Whole and Half Hogs

How can I afford to feed my family pasture-raised meats on a limited budget?  As small farmers with a little one, we definitely get how tough it can be. We have a solution, one probably used by your grandparents – buying in bulk!

Long ago folks didn’t buy individual steaks and sausages and chicken wings, they got a whole animal, or a share of a whole animal.  Because the farmer knew he would sell every part of the animal, he could give the very best prices to his customers. You can fill up your freezer with pork all at once, rather than buying a little at a time with either a half or whole hog. We can even provide the freezer, if you don’t already have one, and deliver it to your home!

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You’ll get to choose the cuts you want, including the number or pork chops, ribs, hams, bacon, belly, roasts, sausage, and more. We’ll send you a cut sheet questionnaire to fill out and work with you to meet your cut needs.  (Do you prefer pork belly or bacon?  Do you want shoulder and hams, or more sausage?)

You can expect about 90 pounds of meat for a half hog and 180 pounds for a whole hog.

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You can take delivery at our CSA drop point or a farmers market, if you let us know ahead of time when you’ll be meeting us to pick it up. We will bring your portion in our freezer truck hard frozen. You can transfer it to your cooler or freezer to take home.  If you don’t have a deep freezer, please email us at marblecreekfarmstead@gmail.com or call 205-936-6120 to discuss freezer delivery. It could be about $200 – $300 for the appliance, depending on if you want a whole or half hog to fit inside. A whole hog will typically fit in a 7-cubic foot chest freezer.

We certainly recommend a deep freezer, as it keeps the food colder to help it store longer.  Make sure you have one without automatic defrost or turn the automatic defrost feature off, since automatic defrosting will warm your food then refreeze it, causing freezer burn and making the meat degrade faster. Our pork is all vacuum-packed after dry-aging for best quality.  It should keep in the freezer for 12 months.

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Costs will be $3 per pound (SALE PRICE through November 2 only) plus processing.  Processing costs will vary based on services desired – there is a $50 harvesting fee, 50¢ per pound to process it, and then smoking and curing (like for bacon) or sausage-making have their own $2.50 per-pound fees.  Typically you’d spend about $100 – $110 to process a half hog and $200 – $225 to process a whole hog.

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Here’s an example half hog order:

  •  10-12 lbs of pork chops
  •  3 lbs of spareribs
  •  8-10 lbs ground pork and/or sausage
  •  8-10 lbs bacon
  •  15-18 lb fresh ham
  •  10 lbs picnic shoulder roast
  •  4-6 lb Boston shoulder roast
  •  5 lbs ham hocks or stew bones (great for soup, broth, or stew!)
  •  8 -10 lbs fat (pie crusts, frying, cooking veggies in… the possibilities are endless!)
  •  1-2 lb jowl
  • heart, liver

These pigs were humanely raised on grass and in the woods (outdoors year-round), and they received a non-GMO feed.  They got to express their natural instincts by rooting up the earth and wallowing in puddles. Please see our Pastured Pork page to learn more about how we raise our hogs.

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How much do I save by buying a Whole or Half Hog?

Whole Hog example:
A Whole Hog is $3/lb hanging weight
250 pounds live weight
180 pounds hanging weight
150 pounds take home freezer meat
For the Whole Hog example, the 150 lbs of meat would cost $1,468 if you purchased this meat by the cut at the regular retail cost.
If you buy a Whole Hog at the Whole Hog price, this 150 lbs of meat would come out to: $450 + processing (around $225, depends on weight and how much smoking, etc. is selected)

Half Hog example:
A Half Hog is $3/lb hanging weight
90 pounds hanging weight
75 pounds take home freezer meat

For this Half Hog example, the 75 lbs of meat would cost about $734  if you purchased this meat by the cut at the regular retail cost.

If you buy a Half Hog at the Half Hog price, this 75 lbs of meat would come out to $225, + processing (around $110, depends on weight)

You can save a lot of money by ordering your pork this way. Plus you get to walk to the freezer any time and pick out whatever cut you want to defrost for dinner!  If you have any questions, we look forward to talking with you more about bulk pork purchases. If not, please use this LINK to purchase the whole hog and use the code MARBLECREEKFALL2016WHOLE at checkout, or this LINK for the half hog and use the code MARBLECREEKFALL2016HALF for the half hog. Thank you!

