Subscription services, online grocery shopping, and meal kits are extra popular these days. Even those who may have felt a little skeptical about purchasing meat sight-unseen previously have been warming up to the roster of new (and existing) services that offer individually packed-and-sealed cuts of meat, quickly shipped frozen straight to their front door.
To help you narrow down which services you may want to try, we ordered, cooked, and tasted our way through a plethora of beef from online meat vendors over the course of two months, and Crowd Cow(available at Crowd Cow) was the best we tested. For special occasions and prime cuts, we recommend Snake River Farms(available at Snake River Farms) for the best upgrade meat delivery services. In addition to flavor and texture of the product itself, we also took into consideration the packaging and shipping materials used, as we acknowledge direct-to-consumer convenience comes at a cost.
These are the best meat delivery services we tested ranked, in order:
Snake River Farms
Grass Roots Farmers Co-op
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Crowd Cow offers a wide range of quality beef to choose from, from pasture-raised and grass-fed to American wagyu and exclusive Japanese wagyu. Its pricing is similarly extensive; you can buy a New York strip for under $20, or opt for $160 A5 ribeye. There’s a medley of different cuts, so if you aren’t feeling steak you can also purchase short ribs, ground beef, skirt, and other versatile options. We focused on beef for this review, but Crowd Cow does also offer other meats like chicken, lamb, bison, pork, and seafood.
The meat from Crowd Cow was consistently delightful, with nuanced aromas and multi-layered flavors. While its American wagyu options were not as strong as our best upgrade pick, the Japanese wagyu beat our high expectations when it came to texture and mouthfeel—this meat was smooth and delicate, yet also richly satisfying beyond just the fat content. It’s our overall pick for all things beef, flexible enough for a regular meal while also luxe enough for a special occasion.
Crowd Cow offers both à la carte one time purchases as well as subscriptions, with some worthwhile discounts for members on all its products (plus free shipping). If you need to pause or cancel, we can confirm that this process is simple and hassle-free.
Snake River Farms sells its own breed of American wagyu cattle, which truly stands up to its claim of “deep flavor and sublime marbling.” For anyone doubting the ability of American wagyu to match its Japanese counterpart, Snake River will certainly change your mind. While the meat may not look as fatty on first glance, the unbelievable tenderness, supple mouthfeel, and subtleties in flavor profile—remember much of meat’s flavor comes from compounds embedded in its fat—make it worthy of seeking out in its own right. While we focused on beef for this test, Snake River does also offer a heritage breed pork, called Kurobuta pork.
Snake River’s offerings are worth every penny, but they are pricey, which makes them our pick for best upgrade meat delivery service. A Black Grade wagyu is $75, while a Gold Grade tomahawk is $150. (Note: “Black Grade” and “Gold Grade” are Snake Rivers’ own system of grading above USDA Prime, based on Japanese Beef Marbling Score or BMS. Black Grade sits at 6-8 out of the BMS total of 12. Gold Grade is at 9+.)
We also tested more economical options like bavette and flank. These cuts were equally delicious.
Hi, I’m Jenny Dorsey! I’m a professional chef, writer, and the founder of a nonprofit community think tank called Studio ATAO. My favorite cut of beef is hanger steak, also sometimes colloquially referred to as the “butcher’s steak,” of which there is only one per cow and is particularly flavorful. I’m also a big fan of finding new ways to utilize economical cuts (especially in a pressure cooker) and promoting normalization of eating more organ meats.
We chose a mix of beef cuts from each service so we could try out some that are meant to be cooked quickly (e.g., filet mignon) versus slow braised (e.g., short ribs), as well as a few economical cuts (e.g., skirt steak). If there was an option for a fancier or specialty cut, like a Japanese wagyu, we ordered that as well.
For quick-cooking cuts, we seared the beef on a stovetop and roasted in the oven if necessary until medium rare. For slow-cooking cuts, we pressure-cooked the beef until it reached a shreddable consistency—anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour, depending on how large each cut was.
We did not use any additional flavorings beyond salt and black pepper, so we could fully taste the meat. We evaluated the meat for tenderness, juiciness, depth of flavor, and consistency of quality across cuts.
What You Should Know About Meat Delivery Services
Why Should I Buy Meat Online?
Buying meat online can be a convenient and reliable way of stocking your fridge and freezer with a wide range of meat options. When it comes to meat delivery services, meat is generally frozen very quickly after it’s cut, so the meat retains its flavor and texture. Plus, delivery means you don’t have to frequent a grocery shop or butcher. Many services are also focused on working with smaller farms, so you’re also able to support small businesses in the process.
