Paleo? Keto? Whole30? Carnitarian? Start the New Year Right!
Looking for high quality keto– and paleo-friendly grass-fed and finished meats and pastured poultry? What is the most cost-effective and convenient option? These are the questions I set out to answer in testing the ButcherBox and US Wellness Meats delivery services. I’ve graded and rated both on quality, cost, convenience, selection, and shipping. Meat versus meat – how could we go wrong!? Check the links for both companies for their current promotional savings or extras.
Updated for 2020
US Wellness Meats AKA Grassland Beef has come under fire in some forums lately for promoting the U.S. label while allegedly sourcing the meat internationally – New Zealand, I was told. The Kiwis are known for lamb, venison, and other high quality products so I went searching for an answer – less out of concern and moreso to serve readers with full transparency.
It turns out the answer is readily found right on their website – no subversiveness there whatsoever. Check their FAQ page for more detail.
US Wellness Meats was founded in 2000 in Monticello, Missouri. The founding farms are based in northeast Missouri and Illinois. They state that approximately 85% of the beef is sourced domestically.
“Besides our founding farms, we also source from a few private farms throughout the United States and through our partnership with grass-fed farmers in Tasmania. All of our partner farms are thoughtfully and carefully selected and practice sustainable farming methods. Currently, our cattle farms are located in Missouri, Illinois, Alabama, Montana, and Tasmania.”
Other family farm partners are located elsewhere but share the same commitment to sustainable, humane farming practices.
“Every family in the US Wellness Meats network is committed to sustainable, humane farming practices. We take care of our land and our animals with a simple mission: to produce delicious, healthy meat dairy and other products that our customers love.”
If you’re interested in the further detail, the website offers information by product such as their bison from the Dakotas and Northern Plains, pork from Missouri and Kansas, duck from upstate New York, salmon from Washington state, lamb from Oregon and Missouri, and free range chicken from poultry farms throughout the United States.
Feel free to read and research further yourself. As for me, I feel quite confident in the detail, disclosure, and information that US Wellness Meats offers. I continue on as a customer and affiliate partner with full comfort in their use of the name and marketing approach – and more importantly the quality of their products.
A bit about each of these companies before diving in…
ButcherBox is a subscription service with recurring monthly or bi-monthly delivery offering:
- 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef
- Free-range organic check
- Heritage breed pork
- Pasture-raised 100% grass-fed and grass-finished lamb
- Wild-caught Bristol Bay Alaskan sockeye salmon
The farms and processing facilities with whom ButcherBox partners to source their products are inspected and approved by the USDA or comparable, surpass safety standards, and employ fair labor practices.
US Wellness Meats
US Wellness Meats is an on-demand ordering and delivery service with an extensive product line:
- Sustainable raised, 100% grass-fed and grass-finished Grassland Beef
- Free range pastured Grassland Poultry & Duck
- 100% grass-fed and grass-finished Grassland Bison and Lamb
- Heritage Pork
- Elk, Venison, Goat
- Gourmet Rabbit
- Wild-Caught salmon, halibut, sole, scallops, shrimp and other seafood
- Organs, Fats, Bones & Broth
Founded in 2000 in Missouri, US Wellness Meats is owned and run by the family farmers who provide the wide range of products offered through the website. The farmers in the US Wellness Meat network commit to sustainable, humane farming practices and “take care of land and animals with a simple mission: to produce delicious, healthy meat, dairy, and other products that customers love.” The farms use rotational grazing practices free of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Both of these companies offer excellent quality, taste, and taste. They source high quality meats with commitments to fair labor, sustainable and humane farming with a focus on pasture grazing that results in meats lower in bad fats and higher in key nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E, and CLA. ButcherBox and US Wellness Meats are both also antibiotic and hormone free.
The US Wellness Meats website offers further context to the farming techniques that are good for the land and animals.