Thanksgiving

We at Marble Creek have so much to be thankful for this year. We are so thankful for the arrival our first son Luke! We are incredibly thankful for all the grandparent help we have watching Luke while Jesie works.  When we first came to Pepper Place this year on April 11, we didn’t know what the demand for our pasture-raised meats, eggs, and cleanly-raised produce would be. It was tremendous to say the least. We are so very thankful for the opportunity to be a vendor at Pepper Place. We are so grateful to our wonderful customers for trying out our products and continuing to come back and support us. Our CSA members especially have really shown us that there is need for what we are doing and we are so thankful for the trust you put in us to feed your family. We are thankful for the community of like-minded farmers we met and continue to enjoy fellowship with at market and beyond. We are thankful for the forgiving climate we had this year. We were blessed with lots of well-timed rain and good temps with a last freeze in March. We were blessed with a market at Liberty Park, West Homewood, and The Summit. We have a great partnership with Hurricane Branch Farms to provide awesome grass-fed beef to our customers while we grow our own herd. We will never be big enough to meet all of our demand, but they are blessed with hundreds of acres of prime pasture, so that we can always ensure consistent quality beef for our customers. We are thankful for the wonderful relationship we have with our processor, Steve Thompson. Chastain Farms, Rora Valley, Hepzibah Farms, Herron Hollow, Mt Laurel Farm, Jones Valley, Harvest Roots, ASAN, Nathan Wright, Joe Gamble, and so many more have helped us out countless times and in countless ways.

 

But what we are most thankful for this year is the incredible volunteer help we have received as we have built our farm. For those that do not know, we are a host farm for the WWOOF program. This program allows people from all backgrounds and ages to try out farming on sustainable farms. Some do it for a day, some for years. We have had a steady stream of mostly young people come to our farm to help us and learn about what we are doing. This was our first year as a WWOOF host. We had a lot to learn ourselves from hosting WWOOFers. Our farm always has so much work to do, and it feels like there is never enough help to do it. Trying to find the balance between working hard and being a good host has been hard for us. Many times we simply work too hard and sometimes our volunteers have shouldered a lot of our load. As we grow and hire our first employees this winter and spring, we are much better able to manage the demands of our farm. But we couldn’t have found the success that allows us to do that without the monumental help of our WWOOFers.

 

Juliette, Christian, Allison, Karen, Eric, Gaelle, Rachel, Emma, Aris, Amy – THANK YOU. We would not be the farm we are today without you. Christian and Allison – a very special thank you goes out to you two. You both were here at the very beginning for a long time. I know it was a hard time sometimes, especially given the time of year when it is freezing and wet and muddy, but you stuck it out with us and we genuinely appreciate what you did for us. Thank you. Rachel – you ran our entire garden this year and ran our markets. You were also a constant source of positivity and optimism. To say we couldn’t have done it without you is a severe understatement. We are so proud of you and grateful to have had you with us. Emma – we are so excited to have you with us in this new role and so incredibly thankful for the help you have given us all year. You continue to struggle with us through every aspect of our enterprise and family. We are so lucky to have you.

 

As the season shifts from fall to winter, we take time to reflect on what has been this year. The last of the pasture is browning as the soil goes to sleep for the winter. The last of the leaves are falling down. The days are so short that us farmers don’t have a choice but to slow down, too. But we know that in just 8 short weeks we will be starting our first transplants of the year (in January).  The start of winter just means spring is right around the corner. As you and your family connect over the holidays, we wish you the very best from Marble Creek Farmstead.

Announcing the Marble Creek Farmstead Pastured Meats CSA!

Greetings!

We are now offering a limited number of shares for our meat CSA.

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What is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a relationship between our farm and you as our customer. Rather than simply purchasing food, our customers become “members” of this CSA farm who receive a portion of the farm’s harvest.  The upfront capital allows us to invest in fencing, new animals, feed, processing costs, more land, etc. while ensuring you have a reliable and regular source of the healthiest meat around.

We will set up bi-weekly pickups at convenient locations in downtown Birmingham, Hoover, and 280.

Expected Products Fall 2015

The chart below outlines some of the meats we hope to deliver and when you may see them in your share. This chart is based on our best estimate, but of course, growth and production may vary. Meat comes hard frozen.

