Consumers Encouraged to Join Meat Project

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Tompkins Weekly 7-7-14

By Susannah Spero

The Finger Lakes Meat Project (FLMP) is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension and currently serves seven counties: Chemung, Cortland, Broome, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins. The FLMP expands local meat sales by connecting local meat buyers with area livestock farmers. Our research shows that bulk purchasing is more affordable for consumers and more profitable for farmers, as it allows consumers to pay a lower price per pound while saving farmers’ valuable time. Consumers tell us that they would like to buy local meat in bulk, but that they face several barriers; namely, a lack of home freezer space and difficulties finding a farm that suits their needs and preferences. In order to combat these obstacles and create new local meat buyers, we offer several innovative services to the public. We are proud to promote food affordability while preserving small farm viability!

Our online directory of regional livestock farms,, provides consumers with profiles and contact information for over 40 livestock farms that sell in bulk. Through this user-friendly interface, consumers can read about a farm’s products and growing practices, and can easily contact farms. Posting a profile is free for farms in our seven-county area. The website also offers information on breeds, feeds, pricing, and yields. We are hoping to expand the Meat Suite to additional New York counties in the near future.

The Ithaca Meat Locker offers consumers rentable space in a walk-in freezer, thus eliminating the need to buy an extra chest freezer. Before consumers owned home refrigerators and purchased their meat by the cut at the grocery store, towns had communal Meat Lockers for bulk meat storage. Ithaca hosted a locker called “Mother Zero!” We are reviving this old-fashioned idea to solve modern problems. As one happy Meat Locker member told us, “it’s like the public transportation of freezers!” For $3 to $5 per month, consumers can rent bins large enough to hold bulk orders of meat, such as a whole lamb, half hog, or quarter of beef. Meat Locker members purchase meat independently, contact us to rent a bin, schedule a drop-off appointment, and access their bin during scheduled hours, sort of like a CSA pick-up. Soon, we will match our regular pick-up hours to Full Plate Farm Collective’s CSA distribution at our location. One of our customers saved $200 by purchasing in bulk and using the Meat Locker—and her farmer was thrilled to reduce his labor costs by selling a whole lamb in one shot. To reserve a spot in the Meat Locker, please visit We are located in Pressbay Alley at 116 West Green Street. A second Meat Locker is opening in downtown Corning in the coming months.

The FLMP also offers consumer education programs designed to familiarize folks with the wealth of local meat options available in our region. Our programs explore diverse topics such as identifying the right farm for you, the prices, yields, and terminology used in bulk meat buying, understanding labels, and cooking unusual cuts. Please stay tuned for future Local Meat Workshops, butchering demonstrations, and tastings! Our next Meat Fair is scheduled for October 25th, 2014. We’ll have lots of meat samples, farm tables, and information on finding, storing, and using local meat. We’re hoping to see you there!

We are eager to assist you in transitioning to buying locally-raised meat in bulk. Please visit us at for additional information. You can also find us on Facebook at: or call Susannah or Matt at (607) 272-2292. The FLMP is funded by the USDA Farmer’s Market Promotion Program, as well as by generous local donors.

Susannah Spero is project coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

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