Our animals live by the nature-approved grazing practices of the bison of the American Great Plains.For thousands of years, bison thrived in abundance on lush North American grassland. Millions of animals lived in harmony with the land by continuously moving from one grazing area to the next, allowing grassland to regularly renew itself. The relationship was good for the animals and good for the planet. By applying these same practices, US Wellness Meats farmers have introduced the same thriving balance to our own farms. Our animals don’t need antibiotics or growth hormones to grow big and healthy. Our land doesn’t need pesticides or artificial irrigation systems to develop rich, fertile biodiversity.
I have been ordering from US Wellness Meats for the last couple of years and have been very pleased with not only the amazing quality but also the price. While ButcherBox offers several different size/price/selection combinations, I had the initial – and turns out incorrect – perception that the ButcherBox price was considerably higher than US Wellness Meats. In fact, before ordering I ran a side-by-side comparison and discovered to my delight that not only was ButcherBox competitive, it was actually substantially lower in cost than the equivalent order through US Wellness Meats!
It’s a bit tough to comparison shop when you don’t know what is in the $129 bundle of beef, but here’s how the bundle broke down:
The following side-by-side compares approximate costs before shipping, handling, and tax. Where items of the same size cut were not available, a per-ounce proration was calculated. The items included in the ButcherBox subscription are labeled “BUNDLE” and the first order promotional extras are labeled as “FREE” and for equivalency are not priced with US Wellness Meats.
The bundle option subtotal at ButcherBox comes out a hair cheaper than US Wellness Meats, but the add-ons seem to come along at an attractive price and the Alaskan salmon in particular is a ridiculously good deal at ButcherBox.
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Sales and Promotions
As you can see in the ButcherBox order receipts above, they shipped several pounds of extras as incentives to the first order. You can also refer friends for additional freebies plus every month there are add-on, optional specials.
Over at US Wellness Meats you’ll also find sale items rotated constantly. Sign up for their newsletter which will alert you to sales, provides great recipes and interest health and nutrition articles, and often times includes an extra discount code.
Both companies make ordering very fast and easy with reliable inventory and speedy delivery. The extensive product line at US Wellness Meats is excellent for one-off or more specialized orders. Although, the edge on convenience goes to ButcherBox for the ease of the recurring monthly subscription plan. The commitment of a recurring subscription could be a concern or barrier to some people, but it can be tailored to a range of quantity and cost options, monthly or bi-monthly frequency, and can be paused at any time. The set-up and order is a quick, simple, 3-step process and then checkout:
First, you’ll choose a configuration of all beef, beef + chicken, beef + pork, or a mixture of all three. If you choose the custom box, it will cost a bit more but you’ll also receive 20% more meat than the Curate boxes and will have full control of building a box from over 20 different cuts of beef, pork and chicken.
Next you’ll need to choose from two box sizes – a classic box at $129 curated or $149 customized and containing 9-14 pounds of meat. ButcherBox recommends the classic size for individuals and small families, making 24 meal servings. The larger, 18-26 pound / 48 meal box runs $238 for the curated choice or $270 customized – so in either case the bigger box offers volume discount to lower the unit cost. ButcherBox recommends this larger box for mid-size families and buyers with larger freezers.
This step could be skipped but offers up recommendations for additional items that can be added onto your first month and may be repeated or adjusted with each shipment. These items change from month-to-month. You’ll have a choice of items such as bacon, breakfast sausage, pork chops or loin, and salmon steaks. I found the add-ons to be great products at an excellent price.
Last you’ll simply choose the monthly or bi-monthly shipping frequency and checkout to complete the purchase. Don’t forget to check the ButcherBox site, social media, or other promotions for special offers on your first order. That’s it! After that just get ready to smoke or grill or slow-cook and enjoy!
Shipping & Handling
US Wellness Meats
Although US Wellness Meats is listed first in this section, they are a distant second, practically in third place out of two compared to ButcherBox, and really need to improve. Of course, they ship through an expedited shipper such as FedEx and the meat arrives insulated and cooled with dry ice. However, the comparison ends there.
