I have recently been wrestling through the pros/cons of buying regular grocery store beef vs. grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free beef. I am trying to go through some of my options, and I came across the option of buying a half of a cow. I would just love to know whether or not this is actually more beneficial and cost-effective than just buying it pre-cut and packaged, as needed. -Abby
Long-time readers here may remember that we attempted to buy a quarter of a grass-fed cow one time and it ended pretty disastrously. In fact, I still have visions of four inches of blood at the bottom of the deep freeze. Eww!
However, if you are smarter than us, and put your freezer somewhere where the outlet won’t shut off and spoil your meat while you’re on vacation, then I definitely think buying half a cow can be a very good investment. In fact, we’re hoping to do that ourselves sometime soon now that we have space again for a deep freeze.
To be completely honest, we’re still trying to work up the courage to makes such a big purchase again after it failed so miserably last time. However, we would really like to be able to use higher-quality meat and buying it in bulk makes it much more affordable, so I think we’re going to take the plunge. This time around, though, we’re going to invest in a freezer alarm, we’re keeping the freezer somewhere other than the garage and I’ll probably be a little OCD about checking to make sure the freezer is running. 🙂
Have you invested in a side of beef before? Did you think it was a good investment? Any pointers or tips for Abby and our family to consider (other than the obvious of don’t plug your freezer into a weak garage outlet!) I’d love to hear!
photo by Skinnyde
Here is an article re: antibiotics in animals . Best to be in the know. HTH
Yes, it is worth it to buy a 1/2 cow if you know where it’s coming from and what it’s been eating! My father-in-law purchases a few from our neighbor and lets them graze for awhile before feeding them grain and taking them to the butcher. The meat costs around $1.99 lb. (in TN) after paying for the cow, feed, and the butcher. The meat tastes better than the typical beef I would buy in a store. I know how the cow was fed as well as cared for during it’s life. If you still have doubts, watch the documentary Food, Inc.
Bee Robertson says
This was my featured blog entry today on Facebook (Bee Robertson). Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. My husband and I have been debating going in with another couple to buy a cow for some time. We have the same concerns about the freezer. I think we may give it a shot, and see if it saves us any money.
This question has really got me thinking. My husband processes (butchers) deer at a Deer Shop located on a local farm. A few years ago he was offered a cow to butcher. It had a messed up leg or something……..the meat would be fine if they killed it and butchered it right away. The catch was he had to kill it himself. He said it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do….but I was so proud of my man for doing it and getting us a freezer full of ground beef for free!
Now, I am wondering if we cold find a grass fed cow to buy (not sure these cows are fed organic) and he could just butcher it himself…..hmmmmm…had not thought of this, yet.
The meat lasted us for at least 2 years….and the taste was fine.
One more thing I grew up eating beef that my farmer (wheat) father got from another farmer which started me buying beef from the farmer raising the cow and thoroughly spoiled me, in a great way, knowing what beef raised happily on grass and finished on grain also having a relationship with the processor I knew I received the cow that was bought and he was also willing to hang the cow for a full 2 weeks which greatly improves the flavor as well.
The processed meat usually figures 60% of the hanging weight. If the price per pound of the same quality of beef purchased outright averaging pricing from prime rib to tongue was $4.50 per lb. then that would translate to $2.70. This does not factor in the cost of owning a freezer or paying locker fees. When I had kids at home we could eat a side of beef in about 1.5 years which was past the ideal storage time so we then went to a quarter…there were some losses due to the door not being closed properly. We also wanted more vegetarian and fish oriented meals so it did not make sense to continue. I buy the cheap beef at the local Dillions from time to time… it is not worth the savings to wonder why it tastes so boring so I look for the deals from the local processor or Satchel Creek Farms store in Wichita KS. Blessings to all!
I was just thinking that I remember something about if the freezer looses power from weather related “disasters” that the loss of food might be covered under your home owners policy. I think I heard that back after the eastern black out in the summer of 2003. The power was out for so long that food was spoiling and the news media reported to check your policy for it. Just something to keep in the back of your mind for just in case. In Connecticut the least expensive grass fed beef I have found so far is $1500 for half of a cow. A huge investment for us.
