UPDATE: As of June 25, 2018, Zaycon Fresh has suspended operations. Read the details at the bottom of this post!
If you’ve been in the frugal food space for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard about Zaycon Fresh Foods.
Finding quality meat – that’s affordable – is one of the trickiest aspects of eating healthy food on a budget. Zaycon realized this, and stepped into the marketplace to offer solution.
I personally have friends who love Zaycon and only order their meat through them. But I had questions and concerns of my own.
This past summer, I placed my first order so I could give you an honest review of Zaycon, and hopefully answer the questions you have about them.
About Zaycon Foods
Zaycon Foods is a meat distributor. They work very closely with local farms to bring you fresh meat that has never been frozen. Essentially, they cut out the middle man and bring you minimally processed meat straight from the farm.
Zaycon offers meat in bulk. For example, chicken comes in a 40 pound box, lean ground beef comes in a 40 pound box and bacon comes in a 36 pound box. If you need or want just one pound of chicken or beef, you’re not going to get that from Zaycon.
At the same time though, buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save on groceries. Not everyone has the resources to buy from a farmer, and even if you did, you might not have the freezer room!
Zaycon is a great compromise to that problem, letting you buy meat in bulk without buying whole animals at one time.
The Types of Meat Zaycon Offers and Current Pricing
As of this writing, Zaycon Fresh Foods offers the following products. I’ve included prices on those that are available in my area right now, but this is subject to change. Be sure to verify the price on this page before placing your order!
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts ($1.89/lb x 40 lbs = $75.60/case)
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs ($1.99/lb x 30 lbs = $59.70/case)
- Chicken Tenderloins ($3.19/lb x 30 lbs = $95.70/case
- 90/10 Ground Turkey
- Boneless Turkey Breast Roast ($4.29/lb x 24 lbs = $102.96/case)
- 93/7 Ground Beef ($3.99/lb x 40 lbs = $159.60/case)
- 80/20 Ground Beef (2.99/lb x 40 lbs = $119.60/case)
- Prime Rib ($13.99/lb x 12 lbs = $167.88/case)
- Kansas City Strip Steaks ($8.49/lb x 14 lbs = $118.86/case)
- Angus Ribeye Steaks ($9.99/lb x 14 lbs = $139.86/case)
- Whole Beef Tenderloins ($19.99/lb x 12 lbs = $239.88/case)
- All Beef Hot Dogs
- Premium Skirt Steaks
- Center Cut Pork Loin Chops ($2.89/lb x 24 lbs = $69.36/case)
- Premium Hickory Smoked Bacon ($3.79/lb x 36 lbs = $136.44/case)
- Pork Sausage Links ($2.49/lb x 20 lbs = $49.80/case)
- Premium Pork Tenderloin
- Sweet Italian Sausage
- Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillets ($8.99/lb x 20 lbs = $179.80/case)
- Wild Argentine Red Shrimp ($7.99/lb x 20 lbs = $159.80/case)
- Chicken Waffle Bites ($3.89/lb x 20 lbs = $77.80/case)
- Breaded Chicken Breast Fritters
Because availability varies depending on where you live, you might not be able to get all of these cuts. I personally haven’t seen hot dogs, skirt steaks or sausage in my area (yet), but items are definitely seasonal. You can see what’s available in your area on this page.
The Quality of the Meat
One of the biggest questions I get from readers about Zaycon Foods is this:
Is Zaycon meat organic?
The short answer, no…. But – Zaycon does have strict standards to the quality of their meat.
- Their boneless skinless chicken breasts are hormone-free, cage-free and antibiotic-free… BUT, the feed is not promised to be non-GMO because of possible cross contamination.
- Their super lean ground beef though, comes from pastured, grass-fed and grain-finished cows.
- The bacon contains no artificial wood smoke flavor or monosodium glutamate (MSG – one of the top 5 additives to avoid), but it does contain nitrates and sugar.
(If all of this doesn’t make sense, here’s a cheat sheet of common meat labeling terms.)
In short, their meat is not considered organic or strictly grass-fed or pastured. HOWEVER, they have very high standards and choose farms that function as organic and pastured. They just might not necessarily be certified organic (which is a costly and time-consuming process that doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality anyway).
And if you have a question about the quality of a certain cut of meat, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get in touch with Zaycon and ask!