We raise heritage breed pork (Berkshire, Large Black, and Tamworth). They are raised on rotating 1/2 acre paddocks. We move them often to ensure they are on clean, nutrient-dense pasture. They are given a non-GMO feed from a local company. We raise traditional (Cornish cross) chickens as well as Red Rangers, Pioneers, Barred Rocks, and Heritage Whites. They are raised in large chicken tractors. They get fresh pasture every day (or even more often). We carry beef from Hurricane Branch Farms, a nearby neighbor farm that raises heritage British White cattle. They have never been bred to do well on grain, so the 100% grass-fed flavor is the best possible. Some people raise grass-fed beef with commercial breeds, but they don’t taste as great as the heritage breeds when raised on grass, in my opinion. We never use growth hormones, insecticides, feed-based antibiotics, etc.

The family share is designed to provide 2-3 breakfasts, 4-6 meals, and a cooking fat of some kind (we will help you learn what to do with those). The single/couple share is designed with smaller packaging more appropriate for your meals. The chickens are smaller and the share forgoes roasts. These shares should have 1-2 breakfasts, 4-5 meals, and a cooking fat.

 Family Share Example                                                               Couples/Singles

Family share example                                singles

Cost

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The CSA will begin around October 15th. The final pick up locations and dates will be sent out later next week. They will typically be on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday from 5-7 pm. We will deliver your share bi-weekly. So a 10 share will run 20 weeks, a 5 share will run 10 weeks, etc. You also have the option to come pick up your share at the farm and see how we do everything, just let us know ahead of time.

If you are interested in buying a share, I encourage you to do so quickly. We are about 70% full currently and expect to fill up quick. To do so, please email marblecreekfarmstead@gmail.com and tell us which type of share you want. If we have space, we will email you to go purchase it in the online store. Feel free to call Matthew at 205-936-6120 with any questions.

If you are not ready to buy now but want to be kept informed about when new shares become available, please let us know as well.

Pasture-Raised Meats CSA

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Greetings!!!

We are in the preliminary stages of starting a pasture-raised meats CSA. If you have interest in seeing this happen, please email us at marblecreekfarmstead@gmail.com or call us at 205-936-6120. Remember that next year we will be adding goat, lamb, duck, and rabbit. Customers who become part of our CSA in the beginning will always have a place in future CSAs.

If you aren’t already familiar with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), the USDA says it “consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.”  It’s a way for our members to purchase a share of our farm’s harvest, so they can have local, fresh food directly from the farmer. There are only a certain number of shares available each season, and members will need to pick up their shares at a pre-set location. Typically CSAs are for vegetables, but we are looking to meet your family’s need for pastured meats each week, or every other week (you may choose the frequency).  Members will incur the expense of the food up front, but they will have a regular supply of delicious pasture-raised meats, ensuring we don’t run out before they can make it to our farmer’s market booth to purchase their selections.  Because a membership in a CSA implies some shared risk (due to the prepayment), we will serve the CSA customers first, before our farmer’s market booth.  Besides covering some of our up-front costs, a CSA helps our farm to plan for the next season with more stable demand than the farmer’s market.  You get to know your farmers on a first-name basis and to know exactly where your food comes from.

We will set up multiple pick-up locations around Birmingham and the surrounding areas. You are always welcome to come pick up at the farm. Delivery may be an option.

The structure would be something like the following:

5-Week (or 10-Week Bi-Weekly) Family Size: about $575 for over 80lbs of meat (~ $7.20 per lb)

10-Week (or 20-Week Bi-Weekly) Family Size: about $1100 for over 160lbs of meat (~$6.80 per lb)

15-Week (or 30-Week Bi-Weekly) Family Size: about $1550 for over 240lbs of meat (~$6.50 per lb)

The bi-weekly shares are the same amount of food, just picked up every other week instead of every week, if that better meets your family’s needs. We will also do a CSA designed for couples or singles that will be a little over half the price off from the family share, but still lots off meat. The serving sizes of these shares will be more appropriate for a single serving or a couple.

An example of what might be included in the family-size CSA share is below.

5-Week (or 10-Week Bi-Weekly):

Amt (Lb)             Week 1

5            Whole Chicken
1            Sea Salt Cured Bacon
1            Breakfast Sausage
1/2         Leaf Lard
4            Boston Butt
2            Ground Beef
2            Sirloin

Amt (Lb)             Week 2

5            Whole Chicken
1            Sea Salt Cured Bacon
1            Hamhock
1            Sliced Breakfast Ham
2            Thick-Cut Pork Chops
4            Chuck Roast
2            Ground Beef

Amt (Lb)             Week 3

5            Whole Chicken
1            Breakfast Sausage
1            Smoked Hog Jowl
1            Sliced Breakfast Ham
1            Baby Back Ribs
4            Whole Smoked Ham
2            Bratwurst
2            Ground Beef