FYI, you can an inexpensive freezer alarm on ebay, etc that will beep if the freezer temp starts rising.
My parents raise beef so I usually know the name and tag number of the beef in my freezer. One tiny clarification about antibiotics. Antibiotics in themselves are not bad. For example, if a calf has scours it will often die without antibiotics. The key is avoiding places that just regularly dose with antibiotics as a preventative rather than places that dose as a treatment for something specific. Just to make that clarification for everyone.
Another interesting thing is the new names for cuts of meat. I had to google some of them to figure out how to cook them. Flatiron?? What the heck is that? Now I know. http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Cooking-Tips–Techniques-642/beef-cuts.aspx
I have another half coming this fall. 2$/lb hanging weight. Comes vaccuum sealed and frozen. Cut in the portions I prefer-ie thickness of steaks, weight of roasts, the cuts I dont want (ribs) are deboned and turned into burger.
Totally grass fed, no hormones, no antibiotics, montana beef, grown by people I know personally.
We’re purchasing 1/4 of a cow soon, and I was wondering how much freezer space it’ll take up? I’ve been told it should be around 130 lbs or so? Just curious as I have no experience purchasing like this.
We bought 1/2 cow and split it with a neighbor since we are a family of 3. Best decision ever!! In retrospect, we wish we would have kept the other 1/2. Wonderful to have meat in the house during a Nebraska winter.
One of my growing-up memories from the 1970’s is of my parents’ butcher calling my mom to tell her that the price of beef was going to increase and was she ready to order some? I think she’d purchase a “side” of beef, whatever that is. A few days after the call, he’d show up at our house with wire crates full of white paper packages, and Mom would show him to the freezer in the basement. He unloaded and stored all that meat for her. Ground beef, steaks, roasts – we never lacked for beef at our house. Mom worked at a union grocery store; every 3 or 4 years the employees would strike during contract negotiations and rather than cross the picket line, she’d go work at our butcher’s little Red and White grocery. I loved going in there – it had creaky wooden floors and the employees were so friendly.
I’m so happy I bought a cow ! It’s great meat and there’s always something in the freezer ! I posted it on my site http://www.bargainfun.net/2010/08/buying-cow.html
I live in the heart of Illinois (and farm country) and I wanted to weigh in since we raise beef cattle and chickens. I think most people are shocked when they taste fresh beef, especially grass fed because it tastes like BEEF! 🙂 Good beef should have a rich…slightly livery taste. A lot of things contribute to the taste and tenderness of the meat. Obviously the diet is a big factor. Animals raised on corn will be fattier and have less of that liver taste. Age will affect tenderness. Prime slaughter age for tenderness is under age two generally, but most ranchers sell off their older breeding animals at some point, so that is what you haven gotten when you buy a package of steaks at the store that are tough. An animal that has been frightened before slaughter will have more blood in the meat and be more tough. Someone above mentioned that their meat tasted like a barn. That is common from animals that have been raised in severe confinement situation. Beef does not tast gamey. Lockers have been known to sell deer meat as beef since they are so similar in appearance/texture and even taste. Deer meat IS gamey tasting. I know a problem with some meat lockers is that they don’t give you back the cow you took in, so you want to be sure you have a trustworthy business butchering the animal. Taste/texture does vary slightly between breeds. We raise White Park ourselves and some people are sold on the flavor of it. You mostly hear of Angus and possibly Hereford in the mainstream though.
I’m a strong proponent of grass fed cattle. Grass is what God intended cattle to eat. The media hypes grain fed cattle up, but grain fed cattle are only a benefit to the rancher. It allows the cattle to get fat quicker so they can be sold quicker. Higher weight quicker=faster/bigger bottom line. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to pay for fat that I’m just going to trim off and throw away or that will just melt away in the pan anyway. I like lean, pure red meat with just the right amount of marbling through out. If you buy 2 pounds of hamburger from the store and cook it, how much do you have left over ? Now go to a good butcher and get 2 lbs. of hamburger, cook it and see how much MORE you have left over. When you look at it that way, it’s very easy to justify paying a few cents more.
