We've been ButcherBox subscribers since 2017. In this ButcherBox review, I've got answers to all your most pressing questions about this curated meat delivery service — plus a special offer, and recipes galore. Here's everything you need to know about how it works, how to make the most of it, and whether it’s the right fit for you. (And if it's not everything you need to know, please ask in the comments. I'm happy to answer questions.)
Why I wrote this post
Before we get started, I want to take a minute to tell you why I wrote this review of ButcherBox.
We joined in 2017. I hesitated a bunch before signing up, because I just wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, and whether it would end up being a mistake. (Though...as Barenaked Ladies say on that epic album for kids, "When I make mistakes, I use a lot of salt, 'cause salt makes my steaks taste great." Sorry not sorry.)
I couldn't find any good resources out there to answer all my questions. Now, many happy deliveries later, I really wish I hadn't waited so long. So I wrote a 'lil something that not only answers all the questions I had back then, but also shares everything I've learned about how to get the most out of a subscription.
This isn't a sponsored post — I didn't get paid to write it (in meat or in dollars). But because I am always telling everyone how much I love Butcher Box anyway, Umami Girl did join their affiliate program. That means that if this post helps you decide to give it a try, and you end up clicking through on one of the links here, I'll have earned a small fraction of the price as a commission, with no additional cost to you.
If you want to know exactly where I'm coming from before you take my advice on meat, read this section.
ButcherBox is constantly offering new great deals, and the current offer will depend on when you read this. But know that if you click through any of the links in this post, you'll be getting the best offer they have for new subscribers right now.
What is it?
First, the basics.
Based in Boston, ButcherBox is a high-quality, curated meat delivery service that brings 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef; organic, free-range chicken; and heritage breed pork (among other fabulous add-ons, if you like) to your doorstep. You subscribe and choose your package type and delivery frequency. Then, like magic, meat appears at your home. They want you to think of it as a local butcher shop for modern America, and for the most part, we'd have to agree.
There are quite a few options (though not a decision-fatiguing number) for what is in a Butcher Box. You can customize your own if you like. We never have, since it's more expensive and I really enjoy working with what they give me. Or you can do what most people do and choose from their standard packages:
- Mixed box (beef, pork, and chicken). This is what we do.
- Beef and chicken
- Beef and pork
- All beef
You can also choose your box size. Here are the choices and what the company says about them. We are a family of four and get the classic box every 8 weeks and have plenty of meat:
- Classic box (8-11 pounds, 24 individual meals, good for individuals and small families)
- Big box (16-22 pounds, 48 individual meals, good for mid-size families and large freezers)
Finally, you can choose the delivery frequency. We have ours delivered every 8 weeks, and that has worked out great. Once we needed to pause the delivery for a while when I'd gotten behind on using up what was in the freezer, and that also worked out without a hitch.
Options are ever:
- 2 weeks
- 4 weeks
- 6 weeks
- 8 weeks
Is ButcherBox worth it?
After nearly two years of deliveries, I would have to say a resounding YES, ButcherBox is worth it. Here’s why.
Here’s the thing I really want to shout from the rooftops. ButcherBox gets quality so very right.
This is true whether you: (1) care deeply about where your meat comes from, what it contains, how the animals are treated, how the people who farm them are treated, and what environmental impact it has, OR (2) literally only care about great-tasting meat.
I care a lot about both, and ButcherBox has consistently delivered.
Facts about their meats
- The beef is 100% grass-fed and grass-finished
- Their chicken is free-range and organic
- Their pork is heritage-breed
- All of their meat comes from their partners: a collective of small farms
- All of their meat is humanely raised, with no antibiotics or added hormones ever
- Equally important: This meat is easy to work with, very flavorful, and consistently delicious.
What is grass-fed beef? What is grass-finished beef?
Cows are meant to graze on pasture (a.k.a. eat grass). In order to fatten them quickly, many industrial farms feed them grain instead. That’s not great for cows, not great for the environment, and not great for the nutritional profile of beef — to say the least.
Grass-fed means that cows were started on pasture — allowed to graze at least at the beginning. That’s a good start, but it leaves open the possibility that those cows were grain-fed later.
Grass-finished means the cows were allowed to graze on pasture for their whole lives. This is a very good thing for them, and also for you. Here’s why.
Nutritional benefits of 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef
Compared to grain-feed beef, grass-finished beef:
- Is about 20 percent lower in calories
- Has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids (which tend to be lacking in the modern diet)
- Has higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), essential fatty acids that help fight cancer and excess body fat
- Has higher levels of vitamins A and E
What is heritage breed pork?
