Cooking is my happy place. In fact, I consider it more than a necessity or a hobby. Whipping up a meal is a form of stress relief that, for me, is almost like a meditation. In the past few years, I’ve become much more conscious of the groceries I buy for my home-cooked meals, and not just organic vegetables, but high-quality meats and sustainably-sourced seafood as well. This mindful meat-eating journey has inspired me to try and review ButcherBox, a subscription service that delivers high-quality proteins your front door.
What is ButcherBox?
ButcherBox is a monthly subscription delivery service that specializes in grass-fed, pasture-raised meat that’s free from hormones and antibiotics, as well as responsibly sourced, wild-caught seafood. The company, which is a certified B Corporation, prides itself on being transparent on where they get their meat from—which is something that meat consumers should have the right to know.
Why you should care where your meat comes from
According to Kathryn Hoffman, MS, RDN, a registered dietician based in New York, it’s important to know where the meat and seafood we buy and eat is sourced from for a few different reasons. The first, she says, is food quality. “The way the animal was raised and what it was fed will have a direct impact on its nutritional quality,” explains Hoffman. “For example, grass-fed animals have a higher omega-3 content than grain-fed cattle. The same goes with wild-caught fish versus farm-raised.”
ICYMI, omega-3 foods are linked to a whole world of benefits, including protecting brain health, better skin, sleep quality, and living longer. Hoffman adds that a higher ratio of omega-3s is important for health conditions that are related to inflammation, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Another concern may be food safety. “There may be local, state or federal advisories for certain fish in certain areas due to pollution,” she says. “It is especially important for children, elderly persons, and those who are pregnant or may become pregnant to know where their fish and meat is from due to things like mercury levels, hormones, and antibiotics.” Lastly, she says, for ethical and sustainability reasons, it is important to know how the animals were treated: “Factory farming can increase the risk of food-borne illnesses and impact the taste of the product.”
Hoffman also points out that “organic meats also typically contain less cholesterol and fillers like sodium and artificial dyes,” she says. So, if you're watching your heart health and blood pressure, it's something to note.
How ButcherBox works
There are two types of monthly subscription plans at ButcherBox: Custom and Curated.
The Custom plan allows you to choose your own types and cuts of meat and seafood. There are more than 25 different cuts of meat you can choose from, such as filet mignon, ribeyes, chuck roast, pork tenderloin, chicken wings, scallops, and wild-caught gulf shrimp. This plan comes in two sizes: Classic, which includes nine to 14 pounds of meat, and Big, which includes 18-26 pounds.
With the Curated plan, ButcherBox chooses the cuts for you after you choose whether you want pork, beef, and/or chicken. An example of the cuts ButcherBox might choose for you are pork chops, ground beef, flat iron steak, and bone-in chicken thighs. The Classic size includes eight to 11 pounds of meat, whereas Big contains 16-22 pounds.
There are also specials that you can tack onto your order after choosing your cuts. Some examples include a $52 Lobster Bundle, which includes an 8 oz pack of lobster claw, knuckle meat, and two 5-6 oz lobster tails, a charcuterie variety pack for $15, and gluten-free chicken nuggets for $12.
You can choose how often (the frequency of which) you get ButcherBox delivered—every week, two weeks, once a month, etc. It's entirely up to you.
How much does ButcherBox cost?
If you get the Curated Plan, a Classic size costs $146, while the Big size costs $269. If you get the Custom Plan and choose your own, the Classic costs $169, while the Big size costs $306. The reason why the Custom Plan is more expensive is because you get 20 percent more meat than the Curated plans.
There are often pretty good specials for first-time members. For example, one deal gave members three pounds of free-range, organic bone-in chicken thighs in every box for a year, while another special featured free wild-caught salmon in every box. Both are pricey, but the amount of meat should last you between two and four weeks (it really depends on how much meat you generally consume).
Cost in comparison to Whole Foods delivery
I was curious about the difference in cost between ButcherBox and ordering delivery from Whole Foods, which I do often—so I compared the two.
I got 12 oz of filet mignon steaks, three pounds of boneless and skinless chicken thighs, two pounds of boneless pork chops, two pounds of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, one pound of wild-caught shrimp, and two pounds of ground beef. Getting this at ButcherBox costs $169, which includes free shipping and no other fees. A Whole Foods delivery would cost $146.47, which includes a delivery fee of $9.95, and an automatic tip of $7 (so, total: $163.42). ButcherBox is about six bucks more expensive.
Using just this example, Whole Foods may be cheaper than ButcherBox, but there is little-to-no information on where the meat actually comes from. On the whole though, I've never had any issues with Whole Foods' meat selection.
Testing out ButcherBox
ButcherBox sent me a box filled with a variety of meats to try out. There were many of my go-to proteins, like wild-caught salmon, chicken thighs and breasts, plus ones that I never really cook, like pork shoulder and scallops. They all came packaged with dry ice, in a sturdy cardboard box that was easy to recycle.
The first thing I cooked was something from Dolly Parton’s cookbook, which is an annual tradition of mine—I always make something on her birthday. I decided to make her Honey Glazed Chicken with ButcherBox’s chicken breasts, as well as her Creamy Coleslaw. They both came out great (much better than the Spaghetti Pie I made last year).
I also made my current favorite burger, the cheeseburger featured in the movie, The Menu. It is absolutely incredible (the secret is putting thinly sliced raw onion on the patty, flipping it over, and letting it cook underneath the meat).
The ButcherBox ground beef more than passed the test for flavor. Another highlight of my cooking adventure was the heart-shaped mini meatloafs I made with ground beef and sweet Italian sausage, using Jayne Mansfield’s recipe. I didn’t grow up eating meatloaf and have only had it a couple of times in my life, but this was a winner, and cute to boot.
I was also very impressed by the chicken thighs, which I used to make a dish with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese. These were especially tender and juicy compared to the ones I usually buy.
Other dishes I made with my ButcherBox proteins were chili shrimp (using a chili sauce my neighbor makes), steaks with chimichurri sauce, and carnitas tacos.
Steaks in question:
And carnitas tacos:
My final ButcherBox verdict
ButcherBox is incredible. All of the meat was obviously high quality and tasty. But having a subscription service also inspired me to be more creative with recipes and expand my boundaries when it comes to the proteins I cook with. To me, it’s worth it to pay a little bit more to not only get delicious meat, but to know where exactly it comes from.
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