Grass fed animals are healthier, happier and make better meat. Animals standing in a feedlot situation in knee deep mud with no grass to graze on is not ethical and it just does not make good flavor. Like I said before, the consumer has for so long been fed that fatty, bland meat from the grocery store that has water added/injected (as well as fillers) that they are quite shocked to discover what beef really tastes like! And it’s all the same for chickens (meat as well as eggs) and hogs too. Natural is always better for the animal and the consumer.
@Brenda, Awesome comments Brenda…. I was raised on a beef ranch and know a little about butchering and you just posted a ton of stuff I was thinking about.
Just curious–where in Illinois? Are you on eatwild.com? I’ve been looking into this issue myself this year!
@Erika, I’m about 50 miles northwest of Springfield, or about 50 miles southwest of Peoria. I live in Schuyler County. No, I’m not on eatwild.com but I’m going to check that out right now…
We were going to do this, but somehow ended up with 5 yearling+ cows instead. So we’re going to have beef for the next few years.
Kelly Welch says
We bought a whole cow last time (I love it when I tell people, “Hey, I bought a cow!” and before they can say “Really?!?!” I pipe up “It’s in my freezer!”) (Yeah, I’m a bunch of laughs that way…….) I think its a great deal, we figured out we paid $2.00 a pound for leanest of the lean hamburger, steaks, roasts, Tbones (!!!) New York strips, ribeyes, oh yeah! The butcher/processor also made their own jerky—2 DIE 4! My mother in law asked me afterwards if I got the filet mignon, that some butchers snitch it to sell because it is high valued meat—I don’t know if I got it or not, but I would ask next time! 🙂
I wish we *were* getting half a cow this year once again. But… my husband has joined the ranks of the unemployed and I just can’t swing that much money right now.
Realistically, I had to learn how to cook some of the steaks we’d received when we did our half cow purchases. I’d never had t-bones before, for example. I do know that grocery store hamburger tastes significantly different from locally raised beef.
I loved getting half a cow! My SIL and I would split a whole one each fall – right about this time of year. With two teenage boys in the house, our portion would last us about 10 months.
If my husband were to get a good paying job next week, I’d be on the phone pretty soon! (Though we expanded our garden so the deep freeze is pretty full. I’m sure we could manage somehow!)
You are going to love it! We have done this twice now, and I love having a freezer stocked with tons of meat. Bless your heart, I can’t imagine losing that breastmilk, that’s by far more upsetting than losing the beef!
As an alternative to beef, we have stockpiled frozen venison. I am not sure about the expense though, since my in-laws give us a butchered deer every year (a friend of theirs likes to hunt). Last year we also ordered half a lamb from a local farmer. Of course, lamb is more expensive, but soooo tasty on the grill!
This is a great topic. For the last several years we have purchased a 1/2 cow from Iowa – we get it from there because it is corn fed and not only does it taste better it is better. The butcher cuts it exactly as I like it, the ground beef is put in flat 1 lb packages so it fits in the freezer better and he labels all my packages so it’s easy to find. The price ends up being around $2.15/lb for edible weight. This is high for ground beef, however we get roasts and steaks and that is a bargain. Plus I know where my meat is coming from and it’s much healthier. I have a family of 5 (2 adults and 13, 10 & 7) and this much meat lasts approximately 9-10 months. If I had a bigger freezer and more funds, i would get a whole cow. Overall – I think this is a really smart investment if you can swing the large amount up front.
Hey everyone, I come from the farming family itself, and YES YES YES buy cow on the rail. There are some pointers I have learned over the years hearing my dad talk about getting beef done.
Make sure the farmer grain feeds the cows out it makes your meat better. In fact some people can even do an ultra sound to check to make sure the cow is at the best time for butchering.
As far as pricing goes it does vary if you want the hormone free, grass feed, bla bla. I think over 5 a pound is very steep we always do ours around 1.89 on the rail plus your share of cut and wrap (eastern Idaho) My dad does regular holstein steer cows but they always taste great (I have seen store bought hamburger, when you have to rinse off your meat before eating, this is just wrong people!!)
