From Meat Processing Facility to Fork

Joined Sep 5, 2008
So where does our meat really come from? How do we know? Do you know? I sure don't. Depending on the budget du jour, my mood, and what's for dinner, I may be shopping in different places:
  • Gelson's: the most expensive supermarket around, they carry prime beef (the price is also prime), organic beef, grass fed, kobe beef, the meat is always fresh, guaranteed natural without hormones or antibiotics, they have organic chicken ($4.99/lbs).
  • Whole Foods: almost as expensive as Gelson's but not quite, they carry organic chicken, beef and pork, the quality is pretty good but freshness is not as good as Gelson's. 
  • Jon's: one of the least expensive supermarket around, they carry many Armenian or East-Europeans products and dried, cured meats and fishes, charcuteries, etc... they have some decent lamb but otherwise I rarely look at their meat case, things are usually either still frozen, or defrosted, in large packages that are badly wrapped and often torn, meat chunks badly cut, you can often see bone dust near the cut bones. They're the only ones around to sell Lamb breast (looks pretty much like a rack of baby back ribs), so I do get that there when there's one. I also buy all my wieners there. 

    Jon's smoked baby back ribs, slab cured pork belly, smoked sausage and wieners:

  • Handy Market Burbank: little pop and mom grocery store with a real butcher in the back. To get your meat you have to wait in line and ask the butcher to wrap what you want. Prices are much better than Gelson's, but the quality is not as good. You can get a $10/lbs rib-eye, or a $1.29/lb chicken
  • Costco: large membership-based warehouse with low cost, big packages, good prices, good quality. I can get a rack of lamb for $12 to $20 depending on size. Great beef, both prime and choice. 
So my question is, how do we know where the meat comes from? Should I ask each supermarket? Will that even give me any further information? Where do all those stores/supermarket source their meat from? Are there as many sources as there are supermarkets? Or is everything centralized? 
Joined Oct 31, 2012
     Yes, you should ask everyone where they get their meat. Maybe they'll tell you, maybe not. If they don't, I wouldn't buy from them. 

I just asked the butcher at the local supermarket chain this very question yesterday and he replied "Out of Kansas". 

     Now my sister lives in Kansas and I only eat steak when i visit because her local small family restaurant (and her rancher friends) has great steaks for very reasonable prices. But my local supermarket meat just isn't the same even though it supposedly comes from Kansas. 

I do know there are smaller family operations in Kansas and my local supermarket is most likely not buying from them. 

Then there are the huge operations out west selling millions of pounds of beef

      There is a specialty wholesaler/retailer here who sells meats and other items, both exotic and just expensive. But one day while getting a delivery of veal bones from a different company, the owner who was making the delivery, told me if I ever needed anything from the specialty store I should call him because he is the source for much of their meat product. 

There are numerous specialty butchers and shops around here, all sourcing differently. One large local butcher shop specializes in aging the beef on site with appropriate matching prices. 

The local Asian markets have good selection and prices. I can't find anyone who speaks english so I never ask. 

One local place calls itself a pork store but doesn't sell pork fat. 

Another small local place sells great products and can get caul fat whenever I want but another local butcher told me it was unavailable. 

More and more small, local farms here sell beef, raised and slaughtered and sold locally. Not always or ever aged but local and well raised. 

So there are numerous sources and numerous providers and numerous factors. 

And then of course, there are those watery bags at Walmart. 
Joined Dec 18, 2010
I've been curious about that too but never got an answer. "From our supplier", "off the truck", and "from our warehouse" is the most understandable answer given. Mostly blank stares. I guess I really don't care too much because I look and smell and decide to buy or not. The whole notion of identifying the source down to the farm is a bit ostentatious in my opinion. One thing I've noticed is that there must be a few common sources. From reading the market ads I've often noticed that Food-4-Less and Jons and at least one other always seems to have the same stuff on sale at the same time. So I assume that they get from the same supplier. But that's just a guess.
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Joined Jan 8, 2010
In this case, we are lucky.

There are a limited number of abatoirs here and we tend to know where they buy their cattle from.

I also know a number of butchers that will give me the right info.

Anyway, all meat and poultry sold in Zambia, comes from Zambia. Around Christmas, special permission is given to import turkeys, but that's it!

It is even easier with lamb, sheep and goat. They come from my neighbours /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
Joined Jun 23, 2015
In the states most meat comes from fe companies. Here are the top ones.{E1E627B9-E4CE-40A0-A3E0-ED9B597FCBFE}&cck=1   I am located in the southeast US.  Most grocery stores get cryovaced meat and have their meat department cut it and wrap it.  They have meat cutters not butchers.  Publix is the higher end grocer in this area competing with Kroger and Albertsons.  Whole paycheck foods are in the larger cities.  Sams is around and there is a COSCO about 90 miles away.

I was shopping for meat one day and checked Sams and Publix. That week both were selling Excel brand owned by Cargill.  IBP is another brand seen often, it is owned by Tyson.  Smithfield is the largest pork producer in the US and has been bought by a Chinese company.

Local beef and pork are available but very expensive.  About twice the price of Sams.  One group of large farmers in this area have a USDA inspected processor just down the road.  To buy beef or pork grown within five miles of where I have a place I have to order it from a distributor out of Atlanta two hundred miles away.  To make his meat processing business profitable my neighbor  had to agree to sell all his product to the distributor and sign a non compete clause.

Local small farmers take their livestock to the Sale Barn where it is auctioned and bought by the large finishing companies.

I toured a local chicken processor owned by one of the large companies.  It was very interesting.  The most profitable part of the chicken is the feet which are shipped to Asia.  For a football playoff in Buffalo, NY  this company sent six tractor trailer loads of wings fof the fans to consume.
Joined Jun 23, 2015
I love the idea of local, farm to table, and slow food.  I have found that meat from local sustainable sources is at least twice the cost of grocery meat.  Is it worth it? Grass fed and finished sounds good but grain finished has better marbling.   Most local beef is USDA inspected but not graded. Local eggs are $5 a dozen, grocery $1.30 this week,  grocery organic $3-$4.  I raised chickens for eggs and understand the cost of local small production farms.    
Joined Jan 25, 2013
A small, independent grocery store at least knows the meat distributor.  there are some butcher shops here also.(Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina)

 Some grocery stores here are almost eliminating there meat cutting department, about all they do is stock the display, their saws and such are gone.  To save money, meat cutting is done at a regional level and everything gets to the store ready for sale.  I would not know where to start to find out where stuff came from.  

I buy cryo-vac large cuts of beef and pork that come from Nebraska.  a lot of local pork comes from eastern North Carolina.  chicken usually comes from the five brand names that have processing plants near here.  We get eggs from a friend's neighbor for $2 a dozen


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