Update: Don’t miss the 2014 update to the best mail order meat survey. Right this way
You can purchase nearly anything online in the year 2012. Jeans and vintage watches, virtual assistants, unicorn head costumes for Halloween (a guy we know) — even brides, though it’s a rather complicated transaction (again, a guy we know). Beef is no exception. From traditional mail-order companies like Omaha Steaks to farm-direct sellers like Crystal River meats, the digital beef bazaar is an option-rich environment.
Since there’s nothing like coming home to a beautiful wife and a box of USDA prime after a long day at the office, we’ve graciously rounded up the top steak shippers as part of our Month of Beef series to help you — at least on the beef front — discover the best cuts and deals for your kitchen.
Check out our selections on the next page and make sure you bring a napkin to clean up the drool.
Editor’s Note: Follow us throughout the MoB as we test beef from these mail-order companies.
Meat of it: An industry stalwart, Omaha Steaks has been slinging beef for almost a century. The mail order biz started in the middle of the 20th century after the company found success selling steaks on the Union Pacific Railroad.
Cut to the Chase: All manner of grain-fed steaks, especially filet mignon. Pick up some lobster tails, cheddar cheese, hash browns and carrot cake while you’re at it.
Buy Now: omahasteaks.com
Crystal River Meats
Meat of it: The inverse of big box beef outfits, Colorado-based Crystal River Meats is a vehemently local operation. Everything from breeding the animals to growing the hay to processing and packaging the beef happens within a 200 mile radius of the HQ in Carbondale. They’re also upping the local meat game by supplying ground beef to the RE-1 school district in Colorado.
Cut to the Chase: It’s all grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free, Hereford-Angus beef. Try the NY strip, rib steaks, and the ground beef… all the kids are doing it.
Buy Now: crystalrivermeats.com
Meat of it: Niman was one of the original name-brand ranches to appear on locavore restaurant menus. It was originally 11 acres just north of the Bay Area; now it’s a network of more than 700 farms and ranches throughout the States. All of the beef is 100% Angus, free of hormones and antibiotics, and raised on a vegetarian diet.
Cut to the Chase: Top sirloin, strips and rib-eyes. Niman is also known for its superior pork and lamb, so don’t be shy about the non-beef products.
Buy Now: nimanranch.com
La Cense Beef
Meat of it: We first heard about La Cense Beef when they introduced a burger truck to the streets of Manhattan. It turns out LCB is more than burgers on wheels: It’s grass-fed beef direct from the farm in Dillon, Montana.
Cut to the Chase: 16-ounch cowboy steaks. The bone hangs off the plate.
Buy Now: lacensebeef.com
Meat of it: DeBragga is a member of the old guard of New York butcher shops, around since the 1920s. Their business was solely butchering and supplying high-end restaurants in the tri-state area with meat until 2007, when they launched an online store. DeBragga carries all the good stuff, from dry-aged American Wagyu to grass-fed ground beef to marrow bones (we’ll show you how to use those next week).
Cut to the Chase: American Wagyu dry-aged rib chops, dry-aged prime rib roasts, Wagyu brisket.
Buy Now: debragga.com
Meat of it: Allen Brothers is HQ’d in America’s other great steak city: Chicago. They’ve been running their wholesale operation there since 1893, dealing largely in USDA prime grade beef and supplying restaurants like Morton’s and Lawry’s with their Prime Rib. The mail-order biz also includes pork, game and other products, but the main draw is beef — dry-aged, wet-aged, Wagyu.
Cut to the Chase: Tenderloin roasts, Wagyu rib-eye, prime strip steaks.
Buy Now: allenbrothers.com
Heritage Foods USA
Meat of it: You know a bit about Heritage Foods USA from our profile of their butcher shop in Manhattan. HFUSA deals exclusively in meat from heritage breed animals — Wagyu, Piedmontese, Dexter — all of which comes from a network of small American farms. Online you’ll find a unique selection of pasture-raised beef, along with detailed information about where it came from. Follow along with their “American Beef Road Trip” to sample a variety breeds from different parts of the country every three months.
Cut to the Chase: Piedmontese whole boneless rib-eye roasts, Wagyu burgers, Akaushi strip steaks.
Buy Now: heritagefoodsusa.com
Kansas City Steaks
Meat of it: A classic mail-order company in the biz since the 1930s — we place them in the same category as Omaha Steaks.
Cut to the Chase: Applewood bacon-wrapped filet mignon, super-trimmed filet mignon with hickory bacon, rubbed filet mignon wrapped in bacon.
Buy Now: kansascitysteaks.com
Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors
Meat of it: LaFrieda is the “it” meat purveyor at the moment. They’ve got a Food Network TV show, Meat Men, restaurateurs name-drop them frequently, and they’re the guys who cooked a 1,000 pound steer at Meatopia. The family-owned business has been selling tier-1 meat for the better part of a century, and now it’s available online.
Cut to the Chase: Famous for their original blend burgers. Stay tuned for the recipe.
Buy Now: lafrieda.com
Meat of it: The online flash sale site well-known for clothing, Gilt.com, also sells gourmet foods. The inventory changes frequently: on any given day you may find filet mignon from Omaha Steaks, skirt steaks from LaFrieda or Wagyu from Mishima Ranch.
Cut to the Chase: Discounted beef? Yes, sir.
Buy Now: gilttaste.com