Another pointer is make sure you have a good butcher, my family has used two different ones and we can tell a difference. We do a lot of cows, my dad has to do 8-12 cows twice a year because he has so many people wanting it and a lot of family.
If you are a first timer I would air on the side of smaller amounts so you knew how much your family consumes but be aware once you try a beef you can never go back!!!
Good eating hope you make the plunge!!
@Kristen, Kristen, I second that! My dad raises beef as well. Corn fed holstein steers (much better tasting meat!). His is $1.75/lb hanging weight plus your processing fees (West Michigan). He has a great butcher and processing place – you get plenty of choices on how your meat is cut and what you have made into hamburger, etc. I’m a little surprised at some people’s comments, I wouldn’t expect anything but well wrapped, clearly labeled meat, and the cuts that I want.
@Elizabeth, Elizabeth – I am in West Michigan too, and my husband and I are interested in buying 1/4 cow. How would I get in touch with your dad? His price sounds just right for us!
@Janelle, Actually, I am handling his custom sales for him – you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Thanks!
I do want to say, get the vaccum packed if you have a choice. We own an online local foods marketplace and our freezer was left open. Luckily, the meat was cold enough to be OK (we tested it all), however, because of the brown bagged meat the freezer was a mess and a lot of it we had to give away. The vacuum sealed meat did fine and under the FDA regulations, we were allowed to re-freeze it since it hadn’t thawed completely.
For those complaining about the cuts, you need to pick a different farmer. You should be able to choose EXACTLY how you want you cow if you get a 1/2. Get the cuts you want and use, have the rest done in ground beef and sausage.
We purchase 1/2 a cow once a year. I don’t remember what we pay for it, but we get it from a friend. It usually lasts our family of 7 for the whole year. Of course we eat chicken and turkey also. But I haven’t purchased meat at the store in several years. With all of the stuff they give commercial beef cows, and the way they are raised, and the fact that they actually dye the meat red so you don’t think its spoiled, I wouldn’t purchase store meat for our main meat source. Occasionally, I don’t worry about it, but for everyday use, no way.
*******By the way, if you have any sort of deep freeze, you should always have a dedicated circuit for it. Anytime you put a deep freeze on with other appliances, or on a GFI plug, you run a very high chance of blowing the circuit and loosing all you frozen goods. And most people don’t even notice until it’s too late. Check with an electrician about having one put in. It should cost around $140, but will save you hundreds in lost food.***********
My husband’s an electrician, can you tell, lol. He does this all day long for people with the same problem. Dedicated circuit fixes everything ~ except the actual freezer dying. But then it doesn’t mater what you do, your out of luck.
Julie H says
We have bought 1/4 of a cow two times now and a 1/2 pig….have really enjoyed the meat (and no worries of beef recalls). Our farmer sells to upscale restaurants locally and in California…I know they can be trusted. But, once I bought meat from the farmer who I get our milk from and had to return it to them….there was nothing wrong but it had a super strong grass taste. I later found out that the type of cow has a lot to do with the taste and also if their grass has wild onions or other strong plants growing in it. All very interesting. My husband’s 96yo grandmother was raised on a farm and said the milk they drank tasted different in the spring than the other seasons b/c of the strong-flavored grass and plants growing. All food for thought….love it!
Both my husband & father-in-law are meat cutters with a great deal of experience. Their opinion, even if asked separately, is that if you are simply concerned about cost, you are further ahead to watch the sales & stock up appropriately due to the large amount of waste in the bones, fat, etc. The cost of hanging beef goes for ~$2.25 around here, and they rarely see any grass-fed high quality beef. However, if you are interested in no hormones, etc., it may be worth the price!
Stephanie Huston says
We are big beef eaters, and love a good steak, but can’t justify the $13+/lb that they cost. For years, I was purchasing hormone free, grass fed beef from the regular market, and often I was paying more than $4 a lb just for the ground beef, let alone any other cuts we decided to buy.
Last year, I saw an rerun of Jon & Kate plus 8 where they purchased a side of beef. Considering we live in the same region, I decided to start looking into our beef buying options.
