I never intended on being a guinea pig when I grew up, yet here I am, testing and experimenting again on your behalf!
- First, it was Zaycon and their famous boneless skinless chicken breasts.
- Next, it was Amazon and how to get the most out of a Prime membership.
- Then, it was Grove Collaborative and their affordable “healthy” products (which turned out not to be healthy at all).
- Once again it was Zaycon, with an updated review of their shrimp and steaks.
And now it’s my honest review of Butcher Box, known for delivering grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork and organic chicken right to your front door.
Never heard of Butcher Box before? Here’s what you should know.
What You Need to Know About Butcher Box
Butcher Box is a meat distributor. They are neither a farm nor an online grocery store. Instead, they work with a group of family farms and cooperatives in order to bring grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork and organic chicken to your front door every month.
Look at Butcher Box like a farm liaison. If you’re interesting in eating better quality meat but haven’t been able to find it at your grocery store or at a local farm, Butcher Box can provide it for you.
How Does Butcher Box Work?
Butcher Box is a monthly subscription service. You choose what package of meat you’d like, how often you want the box delivered (either every month or every other month) and then choose any add-ons if you’d like. An add-on would be a one-off item, like a package of uncured sugar-free bacon or 1 pound of boneless pork chops.
As of this writing, your package options are:
- Mixed Box (contains beef, chicken and pork – the most popular!)
- Beef & Pork
- Beef & Chicken
- All Beef
- Custom Box
You don’t get to choose what goes inside the box for the first four options (Mixed Box, Beef & Pork, Beef & Chicken, All Beef). Obviously you choose the type of meat that goes in the box, but you don’t get to choose the exact cuts.
The Custom Box is the only box where you get to choose exactly what goes in your box. As you register and/or login to change your order for the month, you can pick whether you want ground pork or ground beef or a whole chicken…
Each package comes in two different sizes: Classic (9-14 lbs of meat for about 24 meals) or Big (18-26 lbs of meat for about 48 meals).
The Quality of Butcher Box Meat
Butcher Box currently offers three types of meat – beef, chicken and pork – with the goal of bringing you the very best. The quality of the meat is pretty impressive, if I say so myself!
100% Grass-fed and Grass-finished Beef
The cattle are humanely raised, live their entire life on pasture and are never given antibiotics or hormones. They eat a natural diet of grass and they may be given silage or hay if the weather prevents them from grazing.
Organic and Pasture Raised Chicken
The pasture-raised birds spend their entire lives foraging in the field with plenty of room to move around and interact with other chickens. Thanks to all this exercise, these birds will naturally be leaner than conventional chicken.
Heritage Breed Pork
The breeds of pork that Butcher Box sources have been specifically chosen for their rich color and marbled texture. There is no tail docking and the animals are either on pasture, or raised in open barns with bedding and space to engage in natural behaviors, as if they were outside.
How Much Does Butcher Box Cost?
This is a frugal food blog and no review can get away without discussing the numbers.
- Mixed Box / Beef & Pork / Beef & Chicken / All Beef: $129 for a Classic Box, $238 for a Big Box.
- Custom Box: $149 for a Classic Box, $270 for a Big Box.
Depending on what is in your box, it comes out to $7.75 – $9 per pound.
Yes, I know this is pricey.
$7-9 for ONE pound of meat is nothing to scoff at, especially when you’re struggling to pay the bills AND put food on the table.
However, it is VERY possible to eat healthy food without going broke. My family and I are living proof, and that’s why I started this blog.
Your own real food priorities might not include grass-fed beef, organic chicken or pastured pork. Right now, you may be looking for the cheapest cuts of chicken you can possibly find. And that’s okay.
How to Afford Butcher Box on a Budget
But if high quality meat is a priority, here are a few ways to make Butcher Box work for your budget:
Avoid the Custom Box.
I LOVE the idea of being able to choose the exact cuts of meat my family will have this month, but not for the $20 price tag. I’d much rather save that money and have a few flexible meals on my meal plan that will work with regardless of what cuts of meat I get.
If you do choose the Custom Box, order cuts that tend to be pricey.
Your cost for the box is the same regardless of what you put in it, so get the most by choosing pricier cuts you wouldn’t, or can’t, buy otherwise.
Or order the roasts.
Roasts tend to be bigger cuts of meat that aren’t quite as tender, and therefore aren’t as desireable, and therefore tend to cost less.
Practically speaking, choose the 2.25 chuck roast or the 3.65 pork roast instead of the (2) 10 oz ribeyes – you get more meat that way.
Don’t order things you know you can get locally.
Instead, order the things you’re having a hard time sourcing. If your local store has organic chicken, then look at the beef or pork. If you can get grass-fed beef all day long, consider getting steaks or roasts.
Look at how much you’re already spending on meat.
A lot of people will scoff when they see the $129 monthly price tag, but they may not realize they’re ALREADY spending that every month on meat.
Go through your receipts for the past month and categorize your spending like I did in this post. Then you’ll be better equipped to gauge whether the cost of Butcher Box is truly out of the budget.
