For Christmas 2008, my husband and I gifted to ourselves a chest freezer. Romantic? No. But after 8 years of marriage we'd decided our love was secure enough for a practical and not-so-spontaneous Christmas gift. Plus, now we could order a 1/4 beef and fill that freezer.
On my mad hunt for the rancher that was going to fill that freezer, I met Michelle Aavang of Willow Lea Stock Farm at the Woodstock Farmer's Market. Her family's local operation right in Woodstock fit the bill. At that time, we paid about $390 for the beef and $125 for the processing at Lake Geneva Country Meats. The pricing may have gone up since then, but this gives you a rough idea. There is no huge savings by buying beef this way, but the price is very fair given that this is local, pasture-raised beef. Over a year later, my family of four is still eating our way through that quarter. Some families who eat more beef might go through it faster, but for us, it's been a blessing of quality beef for more than 365 days.
By the way, the 1/4 beef is a "mixed quarter", meaning you don't just get the front right quadrant of the animal, but rather you get 1/4 of each part of the animal.
The process went a little like this:
1. In January I emailed Michele and got on the wait list for the next available animal
2. In May Michele called and said the animal was ready, and verified that I was still interested
3. Animal was sent to Lake Geneva Country Meats (although Michele indicated if we wished to use a different butcher she could work with us), who called me and walked me through my options on how I would like the animal butchered (most of the cuts are standard, but you do get the choice on size of roasts, whether you want soup bones, etc)
4. About a week later we picked up the meat at Lake Geneva Country Meats (yes, in Lake Geneva--it's a little drive). They had it all individually wrapped and packed into two boxes.
I always "save" the best pieces for special occasions. This past 4th of July we invited my mom over and ate the T-bone steaks. When the plate of juicy, grilled T-bones was passed, my mom dug around for the smallest one. I told her to just take the top one and someone would finish what she didn't. Well, not only did she eat the entire steak, she ate a good 1/3 of another. I've never seen her eat so much beef in one sitting. However, this was exceptional beef. Believe me, all I did was throw it on the grill with a little salt and pepper. The beef itself did the rest.
If you aren't ready for such a big commitment like a 1/4 or 1/2 beef, Michele also sells her beef at the Woodstock Farmer's Market by the piece, so you can just pick up exactly what you'd like.