I decided to shop closer to home than Lancaster Co, PA and was amazed by the number of options we had within a 30 min drive. Several of the ranchers wanted $5+ per lb hanging weight, and that wasn’t acceptable to me. I finally found a farm in New Hope, PA that was selling sides for $3.50 hanging weight (just over $4/lb processed).
After really considering our options, we realized just how worth it 1/2 a cow would be! For just under $900, we got more than 50 lbs of ground beef, 40 lbs of 6oz burger patties, 15lbs of steak sandwich meat, 3 rib roasts, a brisket, short ribs, ox tails, soup bones, 3 bolar roasts, several chuck roasts, numerous London Broils, Sirloins, T-Bones/Porterhouse Steaks.
Of we had paid market value just for the roasts & steaks we would have come in over the $900 mark! In my mind, that meant we got all of our ground beef, burgers, and steak sandwiches for free!
As for storage, we have a 15 cubic foot upright freezer and it was almost completely full with just the beef leaving little room for anything else. We found that using storage bins w/o their lids was the best way to store the ground beef so that it wouldn’t attack when you opened the door. The biggest challenge was making sure that the freezer door was completely closed after we took some stuff out of it.
If you are interested in purchasing a side of beef, start by checking out localharvest.com They are an excellent resource!
We purchase 1/2 cow. Based on my Quicken numbers it did NOT save us money. In the end, we pay about the same amount as compared to the grocery store. You must keep in mind you will get a mix of cheaper and expensive cuts. We are in central Texas and purchase directly from the rancher. The rancher pays for the processing, so the cost is extended to us. I do not enjoy paying for soup and neck bones that I don’t use as often. I am paying for that weight and the quantity we receive is frustrating.
I do enjoy having meat on hand for dinner all the time. I also sit back without concern when I hear about meat recalls, as I know where my meat came from so we continue to purchase the 1/2 cow.
How many reviewers here actually compared the numbers as I have?
Lee Cockrum says
I became a grass fed beef convert when I read this article in Mother Earth news. The only “problem” I have is with the steaks, they really need to be tenderized and marinated. The chuck roast makes the most amazing pot roast I have ever had in my life.
We’ve found that the age of the grass fed animal contributes to the toughness/tenderness. We butcher our grass fed beef younger….it’s been wonderfully tender and lean.
If you do have a bigger grass fed cow…toughness can be an issue. Younger cows (like 6 months to a year old) may be smaller…but their meat is much more tender—- or that is what we’ve experienced.
Crystal- Thanks so much for picking my question!! I got really excited when I saw that 🙂
This has been SO helpful and encouraging. Now I just need to get to researching my local farmers. Thanks everyone for all of your input and wisdom!
You’re welcome! Thanks for sparking such a great discussion!
Shannon W. says
Where would I go to buy 1/2 a cow or pig? I have never done that before and in fact it never even crossed my mind.
Kendra LaCrosse says
We buy beef by the 1/2 cow. I love getting it this way. Isn’t necessarily cheaper (about $4/lb) but it is grass fed, no hormones etc. I can’t even stand the thought of eating other beef now.
While it sounds expensive to buy hamburger for $4/lb, it is also that price for the steaks and roasts. It ends up being a fair price all things considered.
We have been involved in buy cow before and I have loved it. It was such good quality meat and I loved that I always had in on hand and also hand lots of different kinds of cuts. Great investment!
Amber Cullum says
My in-laws purchased a whole cow with my father-in-laws brother and it has been fabulous!!!!!!!!! Lucky for us we didn’t spend a dime, but have benefited from the meat. The beef has tasted much better than any store bought beef I have ever eaten. I have been extremely grateful for their purchase and would highly recommend it.
Sabrina Persico says
Growing up, we bought a 1/2 steer and 1/2 pig each year. My city boy husband thought I was crazy when I mentioned that we need to call someone from back home and buy a 1/2 pig. Ha! Three years later and we’ve enjoyed that piggy each year. It was SUPER cheap and we have wonderful pork all year long. We store it in a second refrigerator/freezer that we keep in our basement. No special alarms, but I always worry about it. 🙁 I definitely say its a great investment though.
Does anyone know of a good farmer/butcher in Southern California?
I am also in SoCal trying to find out more info.