On cost, US Wellness Meats claims free shipping but then hits you with a very annoying $9.50 “handling” charge. This policy leaves me feeling like I’m in front of a bad late night TV commercial or a really cheesy internet marketing email where I’m about to get something free after I pay for it. By the way, to get the “free” shipping there is also a minimum order of 7 pounds and $75. In one order, there was an item missing or out of stock and they wouldn’t replace it in a separate shipment because it didn’t meet minimum shipping weight standards. Worse still, when contacted, customer service was about as cold as their frozen beef and didn’t seem to care much one way or the other how I felt as a customer or whether I’d be back to order again in the future.
Last, the insulation for the shipment is by way of an old school styrofoam cooler. I don’t know if these are meant to go in the trash or a recycle bin but either way I felt terrible and so I’m left with a stack of a few useless coolers in my garage waiting for that special day in the future when I suddenly need a disposable cooler and can reuse.
To be abundantly clear, I’m a US Wellness Meats fan, but on all of the points above their performance in my experience is a fail. However, they got me most of the order in good shape at good temp, so I’m awarding a “C” grade in this category. It’s passing, yes, but barely and I don’t know any parent that would be happy seeing that report card come home. There’s work to be done here.
PS – If anyone has a use or suggestion for styrofoam coolers, please let me know!
Take everything above, flip it, reverse it, and you have ButcherBox shipping and handling. Free. Every time. Free shipping and free handling!
In addition to getting FedEx notifications, I got shipping and delivery communications directly from ButcherBox. The meat arrived in a wonderfully branded box, adding to the excitement!
It’s clear from even the outside of the box that environment impact is a concern and has gone into the fundamental shipping design. The top of the box is promoting the thermal packaging system used and cites a recycling standard.
Dig inside to find your meat shipment and you’ll first find that the insulation material used is packing peanuts – but made from starch and both the plastic film and peanuts are designed to go right to the compost. I’ve never posted pictures of packaging peanuts and plastic before but this was such an incredibly positive surprise. Impressive!
The box flap even contains instructions on how best to open the package and dump the insulating peanuts to make it as easy as possible.
Best of all, waiting within was an ice-cold shipment of delicious, high quality meat for me and the family!
Winner: US Wellness Meats
With 20 different cuts of beef, pork, and chicken as well as monthly add-on items and specials such as Alaskan sockeye salmon and breakfast bacon and sausage packages, ButcherBox ships a product line to keep any family kitchen content with the convenience of renewing automatically.
US Wellness Meats
The selection at ButcherBox is great, but for those seeking additional variety or other products the product line at US Wellness Meats is through the roof. In addition to an extensive line of beef and pork cuts, there is also bison, goat, lamb, and game meat such as rabbit, elk and venison on the menu. In the poultry department, chicken is accompanied by turkey and duck and options in wild-caught seafood abound. Beyond the cut and ground meats, US Wellness Meats carries sausages, organ meats and sausages, jerky as well as tallow, bone broths, gelatin, grass-fed ghee and cheese. You can even order up bones, pet food and keto pet food!
Final Grade – Worth It?
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You are in excellent hands with either of these options for high quality, nutritious products raised in a responsible and sustainable manner then delivered quickly and conveniently to your front door. The convenience of ButcherBox is over the top handy and their packaged price plus extras make for a very attractive subscription bundle. Moreover, the sustainability attention put into the packaging materials, the communication around shipping notifications, free shipping, and the variety of common cuts make ButcherBox a clear winner to keep our freezer full every month or two.
US Wellness Meats is a strong option to augment standard, recurring shipments from ButcherBox and order up organ meats, bone broths, and game meats. I plan to continue ordering from them as-needed but would stay away from the items carry extreme price premiums. If there are areas for improvement, I’d like to see the “free shipping but we charge handling” gimmick go away and a company running sustainable farms and responsible supply chains needs to think a good bit further about their packaging. Other than those tweaks, you can confidentially enjoy delicious food orders from US Wellness Meats as well.
One word of caution if you’re not familiar with cooking grass-fed and finished meats – there will be less fat or “marbling” than you’re used to and care should be taken not to overcook. ButcherBox and US Wellness Meats offer recipes on their websites to help you with meal prep and creative variety.