Amt (Lb)             Week 4

5            Whole Chicken
2            Sea Salt Cured Bacon
1            Fresh Lard
2            Ground Beef
1            NY Strip
1            Ribeye
2            Thick Cut Pork Chops

Amt (Lb)             Week 5

5            Whole Chicken
1            Sea Salt Cured Bacon
1            Breakfast Sausage
2            Spare Ribs
2            Hot Dogs
4            Pork Shoulder Roast
1/2         Smoked Hog Jowl
2            Ground Beef

If you’re interested in saving money on your weekly pastured meat purchases, knowing where your food comes from by buying directly from a producer, supporting your local economy, reducing your food miles, and increasing your health by eating clean, nutrient-dense meats from animals who lived on grass out in the sunshine, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, then we’d love to hear from you as to your interest in this program!

Foggy Hollow Farm and the Future of Pasture-Raised Chickens

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Like many farmers and ranchers that want to raise livestock on a rotational pasture-based system, we want to use breeds of chickens that are not designed for confinement. Most of the chicken sold in the US is a breed called the Cornish X (pronounced cornish cross). We started with and also still grow some of these birds. Because they are not great foragers and have some other drawbacks in a pasture-based system, we have looked at adding new breeds.

Our next step was to try and find some other birds to raise. We tried Red Ranger. We are currently raising Rainbows and Heritage Whites. All of these birds take longer to mature and are much better on pasture. They take 9-14 weeks to mature, fully feather, and forage better. But they are hybrids, which means if we breed them, we will not get the same breed as the parents. While the meat in these birds is great and we are happy with the results, we are still dependent on the hatchery system.

We attended the SSAWG conference in Mobile in May and heard about the Sustainable Poultry Network. Their mission is to create an alternative to the hatchery-based model to a more local version using heritage breeds of poultry. John Patrick of Foggy Hollow Farm raises beautiful Barred Rocks. These don’t look the birds you would get from buying Barred Rocks from Murray McMurray or other national hatcheries, which have been bred to make the most eggs possible. These are bred to be true dual-purpose birds.

If all goes well, we will be working to try and change our entire flock over to these heritage breeds over the next year. It’s a bold undertaking. These chickens take a lot longer to reach maturity, and that makes them much more expensive to raise. Our goal will be to keep prices very close to our current levels, so to be able to do that we’d like to use as much feed that we’ve grown here as we can; we also won’t have to pay a hatchery and shipping. We will still raise the other birds until our customers make the switch with us. But our desire is to raise the animals that work better in a local model and allows us to close our system on site.

Foggy Hollow Farm is a wonderful family endeavor. They have the only LEED Platinum Certified home in Middle Tennessee. They have wonderful rain catchment system and solar power. Their home was designed to use passive solar heating, so that in the colder months more light comes in to heat the home, while in the warmer months no direct sunlight enters. They are also the only Certified Organic producer of eggs in Middle Tennessee. They also have a gorgeous goat herd raised for meat. Rebecca and John are both gracious hosts and we could not recommend them enough. Here are some photos from our trip.

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April around the farm

Spring is fully here, and we are loving it. Little farmer Luke turned 7 weeks old yesterday, and he has been an adorable little helper at market with us.

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We have 90 new laying hens we are raising from chicks, as well as 150 new broilers. Our Tamworth hogs are 3 months old now and are starting to get bigger, but they still feel like babies to me. Our good friend Andrew came by and introduced his pup Otto to the herd. Otto has his doubts, but the pigs love friends!

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We are trying to move beyond the chicken tractor. We don’t like how confined they are, so bring on the chicken maze! This keeps predators out and confuses the hawks. The chicks dig the challenge. But they are getting out a lot and starting to roam too far to be safe at their size, so it’s still a work in progress.

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Our pigs did a great job of planting watermelons and acorn squash for us in the woods over the winter. Maybe they will get a bounty to enjoy later in the summer!

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We are getting great spinach, kale, turnip, radish, and turnip green harvests these days.

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We go through a lot of non-GMO feed, so we finally got a grain silo installed. This will make our lives much easier and cut down on our delivery costs. We had to get a boom truck to lift the thing after laying a high-PSI concrete slab.

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We got a new registered Berkshire boar. Meet Wilbur!

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And finally, we have 3 weeks of successful farmers markets behind us. Our customers are giving us great feedback. Most of them are loving what they are buying, and we are getting good criticisms so that we can always improve. Come see us this Saturday from 7-12 at Pepper Place in Birmingham.

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