Personally, I view Zaycon as one step up from typical conventional grocery store meat. Every family has to decide what their own real food priorities are though, and then shop accordingly.
Psst – Understanding your real food priorities is one of my lessons in my course Grocery Budget Bootcamp. Afterall, how will you know HOW to spend your money if you don’t know WHAT to spend it on? Because I personally teach this class, enrollment opens only three times a year. Sign up HERE to get on the waitlist and be notified when class is open!
How it Works
Due to the nature of buying in bulk, shopping with Zaycon is slightly different than going to the grocery store. However, it’s a very simple process:
1. Visit Zaycon online. Shop by products OR shop by location.
I think it’s more efficient to shop by location first, and then if you don’t find what you’re looking for, try searching by products.
2. Enter your zip code and hit “search.” By default, you will see the locations closet to you first.
3. Scroll through several locations to get an idea of what’s available in your area. A few things to note:
- Zaycon’s default distance isn’t always “real world” accurate. The closest location to me (mileage-wise) actually takes me longer than another one, because of the traffic in the area. Be sure to look at several locations before deciding on one that fits your schedule.
- Pay attention to the pick-up times. You only have 30 minutes to pick up your order, and the time frames are NOT consistent across locations.
- The pick-up dates are at least one month and up to 5 months out. If you need meat sooner, head to the grocery store.
4. When you find something you like, click the “Purchase” button next to the CORRECT date/time stamp under the CORRECT location.
5. Adjust the quantities of what you’d like to order on the next page and click “Add to Cart.”
6. When you’re ready to check out, review your order INCLUDING the date, time and location. Even if you’re sure, be doubly sure.
7. Click the “Checkout” button and complete your purchase.
My Personal Experience and Honest Review of Zaycon Foods
UPDATE: Zaycon Fresh has suspended operations and is no longer making deliveries. Read the details below!
While testing out Zacyon Foods, I ordered the product that made them famous and is still one of their most popular items, the boneless skinless chicken breasts. I even took some video for you guys so you can really see (almost) first hand what the Zaycon experience is like!
The Pick Up Process
The pick-up process took me 2 minutes MAX:
- I drove up to the man processing orders
- I gave him my last name and he verified my purchase against his list
- He opened my truck and laid a plastic sheet down
- He pulled one box of chicken breasts from the Zaycon truck and put it in my truck and closed the door.
- He wished me good day.
If I could give Zaycon a million points for ease of pick-up, I would. For this fact alone I will re-order from them!
Un-boxing the Chicken
My one box contained 40 pounds of chicken, divided into four 10 lb bags. About two-thirds of the chicken breasts were still attached to each other, so I set up a station in my kitchen to cut them apart.
Processing the Chicken
I’ve heard horror stories of it taking upwards of 4 hours to “process” Zaycon chicken (i.e. cut apart the breasts and bag them up for the freezer), so I blocked off my entire afternoon to dedicate to this process.
Fortunately, it took me only 45 minutes. I meant to take a video of this too, but my hands were covered in chicken, and chicken on my phone (and in my hair) is kind of gross, so I opted out.
Here’s how I processed the chicken quickly:
- Start with an empty and clean sink (clean as in you actually cleaned it, not just cleared out the dishes).
- Empty all the chicken breasts into one side of the sink. Discard the plastic, but keep the boxes!
- Next to that side of the sink, set-up a clean cutting board with a clean knife.
- Pick up a pair of chicken breasts, cut them down the middle so you have two separate chicken breasts, and place both halves into the other (empty and clean) side of the sink. Repeat this until all chicken is cut.
- Get out your freezer-safe containers (I always use plastic bags for meats, and used quart-sized bags for this chicken).
- Each chicken breast weighs one pound (yes, I weighed them for you!), so place one chicken breast into one bag and set aside. Repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
- Fold each bag in half to remove as much air as possible and seal. Repeat with the remaining bags of chicken.
- Freeze. I have a deep freezer, so in order to keep the chicken organized, I laid each bag of chicken into the box that it came in. I made a single layer first, and then a second layer on top. Then I placed the entire box into my deep freeze.
Eating the Chicken
This is my only issue with Zaycon, and there’s a good chance it was just a fluke. But, the chicken we ordered didn’t taste good. It was very, very tough and chewy. So chewy in fact that my husband pretty much put his food down and wouldn’t eat it (and this is huge, because he NEVER does this).
