or volume for interns or volunteers. If you’re interested in learning our methods, we’d love to have you attend a class or join our subscription membership.

Can I buy retail cuts of meat from Farmstead Meatsmith?

No. We are a custom processor, butcher, and educator only. We don’t retail meat, we don’t have a store front, and we don’t raise animals for sale. Check out local farms in your area, farmer’s markets, and social media for information on finding a source of good retail meat near you.

 If you’re interested in our seasonal pork shares check out our Pork Share page and email harvest@farmsteadmeatsmith.com to ask to be put on the wait list. (Available locally only)

Do you raise animals for sale?

We are a custom processor, butcher, and educator only…and sell a small supply of wholesale pork shares on the side. If you’re interested check out our Pork Share page and email harvest@farmsteadmeatsmith.com to ask to be put on the wait list. (Available locally only)

Can I buy offal (organs), bones for stock, unusual cuts, or blood from you?

We are often asked this question by those looking for a good source of hard-to-get products. We harvest livestock for farmers/homesteaders and the above products are always part of their harvest. They’re not by-products and aren’t for sale individually.

Connecting with a local livestock farm in your area, buying a *meat share from a farmer/homesteader, and inquiring at your local farmer’s market are good ways to source these products. 

*If you’re interested in our seasonal pork shares check out our Pork Share page and email harvest@farmsteadmeatsmith.com to ask to be put on the wait list. (Available locally only)

 Do your classes provide a certification in butchery?

We are not accredited to certify our students who attend our classes. We’ve learned our methods through many years of practice and we offer them to those who wish to harvest animals for themselves and their families. If you’re looking for a butcher certification we suggest seeking out the Department of Agriculture’s information or your State’s agriculture department. A good few of our students do go on to provide processing services in their area professionally.

Do you process poultry?

We will take on poultry harvesting but only when the quantity of birds makes the setup and cleanup work cost effective. For us that means 40 birds. Two farmers hiring us together to meet that minimum works for us if all the birds are brought to us together on the same day.

What is the process involved when you harvest my animals?

After the initial connection and preliminary questions, we will want to get you on our harvest schedule. We need you to sign and return to us our Service Agreement. This agreement outlines necessary details, fees and liabilities that are essential to moving forward with harvesting your animals. We cannot serve you without this document signed. This document returned with an $75 deposit confirms your harvest date.  Our harvest order form needs to be filled out for your animals as soon as possible. We must have it 48 hours before harvest day.

 For pigs being sold ‘on the hoof’*, we need a form for each half a pig being harvested. For sheep, goats (or deer) we need one form for each whole animal being sold ‘on the hoof’*. For a poultry harvest, we need a single form per farmer.

 * ‘On the hoof’ refers to the wholesale of animals before they are killed to accommodate State requirements.

What will happen after you harvest my animals?

Once the slaughter has taken place we’ll bring back the carcass(es) to be butchered and cured in our butcher shop. You will be invoiced shortly thereafter and the payment deadline is one week from slaughter. Fresh meat (not cured) will be available for pick up 5-7 days after slaughter (pickups are by appointment only). Any cured cuts take longer and could require up to an additional 2-4 weeks. The total turnaround time is 3-4 weeks from slaughter date for pigs, 1-2 weeks for sheep/goats/deer, 3-5 weeks for beef. We will be communicating with you by email all these scheduling details. We strongly encourage our customers to pick up both their fresh (or uncured; it will be frozen) and cured meat in one trip as we live on an island and ferry costs fall on you.

How should I prepare for you coming to harvest my animals?

You must have and/or have done the following:

  •  Running water via outdoor hose with pressure near corral or pen.
  • Pigs/lambs need to be near the parking site of the slaughter truck so as to avoid hauling carcasses to the truck over long distances. Pig pen needs to be within 5-10 feet of truck parking access (see Service Agreement if this is not met). If it is impossible to keep pigs near truck access, please provide one able bodied man at our disposal all day and a strong wheelbarrow to help transport pig carcasses from pen to truck.
  • Sheep/cows need to be penned in a tight, secure holding pen. Chasing ruminants is not an option. See Service Agreement for charges if tracking or corralling livestock is required.
  • For pigs, please withhold feed the morning of slaughter, and water the morning of and the night before. This helps with the kill shot.
  • All beef slaughter jobs require one farmer onsite with a tractor to transport carcass from corral to our truck winch.