I was thinking about researching Cal-Poly Pomona. They are very aggie. Also, the LA County fair is happening where they are selling cow right now. And, the money goes to 4h kids and butchers stand by during the sale.
Robin Marquardt, Independent Scentsy Consultant says
We started buying with just 1/4 two years ago and made the plunge for a 1/2 last fall. We are just now finishing the hamburger (my husband placed the order so we had lots of hamburger and no roasts) and still have some odds and ends. We usually end up paying about $2.50/lb based on the final weight of the meat. I’ve had to buy roasts over the past year and the price to buy it in the store is horrific! We’ll be ordering our 1/2 here soon but I will be making sure that I am doing the order not my husband this year for our cut selection. And I found out that the butcher that we use can also do nitrate free hot dogs and polish sausages for us. I’m so excited.
It is much cheaper and economical to go in with people and buy the cow. You get a better deal on the meat (and spare the costs of gas and trips to the store), which is healthier and better for your family, and better for the environment as well.
I do advise to research the farmer and the farm. Make sure that the cow will actually be grass fed, and that NO grains will be given to it. Check local farmers organizations for certifications and recommendations. Be vigilant in checking up on your cow throughout the year.
When it comes time to butcher, do the research on them as well. Check for a health, safety certificate, etc.
We started buying 1/4 and 1/2 cuts of beef 10 years ago. When I found out the amazing benefits of grass-fed cattle, fed the way God created them to be fed, we were sold on the idea. You get a far superior taste, omega 3’s, no artificial hormones, vaccines, antibiotics, insecticides or herbicides and a healthy cow that has been exercising its whole life.
But do your research. Know what questions to ask. Because so many are getting on the bandwagon of organic and grass-fed, some cannot be trusted. Not because they are trying to do you wrong, more because they may not have the knowledge, being so new to it and all.
I am a question freak for sure. By the time they get off the phone with me I know if they know what they are doing. wink wink
And it is wonderful to pay one price for everything. We eat steak like kings at the price of hamburger. It is a blessing.
We now have a 2 year window in which we will start, I pray, raising 2 of our own. Woot Woot!
My husband is a dairy farmer, but he raises some beef and pork for us, as well as a few to sell to others. His charge is for the hanging weight. The customer also needs to pay for slaughter/butchering/cutting/packing themselves as we do not do that here.
I just happened to look at a package of steaks in the grocery store today because they had the “reduced” sticker on them, but they were still over $17!! I am so glad we don’t have to buy our beef & pork, I couldn’t imagine fitting that into our grocery budget. We do buy milk though as I think farm fresh milk is disgusting ( I’m not a country girl! Fresh milk smells like the barn to me, and it’s way too thick, gross!)
We use Town and Country foods. It is organic and we can get beef, pork, chicken and fish. It is not overly expensive.
Michelle M says
There are freezer temperature alarms available. An alarm sounds if the temperature inside the freezer gets above a set point. So if you are home you know something is wrong. I put child proofing latches on all our freezer doors. Then when you hear the click you know it’s shut tight.
Haven’t bought 1/2 cow but have considered it. I live in a farming area so of course the prices sound high to me, but there are lots of cows in WI 🙂 You can buy 1/2 grass fed, no hormone, cow for about $2/lb here.
My husband has connections with local farmers and about twice a year, we buy a quarter of beef (around 200 lbs) for $2/lb. This includes burger, roasts and steaks, already cut and packaged. Your local University Extension office should be able to hook you up with local farmers.
The way to do it is to buy 2 calfs and raise them to butcher weight & then sale 1 & butcher the other. This way you know what you are eating and what they were raised on. Our hamburger is so lean that we have to cook it on low or it will burn. It comes out around $2.00 – $2.50 a lb. for all the beef. Steaks included.
What’s the reason for the sell one, butcher the other?
Can you give more details on the costs of doing this? How long does it take for a calf to reach butcher weight?
We have enough space here for some sort of ruminant, but have never been daring enough to try!
@Jennifer, The reason to have 2 is they are a hearding animal & they do better in groups. You sell one to pay for the cost of raising them and it helps or almost pays for the processing fees to butcher. To get to 1200 lbs. it takes around 18 mon. depending on the breed. Also, depending on their weight when you got them. The last 3 mon. take the one you are to butcher off of grass and feed grain only, for the best marbling & favor.
