I don’t have room in my house for a standalone freezer, so I’ve never bought a cow share or participated in cowpooling. I’ve always been interested in buying grass-fed beef (or other humanely raised meats) in bulk, but I don’t have the ability to store it.

A community meat locker could change that. NPR has a story about a pilot project begun by Matt LeRoux, an agriculture marketing specialist at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ithaca, N.Y., that will allow people who buy meat in bulk to rent space in a community freezer. The project is simply called Meat Locker, and it’s funded with an $80,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers Market Promotion Program.

This isn’t a new idea. Before everyone had a freezer in the home, community meat lockers were common. They began to disappear in the mid 1900s when it became a freezer in the home became standard.

LeRoux believes the 10x14 freezer that he’s renting space out in is “more energy efficient than 100 small home freezers running at once.” There is room in the locker for about 100 members to rent space at $3-5 a month.    

If the meat locker idea takes off, it won’t just benefit locavores and foodies. It will benefit farmers who will be able to sell more cow shares because people will have the ability to store the meat. It will also make distributing the meat easier because farmers can distribute it right at the meat locker, and consumers don’t have to worry about transporting it home. Their purchases will go right into their rented space.

A second locker is being built in Corning, N.Y., an area that the USDA has designated a food desert, a neighborhood with inadequate access to fresh food. LeRoux wants to see if the idea will work in that type of community, too.

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