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Meat-buying club brings local meat to Sonoma County consumers

The Issue

New food trends are emerging, especially with the help of popular books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Consumers want to know food sources, its safety, health attributes and, in terms of animal production, that it is raised humanely. Consumers are also conscious of reducing their carbon footprints. By purchasing local food, they can reduce transportation costs while supporting local agriculture.

What Has ANR Done?

To strengthen the local food economy in Sonoma County, UC Cooperative Extension started a county-based meat buying club. The club began as a small-scale pilot project in February 2008, and gives county residents access to meat raised on Sonoma County family farms following environmental and humane practices, at an affordable price. The club's goal is to enhance local market opportunities for the county’s livestock producers and income streams that can help keep ranching operations viable. The program aims to establish a local meat supply chain that is logistically and financially stable in the long run. UC Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County teamed with Sonoma Direct to create the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Sonoma County Meat Buying Club serves local beef, lamb, pork, duck and goat to 120 members, who purchase 7, 15 or 25 pounds on a monthly basis. Along with each shipment, members receive information about local organizations, livestock practices, cooking instructions and more. A local chef creates recipes that accompany the shipments to help club members explore options for preparing the meat.

The Payoff

Consumers reduce their carbon footprints by supporting local producers

As a result of this UC pilot project, Sonoma County residents have access to local beef, lamb, pork, duck and goat. Each month the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club has been purchasing 700 pounds of beef, 300 pounds of pork and 150 pounds of lamb from local family farmers. The club members are shrinking their carbon footprint by purchasing locally raised meat. Members are directly strengthening the economic viability of livestock production in Sonoma County. They have become educated on the difference between grass-fed beef and corn-finished beef in terms of texture, cooking practices, and farming practices. For vegetables, the club has exposed members to local community supported agriculture, local restaurants and local grocery stores through which they can support other local businesses.

Clientele Testimonial

Club member Paula Shatkin said, “Consuming locally grown animals supported healthy ranching, saved fossil fuel and provided high quality products that are not available in retail outlets.” Heather Curran, a meat club member, said she had greatly reduced her family’s meat consumption over the years because of concern regarding the treatment of farm animals. Now with the new club, meat will become a regular part of her menu.


Supporting Unit: Sonoma County

Stephanie Larson, (707) 565-2621, slarson@ucdavis.edu, Meat Buying Club Web site: ucanr.org/SoCoMBC