We've received a lot of questions regarding how we label our meats for the CSA, and why. Hopefully this will clear some of it up.
From Autumn's Harvest Farm:
Eggs are collected on the farm, direct from the hen's nest. Clean ones are placed directly in cartons while dirty eggs are washed, then placed in cartons. We have a wide variety of cartons, but for the CSA we tend to reuse cartons that other customers have returned. Rest assured that no matter what the carton says the eggs you receive were layed no more than 7 days before you get them, and they are not from the grocery store.
Beef is slaughtered in a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse, most likely at Shirk's meats in Dundee, NY, but from time to time we have to use other slaughterhouses. The slaughterhouse hangs the beef for 7-14 days to lose a bit of water weight and to age it, which helps tenderize the beef. Autumn's Harvest has a 20-C state inspected kitchen where they are able to butcher animals that were raised on their farm (although they are only allowed to sell that meat to individuals and restaurants within NY state, and they aren't allowed to sell to any type of market or grocery store). Beef is labelled with Autumn's Harvest labels, except for the rare occasion when we run out of them.
From Clawhammer farm:
Chickens are raised and processed on our farm. After they've been scalded, plucked and gutted we chill them in a cold water bath for a few hours and then package them in a shrink bag, which we dip in hot water to seal it around the bird. Processing on farm is legal if we sell directly to the consumer, and if we do less than 1,000 birds per year. From time to time we'll package chickens in vacuum bags, we do this when we have just a few to bag up and we don't want to waste the propane heating the water to dip the shrink bags in, or when we are selling by the 1/2 chicken. We raise chickens seasonally (available from 5/1 to 12/1) so anything received outside that window is frozen from last year's season. It's also possible you'll get a 1/2 chicken from Autumn's Harvest if Clawhammer is out of stock.
Pork. We have a few options with pigs, enough that it gets unnecessarily complicated. All of our pigs are slaughtered at a USDA inspected facility. From there we can have them butchered and packaged by the USDA, which is the case for anything labeled from Steiner's or Shirk's meats. Currently, all of Clawhammer's pork is being butchered in Autumn's Harvest's 20-C kitchen. In order to do this legally, we sell the pigs to Autumn's Harvest prior to them being slaughtered at the USDA shop. From there Autumn's Harvest butchers them and uses their labels (or we write the cut on in marker...we don't have a perfect system yet), as they now "own" the pig. It's a silly dance, we know, but it's the law so we abide by it.
Regarding frozen cuts: Sometimes you will get some frozen meat in your bag. We do this on purpose sometimes, depending on the pickup location and the weather, to ensure that the bags remain cold enough. Sometimes it is frozen out of necessity -- we had an extra half or butcher-weight hog that couldn't wait until a CSA week to be cut. Sausages and ground beef can be thawed and refrozen over and over again without detrimental effect. Since it is ground meat, the cellular structure in the meat is already broken down and hence the quality will not decrease if thawed and then frozen again. Other cuts can be refrozen as well; there is no health danger, but it is possible that they will dry out a bit (although in vacuum-sealed bags such as ours that should not be an issue; we refreeze stuff for our personal consumption quite frequently and have yet to notice any loss of quality).
See here (an old blog post of ours) for some general information on the quality of frozen products, the USDA definition of "fresh," and why it is often necessary for small farms to freeze some meat.
Partially thawed meat can be refrigerated just as "fresh" meat that you bought from the grocery store can be; according to the USDA, it should be eaten or (re)frozen within 3-4 days. At the farm, we often keep fresh meat in the fridge for a week with no detrimental effects, and restaurants who accept deliveries weekly or buy from a weekly farmers market do the same. I assume because there is no cross-country shipping, and no lingering in grocery storage/on grocery shelves there is a couple more days of leeway.