Heritage pork comes from breeds of pigs that are much less commonly used in meat production these days. ButcherBox farmers raise pig breeds including Duroc, Berkshire, and Chester White. These farmers are working hard to both preserve these breeds and provide customers with the more flavorful, finely marbled meat that comes from them.
These pigs get to live in style, with:
- Bedding in open barns
- Outdoor access
- A nutritious diet (forage + all-vegetarian feed)
Meat from heritage breeds is easy to cook (and harder to overcook), and truly is packed with flavor. You'll love cooking with it. And it's still very hard to find in the U.S., so it's kind of a miracle that this subscription makes it so easy to get.
What's the deal with free-range organic chicken?
Free-range means that chickens are kept in a natural environment and allowed to move around freely (rather than being confined in enclosures) for at least part of the day.
Organic means that all farming practices meet the standards for the USDA organic certification. There are many parts to this certification, and they're easy to Google. Once upon a time virtually all farming would have been considered (little-"o") organic, but the vast majority of today's factory farming uses very different practices that prioritize profit over the welfare of workers, customers, animals, and the environment.
ButcherBox already meets all these standards for chicken. And here's something cool: they're working in partnership with the ASPCA on doing even better. By 2024 or before, they're committed to sourcing 100% of their chicken from either the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) or the Global Animal Partnership (GAP)-approved breeds/strains.
ButcherBox delivers frozen meat to your front door on the schedule you set. Over the years that we’ve been subscribers, they have pretty much perfected the delivery process and packaging to maximize quality and minimize environmental impact as much as feasible.
We get our delivery every other month. They let you know which day it’s coming, and the meat is packed in dry ice and well-insulated in a box that’s cleverly evolved over time, so that the meat stays fully frozen for quite a long time. I've been out for many hours after my delivery, and meat has still been frozen solid because of the excellent packaging methods.
Once you pop your frozen meat into the freezer, it lasts a loooooong time at peak quality. Then you can defrost it when you're ready. To me, this is such a dream. I've never been great at meal planning (and really enjoy cooking on a whim sometimes), and there's nothing easier than shopping from your freezer for a great cut of meat.
Price: Is ButcherBox a good deal?
Here’s the thing about the cost of ButcherBox. It averages out to less than $6 per meal. For certain cuts, that’s much less expensive than you’d get the same quality of meat elsewhere. For other cuts, it can be a little more expensive. (Update: As of 9/14/2021, the company is raising their prices slightly for the first time. New prices are reflected below and still average to less than $6/meal.)
- The classic box costs $137 — about $5.71 per meal
- The big box costs $253 — about $5.27 per meal
- Custom boxes start at $159 — about $5.30 per meal
But there’s another element to the cost structure that I think is super-helpful, and it’s consistency and predictability. Basically, the way we treat our subscription, we pay a fixed amount every two months, and then we’re done spending money on meat for that period.
We create our meals based on what we’ve got, consider that the perfect amount of meat for that time, and eat lots of other great stuff too. For us, that works perfectly. In addition to being convenient, it caps our costs for those months and eliminates the chance of my spending ten billion dollars at Whole Foods without really noticing.
Are there any problems?
We had an issue with one delivery about three years ago (before they updated their packaging). Here's what happened.
One of our deliveries arrived with no dry ice in it, and completely thawed. I kinda panicked. But that's when I learned how well the company handles a less-than-optimal situation.
You answer a series of questions to determine whether the meat is still safe to use (ours was), and if not, they send you a new box for free.
- Did your box arrive with dry ice?
- If not, is it still frozen?
- If not, is it cold to the touch (below 40°F)?
- If so, refrigerate and cook as normal or refreeze for future use (we refroze, and surprisingly the texture of most cuts suffered very little).
- If not, discard and contact customer service.
What's the deal with add-ons?
If there are specific things you'd like to add to your curated package, they've got you covered. We started out with just the classic box delivered every 8 weeks, and over time I learned what I'd like a little more of.
ButcherBox gives you two options for adding to your curated box. You can grab a "for life" deal when one comes around, or you can add to your deliveries on a one-time basis.
We nabbed a free bacon for life deal a while back, and now each box comes with bacon. Which, hi. Good stuff.
We also realized that we love the grass-fed ground beef so much — and have so many uses for it — that there's never been a time when we didn't want an extra two pounds in our box. So I took advantage of a ground beef for life deal, where I paid about $30 one time and now get two additional pounds of ground beef in every single delivery for the life of my subscription. It's seriously magical.
If you've got a party coming up, or a craving for something specific, you can also choose from a long list of cuts to add to your individual deliveries, and just pay for them on a one-time basis.