Why do I need to secure my animals before you arrive to harvest and do I have to have a pen accessible by truck?

To encourage an efficient (both time and cost efficient) harvest you must have your animals penned before we arrive. Paying us to chase sheep or wait times due to agitated animals will make harvesting more expensive for you.

The animals will also be calmer as they’ve had time to adjust to their new situation and will be easier to manage. The calm harvest situation is the ethical one. We come to your farm so there is no animal transporting and thus no stress is put on them. Our slaughterman must be able to drive his truck within 5-10 feet of the where the animals are penned. The animal processing takes place at the back of our slaughter truck and extra work to move carcasses to the truck will increase the cost of your harvest.

*There also must be a hose with good water pressure at this site

Should I bring a cooler when I pick up my meat?

In our 10+ years’ experience we know that you will not need a cooler if the time your meat spends in transport is less than 2 hours. Your meat will either be cured and at room temperature already or frozen and will be okay in the cardboard boxes we provide. Of course, you’re welcome to bring coolers if you’re concerned or driving longer distances before storing the meat in your own freezer.

Why is your pricing structure so different?

We strongly believe that it’s possible for processors and farmers to make a living wage. Every hour of skill and all your hard work done needs to be included in the actual cost of our service and your meat.

By not cutting cost corners we honor and respect the true value of the land, the animals, the farmers, our products and our customers. We’re able to charge what’s fair and not cheat any link in the food chain.  

Biding by that belief, we can make this living sustainable for our family, so that we’ll be able to continue to serve our community for decades.

What do you charge for slaughter?

Our slaughter rates are by the lb. of hanging weight and are different for each category of livestock. Please note there are lb. minimums. A frequent question about the lb. minimums is for pig slaughter. If your pig weighs less than 200 lbs. you will be charged $160 as the process for slaughtering any pig requires the same set up work. If larger than 200 lbs. its $.80 /lb.

All our harvesting order forms can be found on our Services page

What are your butcher rates?

Our butcher rates are listed in the order forms for each category of livestock on our Services page. Our basic cut & wrap prices apply to the whole hanging weight. Value added products are listed with their additional cost.

Can you give me an estimate of what a processing job will cost?

We cannot give estimates. The weight of your animal after slaughter and evisceration (the hanging weight) determines the cost of slaughter. We can’t know the hanging weight until after and what cuts you desire affects your butchery cost. The ball park figure for pig slaughter is between $300-$900 per pig. Please look over the order forms on our Services page and our Service Agreement carefully so you understand all the costs involved.

What is the difference between the slaughter harvest minimum, slaughter rate, and cut-and-wrap rate?

The ‘slaughter harvest minimum’ mentioned in our Service Agreement of $300 is the minimum we charge for any slaughter work day. The time it takes to setup and slaughter humanely and efficiently requires that we charge at least $300 to make any slaughter job cost effective.

 This rate is usually applied when processing a smaller number of animals (ex: less than 40 chickens) or a smaller animal where the slaughter rate, which is by the lb., would be less than $300. If your animals are larger or the quantity meets the *minimum than the slaughter rate by the lb. is what we’d charge. You will not be charged for both the slaughter harvest minimum and the slaughter rate/lb.

*Animal quantity minimums for a job in one day that meet or exceed our day minimum are: 2 pigs, 40 poultry birds, 4 sheep/goats/deer.

The ‘slaughter rate’ is charged by the animal and the lb. as larger animals take more work and time to slaughter. We have charge minimums listed with our slaughter rate (ex: $160 minimum for pigs, $80/animal for sheep) to make sure we meet our ‘slaughter harvest minimum.’

 Our cut-and-wrap price per lb. is charged for the entire hanging weight and is the cost of butchery. This covers the cost of breaking down the carcass, cutting roasts, chops, etc. The meat is portioned, wrapped, labeled, and boxed for your convenience. 

 There are other products that require further processing that can be done if you so desire. Cured bacon, smoking of hams and hocks, prosciutto and sausage making all require time and skill. You’ll find the cost for this additional work in our order forms.   

What is 100% hanging weight and how much meat will I get from my animal?