I tried all sorts of different cooking methods to see if it would help, including diced, shredded, baking, frying chicken nuggets, grilled, marinated (short and long). The only method that SEEMED to help, was pounding out the meet thinly (to just less than ½”) AND marinating overnight in an acidic mixture (I used homemade buttermilk).
Just to make sure we weren’t crazy, I planned back-to-back chicken dinners. I used Zaycon’s chicken one night, and organic chicken from the grocery store the next night. I didn’t say ONE WORD to anyone in the family, yet both my husband and I noticed the difference in texture almost immediately.
I contacted Zaycon about this, because surely the recommendations from my friends and you guys couldn’t all be wrong, right? Maybe this was just a new-to-Zaycon farm or a bad batch of chicken?
Zaycon customer service was extremely helpful, and after I answered their questions, they credited my account 100% of my purchase price.
Will I Buy From Zaycon Again?
Absolutely yes! As I mentioned earlier, the pick-up process was a blessing to this busy mama, and I certainly don’t mind processing the meat for an hour when I get home.
I took my credit and splurged on Wild Argentine Red Shrimp and Kansas City Strip Steaks. If all goes well, I’ll come back and update this post with my experience on those orders too!
What You Should Know Before You Buy
Zaycon offers sales!
Just recently Zaycon Fresh Foods had a coupon code for 22% off bacon, 22% off 80/20 ground beef and 22% of shrimp. When you combine their coupons with their already competitive prices, you really can save a ton over shopping at the grocery store.
To be notified of sales, subscribe to their newsletter or follow them on social media. I don’t want to miss a sale, so I subscribed to their email. My only gripe is that they email daily, but they include the item in the subject line so I can only open the ones that apply to me.
Placing orders requires planning ahead of time.
Sometimes you can place an order just one month out, but most often, you’re looking at 2-3 months away before picking up your meat. This means planning ahead for the budget, for your time to pick-up, for the time to process, for storing the meat, and even for the event you need the meat for (i.e. to order prime rib for Christmas, I’d have to order now and pick up the first week of November).
This isn’t hard to do when you know what to expect, but it’s not the instant gratification experience you’re used to getting at the grocery store.
They do sell out of items.
You can place orders for items up to the day before the scheduled pick-up, BUT they often run out. This is especially true of items that are already on a limited basis as it is (i.e. specialty cuts of meat, seafood, etc.). If you are interested in an item, get your planning figured out ASAP and head over to Zaycon Foods so you don’t miss out on the great deal.
Update as of June 25, 2018:
Last week, Zaycon suddenly shut down without alerting customers or blogging affiliates (like me). No emails were sent out and their website is not providing any information.
As an affiliate with Zaycon, I am often given information ahead of time, but received no word about this shut down. All of my personal links to access my Zaycon account are giving me an error message which means I will not receive payment for referrals either.
It is unknown at this point whether Zaycon will file bankruptcy and reopen business at a later date. This makes me so sad because they seemed to be doing so well with their business and I was ready to order some more shrimp and steak!
While the prices that Zaycon offered were so amazing, it may be what lead to their undoing. Sadly, even their truck drivers were unaware that they were losing their jobs until the day of. Some finished out their deliveries for the week (without pay) to ensure customers received their orders.
Current customers are encouraged to contact their credit card, Paypal, or bank to dispute the charges for any outstanding orders. Unfortunately this isn’t a guarantee to get your money back, but it is worth trying.
I haven’t found any online source for meat to be as well priced as Zaycon, but I do have some recommendations:
- Butcher Box (Not for everyone, but very high quality. Read my review here.)
- Tropical Traditions (I use them for coconut oil, but they also offer organic grass-fed beef and pastured pork and chicken.)
- Azure Standard (I have not used them before but they come highly recommended by blogging friends.)
- Big box stores like Costco and Sam’s are offering more higher quality meat for good prices than before. I’ve also found grass-fed ground beef at ALDI for a great price. (See the Costco vs. Aldi comparison here.)
- Local farms will most likely have the best quality for the best price in your area. Go here for help finding a local farm in your area. If you can’t fit a whole side of beef in your freezer, consider going in with some friends and splitting it up.