Since your meat will arrive frozen, you’ll have to factor in some thaw time before you can cook the meat you’ve ordered—make sure to have your delivery arrive one or two days before you plan on cooking it. If you typically cook for a large group or family, meat subscription services can also learn your favorite cuts and auto-ship them to you every month.
How Much Do Meat Delivery Services Cost?
The price range for meat delivery services is quite large. You can buy anything from a $20 steak to a $150+ box of various prime cuts. It really depends on what you’re looking for and how many folks you’re feeding.
If you’re looking for affordable options for a regular weeknight meal, perhaps opt for a mixed box with options like beef, pork, and chicken. If you’re purchasing a centerpiece for a holiday, perhaps it’s worth splurging for a premium cut that can feed three to four people.
Many of these services offer both à la carte and subscription options, with discounts available for the latter.
Is it Bad to Freeze Meat?
It’s complicated. Freezing is very useful for keeping meat safe to eat for a longer period of time by significantly slowing down the yeast and bacteria growth. This is why you’ll often see the text “Use or freeze by” on meat you purchase at the grocery store.
Meat delivery services take care of that step for you. They also wrap and freeze meat with commercial processes, which help eliminate issues like freezer burn or improper storage temperature.
Once it arrives at your house, however, you’ll need to keep an eye on your freezer temperature so it doesn’t fluctuate too much. Also make sure the freezer fan has enough space to properly circulate cold air. If you’re buying frozen meat, it’s generally still best to consume the meat within six months, though it can certainly be stored longer than that.
However, freezing meat does cause crystals to form within the meat. If meat is frozen slowly, these crystals grow larger and can cut the muscle fibers when it thaws. (Relatedly, this is also why you want your ice cream to churn into its frozen state quickly, for a creamier and less icy consistency.) That being said, freezing technology is advancing rapidly, so there are ways to freeze meat very quickly and ensure these ice crystals don’t grow very large and affect the final product very minimally upon thawing.
If you’re freezing meat at home, you can decrease the chance of crystallization by adding extra barriers between the meat and the cold. Most butcher shops have wax-coated wrapping paper you can request if you plan on freezing, and Ziploc bags work well as a final layer to protect against frost.
How Do I Thaw My Frozen Meat?
You should always thaw frozen meat in a refrigerator, slowly, under controlled conditions so it evenly thaws from outside-in. Depending on how large the cut is, this could take anywhere from one to three days—make sure to plan ahead.
What are the Cuts of Meat on a Cow
Filet Mignon: One of the most popular premium beef cuts, this is a small medallion-shaped piece that is taken from the tenderloin. The tenderloin runs along the spine of the cow and is not used often, so it’s tender but also lean. It’s an expensive cut because there is very little tenderloin per animal. Often cooked with a high-heat method and served rare to medium rare.
Ribeye: A cut from the rib section of the cow, which is slightly worked but considered a well-marbled and tender part of the cow. Ribeyes can be bone-in or boneless. (A bone-in ribeye with at least five inches of bone intact is called a tomahawk.) It’s fattier than filet mignon, and still tender but less so. Often cooked with a high-heat method and served rare to medium rare.
NY Strip Steak: Also known as the strip loin steak or just strip steak, this cut was popularized by the New York-based steakhouse Delmonico’s. It’s cut from the short loin section of the cow, which also houses part of the tenderloin, and is a section that does little work on the animal. While not as tender as the filet mignon, it offers nice marbling and great flavor. When served with the bone, this is a T-bone steak (also called a porterhouse steak).
Short Ribs: A cut that comes from the chuck, rib, or plate section of the cow, from the parts at the end of the ribs near the breastbone that can’t be cut into steaks (hence the name, short ribs). While short ribs come in a variety of different styles, they all contain pieces of the rib bone.
The “flanken” style is cut across the bone and left relatively thin, making for easier grilling. (You’ll recognize this as galbi, for example.) The “English” cut slices parallel to the rib bone and yields thicker, square-like short ribs that are more often slow-cooked. The ribs from the back area of the cow, in the rib section, are referred to as “back ribs” or “dinosaur ribs.”
Boneless short ribs specifically refer to chuck short ribs, which are a little tougher than other short rib cuts but very meaty and flavorful. These are quite different from bone-in short ribs from the plate or rib section (as it comes from a whole other section of the cow), and not interchangeable.
Skirt Steak: A long cut of beef from the plate section, which is at the belly of the cow. This is an area that is exercised often, so this cut isn’t particularly tender but is very flavorful. You often find this marinated and cooked via high heat to medium-rare, then sliced against the grain, cut into pieces for a quick stir-fry, or braised until soft. It’s often confused for flank steak because it looks similar, but the two come from different parts of the cow.