Susan Karsten says
Yes, it is a good deal. Esp. if you know the farmer and the processor as we do!! 🙂 Our church friends have a farm with cows and we order the meat from them. We also buy pork (“by the hog”! 🙂
It is cheaper than the grocery store, higher quality, and you get steaks for the same price as hamburger…what could be better these days? Make sure to request the brisket…yum.
Amanda Y. says
I think a quarter cow is best, if it’s offered (it’s becoming more popular), unless you can buy smaller amounts of hormone free beef for close to the same price. For us, it’s $7/lb. for ground beef and $13 for sirloin steaks from the only grass-fed farm by us. But, if we buy a quarter cow, cut and frozen by my parents and put it in a larger cooler to bring home (a few hour drive), it’s ONLY $1.75/lb. …..for all cuts! Holy cow! (ok, sorry about the pun). I was shocked, so that savings, no duh is well worth it.
Yvonne Fortin says
we dont have a deep freezer, though would love to get one because we have considered this for a while, too. My question is kind of stupid, but: do they cut it up for you like at the grocery store, or do you get a skinned/gutted body?
@Yvonne Fortin, If you get it through a farmer or small butcher, you will get the cuts of meat that you want already cut up and processed. It should be either vacuum sealed or wrapped and frozen and ready to go when you pick it up. Then all you have to do is throw it in the freezer and enjoy as needed! : )
We also purchase our beef in bulk. It is grass fed, organic, no hormones, no antibiotics. We pay just under $5/lb. But be careful — we have also purchased a cow for $2/lb that was grain fed. I was OK with that since I knew the farmer and the butcher and my meat was local and the grass fed farm did not have any cows at the time. You just need to compare apples to apples!
Purchasing our beef in bulk from a local farmer has been one of the smartest things we’ve done in a long time. We purchased half a cow for the first time in 2008, and it was well worth it. However, we had slight difficulty using up all the meat within a year, so we went with a quarter a bit later in 2009 and we’re using it up quite nicely.
We paid about $2 a pound for ours, and it came vacuum-packed in the quantities we requested from the butcher. We had to pay the farmer and the butcher separately, so we were able to spread out the purchase a bit and not take the whole “hit” at one time.
As far as we’re concerned, it’s worth it for the sake of convenience AND because we know where the meat comes from. We know exactly where it was raised, and we know the family who raised it. That means a lot, in this day of supermarket meat and all the issues that can stem from it. We also don’t eat out as much because it takes almost NO time to pull a package of ground beef out of the freezer, thaw it, and make tacos, sloppy joes, or the like.
I think purchasing the cow is more about finding a healthier alternative for your family. You are getting a much safer product for your family if it truly is hormone and antibiotic FREE. PLUS, the big determining factor in my opinion is that they are GRASS FED! This means you can nearly eliminate the risk of E. Coli, which is HUGE and can be deadly. Just my two cents. Good luck w/your decision!
I went to my local craigslist to see if I could find some more information, I found this farm and they had this chart:
Showing that for a 1/4 after the processing and package weight, it’s $5.62 a pound. That doesn’t seem like such a good deal. = ( . IDK if it’s just this farms prices are maybe high?
@Trinh, I’m confused on what all that means too…
@Trinh, You have to decide what you’re looking for. If you just want cheaper meat, then this particular farmer isn’t going to be right for you. This is a farmer that does grass-fed, hormone-free cows, which is more expensive than grain-fed steers, for example. So, when comparing prices and deals, make sure you know ahead of time what’s important to you. It’s worth it to us to make sure our meat is hormone free, and I like grass-fed because it’s higher in nutrients and more lean. To me, it’s worth the extra cost, but to you, it may not be, and you could buy a part of a steer cheaper. Try http://www.eatwild.com to find more options. That’s where I found a farmer in my area!