NOTE: I have students in my course Grocery Budget Bootcamp go through that exercise and they’re AMAZED and how much money they spend on juice, snacks and condiments. If you find a similar spending trend, perhaps these are things you can cut out to make room for better meat?
Stretch the meat using real food.
I’ve talked often about stretching meat at home, including how to stretch one chicken into 31 meals and stretching one pork loin into seven meals and 30+ meals to make with a rotisserie chicken and a general guide of how to stretch meat at home
My ground beef taco meat recipe has just one pound of ground beef but easily feeds 6 at dinner (if not more!) and egg roll in a bowl uses just one pound of ground pork but we always have leftovers for a couple lunches!
Soups and casseroles are great ways to stretch the meat too. Slow cooker pumpkin chili and chicken jalapeno popper casserole are a few of my favorites.
Make stock with the bones.
If you get any bones in your monthly box, save them for homemade stock! Here’s my method for slow cooker stock and Instant Pot stock. Save all of these kitchen scraps too and you’ll have incredibly delicious stock for FREE!
My Personal Experience and Honest Review of Butcher Box
As much as I truly love grocery shopping (I wouldn’t have created an entire course on how to eat real food on a budget if I didn’t!), I have to confess that it’s really nice to have a box of high quality meat show up at my door.
I personally enjoy the surprise of not knowing what’s inside the box. Since most of my meals are flexible (meaning I can substitute beef for chicken) or I can re-arrange my meal plan to accommodate what was delivered, I can make it work.
To be honest though, when I opened our first box, I didn’t think there was a lot of meat. I took everything out and thought there was no way it would last us an entire month.
There were a total of 12 packages of meat (including the free uncured sugar-free bacon) and each package weighed around 1 lb each. If I used only 1 pound of meat per meal and every time stretched it as best as I could (using the techniques mentioned above), I might be able to get 15 meals out of the box.
At the time, this would have worked fine for my family. We ate meatless meals often, including soups, pasta nights, big salads and homemade bread in the meal plan regularly. Having meat every other day would actually be MORE than what we usually ate!
Fast forward a few months though and I’m not sure it would be enough. We recently finished the Whole30 and really liked the difference in how we felt without eating grains, gluten, dairy or legumes.
All four of us eat protein at every meal. Sometimes it’s eggs and sometimes it’s nuts, but most often it’s meat. Assuming we’re all eating four ounces of meat, three times a day, for 5 days of the week (which is being very conservative), we need at least 15 pounds of meat each week.
At $129 per box, that’s $516 on meat every month… and that’s also more than my entire monthly budget!
On the flip side, the beef and pork from Butcher Box was absolutely delicious.
I’ve purchased “natural” pork from the grocery store and every time it was tough and chewy. The pork from Butcher Box was nothing like that. Every pork chop was beyond tender and it made me wonder why we didn’t eat pork more often!
Eating the steaks felt like a huge splurge for us since we don’t eat whole steaks at home often. We split two steaks for dinner to help stretch the meat (each steak was about 12 oz), but they were so good that both Mr. Crumbs and I wished we had a whole steak to ourselves!
These same thoughts run through my head every time we try their meat… we’ve had their ground beef, rib-eyes, top sirloin, NY strip, pork loin and pork chops. Every time, it has been very, very good.
The chicken was good, but because we’re committed to buying organic chicken anyway, we didn’t notice much of a difference. I would have liked a whole chicken to compare side-by-side since that’s what we have at home most often, but I intentionally asked for a mixed box instead.
I did love knowing that the food we put into our bodies wasn’t void of nutrients. Grass-fed beef has more Omega 3’s, less Omega 6’s, and a higher portion of vitamin E, B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Mr. Crumbs has been struggling with some health issues that seem to be related to vitamins, so getting enough of the right vitamins naturally is important to us.
We also had peace of mind that the food we were eating was actually doing our bodies good, instead of just being filler for our dinner plates.
My husband and I both agreed that if were able to make it work with our budget, we’d definitely consider Butcher Box to source our meat. I don’t know if we’d be able to source ALL of our meat from them, but I’d certainly focus on the beef and pork since I can get good deals on organic chicken locally.
I was also wondering if the meat would go bad if it sat on my doorstep all day…
The meat is shipped in an insulated bag, and then packed in an insulated box with dry ice. My box was delivered around 11am and when I opened it to take these pictures, the dry ice had melted but everything was still frozen solid (and two steaks sill had frost on them!).
I then packaged it all back up and put it back on my front porch until 6pm – to mimic what it would be like if I didn’t work from home and it sat outside in the Georgia heat all day. When I brought everything back in, everything was still very cold. The very outer edges of one package of chicken wasn’t frozen solid, but I wouldn’t have any fear of not being home for delivery of my meat.
I’ll be the first to admit that Butcher Box isn’t for everyone. Depending on where you are in this season, you might not be concerned about quality. Or perhaps you’re working on health issues and quality now tops the list of priorities.
It’s entirely up to you, but I hope this summary helps if you feel on the fence.