Flank Steak: Somewhat similar to skirt steak, flank steak is a thicker and wider cut of beef that also comes from the belly area of the cow but farther back than skirt. It’s also known as the bavette, London broil, and jiffy steak. It’s a tougher cut of beef—and quite lean—so it’s often tenderized and either cooked at high heat and sliced against the grain, cut into thin pieces for a stir-fry, or gently stewed under fork-tender.
Stew Meat: Beef stew meat is generally cut from parts of the cow that have a lot of tough connective tissue. Given that this beef will be cooked for a long time, it’s best to find stew meat that also offers a lot of collagen, which will break down with heat and time to give your final product a nice glossy texture and rich mouthfeel. The chuck section is a good place for getting stew meat, though some stew meat may also come from the round section.
Other Meat Delivery Services We Tested
Porter Road offers a medley of affordable dry-aged beef options, from a whole brisket and osso buco, to beef bones and kalbi. The flavors of its cuts are straightforward and meaty—simply put, this beef tastes like good beef. The steak we tested wasn’t particularly tender, flavorful, or fatty. The cut itself was also much larger than we expected and cut in a rather unwieldy way, so it took a very long time to cook.
The packaging used is biodegradable and sustainable, plus it ships quickly. While we focused on beef for our testing, Porter Road also offers other meats like chicken and lamb. It’s also worth noting the beef from Porter Road is delivered cold, but not frozen, unlike the other services we tested.
Thrive Market is a membership-based online retailer similar to Costco or Sam’s Club. You pay a monthly fee to access the entire portfolio of products, spanning everything from toiletries and baby products to meat and vitamins. When it comes to beef, Thrive offers a few sets of beef boxes with predetermined options, like the Wagyu Beef Box or the Keto Meat & Seafood Box.
For $170, you receive a lot of meat—four beef patties, one pound of ground beef, two sirloin steaks, two NY steaks, two filet steaks, and two ribeyes—making it a budget-friendly choice for families or those stocking up. While the wagyu beef offered was quite fatty, the accompanying flavor was bland and made the richness fall a little flat. It’s unlikely you will leave dissatisfied eating this, but you won’t be blown away, either.
Grass Roots is a farmer’s cooperative offering 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef sourced from a range of small farms in the U.S. Its offerings are priced roughly on par with Porter Road, which makes sense given both of their small-business-forward approaches to meat delivery.
Although grass-fed and grass-finished beef are generally assumed to be a little leaner than their grain-finished counterparts, this beef was still juicy and tender.. While we focused on beef for our testing, Grass Roots also offers other meats like chicken and lamb.
We did have an issue with one cut of beef arriving in poor condition that was discarded after cooking. When contacted, Grass Roots refunded the charge and offered to replace it, no questions asked.
Butcher Box manages to offer even more beef than Thrive Market per box, and at a lower price point in some instances. Its beef is also grass-fed and grass-finished like Grass Roots, but the flavor in comparison lags far behind. The bavette and filet mignon we cooked were both unidimensional, plus a little dry and rough textured.
The beef we sampled offered standard beefiness in flavor, but much tougher and drier texture. Presumably to make the pricing work, Butcher Box only offers a small number of cuts—even in the “Custom” box—making it less versatile for an all-around meat retailer.
Omaha Steaks has been delivering meat across America since 1917. Unfortunately, that’s likely also why newcomers to the market have made it look so dated in comparison. Upon first glance, the meat bundle options seem plentiful, but with further scrutiny you’ll find random, non-meat fillers tossed in—seasoning packs, apple tarts, chicken fried chicken, even stuffed baked potatoes.
When the meat arrives, the first thing that will stand out is the giant Styrofoam box the meat comes in—a dramatic contrast to the sustainable packaging from other delivery services. Inside, you’ll leaf past flyers for wine subscriptions and other cross-promotions to arrive at multiple boxes of meat that arguably could’ve been packed sans the additional cardboard boxes (though that likely makes warehousing inventory easier).
The tasting process mirrored the unboxing: The meat looked grey in comparison to the others we tried, the flavor of the beef was barely present, and texturally, this was the driest filet mignon (cooked medium-rare) I ate.
Jenny is a professional chef, author and speaker specializing in interdisciplinary storytelling fusing food with social good. She leads a nonprofit named Studio ATAO and runs her own culinary consulting business. Her food and work has been featured in outlets such as Food Network, Oxygen TV, Eater, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, among others. Her full biography, food portfolio, and bylines can be found here.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.