For Farmstead Meatsmith hanging weight includes everything but the blood and viscera, and in the case of ruminants, the hide. Our ideology and methods provide a harvest return of all useable parts. This can be an overwhelming abundance of products but they should be yours to use if you so desire. Other conventional custom processors don’t give you the option of getting back your whole hanging weight but they still charge you for that whole weight.

When we harvest your animals, you’ll get the *skin, the head, the feet, and backfat. As well as the option to many of the organs and the hide.  You can be assured that your time and financial investment in your livestock reaps the largest reward possible.

*For more info on yield percentages as well as how we leave the skin on pigs check out our pork harvesting method info.

What are your travel costs and when do I need to pay them?

Our travel fees are:

  • A ferry fee as we live on an island, $20ish round trip (depending on the season).
  • A travel time fee (round trip, first hour is free) of $25/hour.
  • A road fee of $0.55 per mile (round trip) beyond the Pt. Defiance, Fauntleroy and Southworth ferry docks.

We’ll calculate these and include them in our final invoice.

Does your cured meat contain added nitrites?

No. Our curing method uses plain, coarse sea salt and organic cane sugar. Besides our sausage (which we add herbs and spices to) our butchery does not add or apply any artificial substances to the meat. By order, we can accommodate gluten-free or sugar free diets.

How do you cure your bacon, hams, etc?

Our whole muscle cures are salted and allowed to cure in our walk-in for approx. 10-30 days. We then hook or tie them for you to hang in your kitchen where they can continue to cure or you can begin to consume them. Prosciutto is cured for 2+ years in your kitchen but all other cures are ready to eat at pick up time.

 For step by step instructions on how to cure your own bacon check out The Butcher’s Salt e-chapter ‘Bacon’ in our online Store.  Some of our customers do their own curing to save on processing costs.

For a more in-depth continued education, consider becoming a Meatsmith Member. We answer many of the mysteries of farm animal cookery fully in our online Meatsmith Membership. Within the forums and private Facebook group, as well as in articles, films, and our resource library, you’ll find answers, instruction, and encouragement. Check out all the details at our Membership page. Many of our customers become members.

What is the difference between ‘whole hanging cured bacon’ and ‘cured bacon sliced & wrapped for the freezer?’

Our method of traditional curing allows for bacon to be cured with just salt and it hangs indefinitely in your kitchen till the end of the cosmos. It’s a tad saltier than grocery store bacon but we find taste buds adjust easily to the difference. When you desire bacon you simply take down your hanging slab and slice what you need for your meal. Then you hang it back up.

Our ‘cured, sliced and wrapped for the freezer’ bacon is cured in the same manner but is sliced, portioned, and wrapped to be frozen. It takes time to do these steps and thus this bacon costs a tad more. (See the question about seasonality as to why and when we provide this service).

Why are some butchery options available only seasonally?

Seasonality is a factor in food preparation and preserving that our culture has somewhat lost. We cure with salt not with synthetic nitrites and we don’t have special chambers to do it in. We cure like peasants and we teach and encourage our students to learn these methods. That means temperature and thus insect populations affect when we do certain things in the butcher shop. Bacon, prosciutto, etc. are affected by this seasonality.

Why is bacon and ham only smoked in the winter?

Smoking meat depends on a supply of seasoned hardwood to provide the smoke. We store wood one winter at a time, it’s usually gone by spring. When we’re out, we’re done smoking until next fall.

How do I make headcheese?

How do I use the bones, trotters, head, and offal? Cookery questions, etc? We answer many of the mysteries of farm animal cookery fully within our online Meatsmith Membership. Within the forums and private Facebook group, as well as in articles, films, and our resource library, you’ll find answers, instruction, and encouragement. Check out all the details at our Membership page.

Please also use the free resources available in our On the Anatomy of Thrift films, which introduce many of our preparations.

How do I sign up for Meatsmith Membership?

Our very special subscription membership opens a few times a year, usually once a season. You can only join at that time. You can stay informed on when that happens by receiving our occasional newsletter (we won’t overwhelm you with emails, we promise). You can sign up here.

You will need a Paypal account as our website uses Paypal.com to collect your monthly payments. Our membership is $9.99 a month.

Check out our membership page to find out how Meatsmith Membership is right for you.

How do I purchase The Butcher’s Salt e-chapters online?

All our e-chapters are available for download in our Online store. Once you’ve purchased you’ll receive an email with a link to download your chapters.