Add-ons: Salmon and scallops
As they've grown, they've also started adding some amazing fish and seafood. They have wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon that's exactly the right choice for sustainability and nutrition, at about half the price I buy it elsewhere. And don't miss their sustainably harvested sea scallops from the cold waters of Georges Bank. They're sweet, succulent, and ready in minutes.
Protip: How to defrost meat
ButcherBox recommends thawing your meat in the fridge in a bowl or plate, which takes about 24 hours for smaller cuts. If you're in a hurry, they also suggest placing the meat in a bowl of cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes. I really like both of these approaches and often use the water method.
I wanted to offer one more unofficial trick. It's the one we use almost always. Did you know that, because metal — especially aluminum —conducts heat, it can help you thaw meat in a flash? If you have two metal cookie sheets, place your vacuum-sealed meat on one of them and cover it with the other one. You'll be amazed how quickly and evenly your meat will thaw. Give it about an hour on the countertop (which should keep you within food safety guidelines, but proceed at your own risk), and you'll be ready to roll.
Reminder: Discount code
Remember, if you click through any of the ButcherBox links in this post, you'll be getting the best offer they have for new subscribers at the moment. They're not always exactly the same, but they're always great.
Ground Beef Recipes
From burgers to Bolognese, great ground beef makes great meals.
Stew Meat Recipes (Chuck, eye round, bottom round)
Chuck (chuck roast) is our preferred cut for stew. It has enough fat and connective tissue to break down beautifully during a slow roast and yield dreamy, tender results. You can also use eye round or bottom round, which are leaner cuts with less connective tissue.
Skirt Steak, Flank Steak, Flat Iron Steak recipes
Three great cuts for marinating, grilling, and slicing are skirt steak, flank steak, and flat iron steak.
Sirloin Cap Recipe
Sirloin cap, also called culotte steak, coulotte steak, or picanha, is the FABULOUS, tender cut that's used at churrascarias.
Filet Mignon Recipe
Tender, flavorful, and normally hella expensive, filet mignon is a treat. When it arrives in your box for around $6 a serving just like everything else, it's time to celebrate. Here's how to make it great.
Heritage Breed Pork Recipes
Heritage breed pork tastes great, the end. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use it.
Chicken Breast Recipes and Chicken Tenders Recipes
Here's some recipe inspiration for boneless, skinless chicken breasts and chicken tenders.
Wild Salmon and Scallops Recipes
Got salmon? Got scallops? We've got easy recipes.
Got more questions? Ask me.
If you've still got questions, you can contact me here or leave a comment, and I'll get back to you either way. Hope this helps! xx
P.S. The story
Entrepreneurially speaking, ButcherBox is the absolute jam. They began with a Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, where they raised $210,000 out of their $25,000 goal. (That's 800% above and beyond, in case you don't feel like doing the math.)
And here's the thing: Kickstarter doesn't allow you to get subscription sign-ups, so they had to build this whole subscription business after that. They were smart and approached their Kickstarter thoughtfully, but none of that would have mattered if they hadn't tapped into a huge unmet demand for all this fabulous meat.
Google founder Mike Salguero if you want to learn more about the journey. It's pretty cool.
P.P.S. Meat and me...
If you want to know exactly where I'm coming from before you take my advice, read this section.
Truth be told, my meat eating philosophy has been alllll over the map over the course of my four decades. Growing up, I enthusiastically ate pretty much everything. My mom was a great cook who made homemade meals virtually every night. Everything tasted good, including the chicken, beef, and pork that came from regular American grocery stores. That’s all that was available in our NJ suburb, and I don’t think any of us gave it one bit of thought, even though my mom was super health-conscious. Turns out, though, factory farmed meat is no picnic.
As a young adult in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was an early adopter of the local, slow foods movement. I read Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, and Barbara Kingsolver. I helped manage a vegetable CSA out of my Hoboken, NJ garage. I quit my job as a corporate lawyer to start a food blog. During this phase, we bought a “cow share” from a farm in Pennsylvania, and our friends would drive out to pick up the grass-fed, grass-finished beef for us and deliver it to our house.
That was kind of great, but it was also really hard.
For a few years after that, we gave up meat altogether. I’d read The China Study shortly after my dad had died of cancer at 65, and I did a deep dive into the power of plants. I didn’t miss meat…until I did.
When we went back to eating meat, I went back to looking for exactly the same high quality I’d looked for in the past. Humanely raised. Grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Organic, free-range chicken. Heritage breed pork. Hormone-free and antibiotic-free everything.
I had a busy life, and even though — unlike most people’s — my career literally included going to the grocery store, it was kind of a lot of work to source high-quality meat. And it was definitely a lot of money.
I never did the math, but I’m pretty sure we were spending about nine trillion dollars a month on meat. Give or take.
Then I signed up for ButcherBox, and the rest is history.