I went to craigslist and under “farm and garden” typed in beef. I paid $1.80/lb hanging weight. Cut and wrap (also based on hanging weight) was .45. I only bought 1/4 cow and that equaled 150 lbs of meat in my freezer. I also paid part of the butcher fee so my total was $450 for everything. Normally I would not pay $3 a pound for meat, but to have locally grown, hormone and antibiotic free meat, it is worth it. It also tastes way better than store meat. I do not devour my meat anymore, but rather eat it slowly and savor every bite. I would definitely do this again though I think 150 lbs will last me for a while.
When I called and talked to the farmer I asked him for references and I called them. Also make sure that the steer has been fed grain for a few weeks before it is butchered or you will get gamey tasting meat.
@Liz, Oh my gosh, I NEVER would have thought of looking on craigslist! We have been pricing it out and have been going through localharvest.org but I am definitely going to see what I can find there! Thanks for a great idea!
Kassandra Wood says
I am fascinated by all of the wonderful advice… We no longer eat much beef or pork… but I do have to say grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free meats are quite expensive. If you can find a way to purchase it more affordably, go for it! I am so proud of you for making the switch to a healthier choice for your family!
rebecca huebsch says
i did get to choose the meat. half a pig is about 100 lbs, which is about 80 lbs. you get after butchering. ours was around $120 for 80 lbs, so a little over $1 a pound. that included the fee to have the bacon smoked too.
i recommend finding a local farmer or small butcher shop. good luck!
Stephanie Huston says
@rebecca huebsch, I love the idea of getting a hog too! It’s something that I haven’t considered before, but I definitely see the benefit…Back to localharvest for me 🙂
When I was little, my parents would buy a cow during the county fair. Every year I would get so excited; I could just picture being able to play with our new cow. I never connected it when we got a freezer full of meat instead of a pet so I was never traumatized. By the time the meat got there I’d done forgot about them buying a cow.
@Jill, Thanks for the laugh 🙂
No advice on beef since we don’t eat it, but just wanted to warn everyone to be careful when plugging a freezer into an outlet with a ground fault interrupter (the little button that pops out and shuts off the power to the outlet). We had both our deep freeze and fridge/freezer plugged into one and during a heavy rainstorm, the rain hitting the side of the house was enough to trigger the ground fault interrupter and shut off the power to the outlet. Luckily, we discovered it shortly after it happened and were able to save everything!
@Courtney, If you DO lose a lot of food — you can make a claim under your homeowners insurance. This happened to my parents when I was in college. A storm knocked out electricity for over a week and the lost all the food in their fridge/freezer and a chest freezer. If it’s a lot of food (like a 1/4 cow!) it may be worth making the claim.
@Camille, Great tip about making a claim through homeowners insurance, thank you!
We bought half of a cow in May. At first I wasnt impressed because it tasted so different. Now I cannot even stand the thought of store bought meat. We paid about 2.39 a pound (and btw, that is for the butchered meat not the price of the cow before its taken care of) We just ordered another 35 pounds of ground beef because we ran out and had to buy a pound from the store. It was horrible! We also bought 1/2 a pig in May and are totally happy with that too. I wont ever go back now.
My tip: We got a childproof lock for the freezer. It doesnt help with power issues but it sure has prevented us from leaving the freezer open by accident.
We purchased a 1/2 a cow last winter along with a full pig. It is very worth purchasing this meat in “bulk”! You really cannot beat the price of buying 1/2 a cow or pig, plus you are using it throughout the year as needed (makes dinner ideas a lot easier!). Plus, you can have the cuts of meat you want, which is fantastic!
We live where there are a ton of farmers, and meat can be bought fairly inexpensive. However, one thing to consider is make sure you have talked to someone that has bought meat from them recently. Our last cow (split into thirds with my parents and brother’s family) was feeding on something that gave us some rather gamey tasting meat. Enough so that much of mine is being given to someone to use for dog food. The ground beef was the only meat we found usable.
2nd tip- if you have a stand up freezer like we do, find something to keep the kids from opening it! Our freezer is older and the seal is starting to go. We lost a lot of ground beef when little hands didn’t get it shut tight. My husband ended up rigging a tie-down around the freezer so we could keep that from happening again.
@TJ, I’ve also read that the time of year the cow is “harvested” can change the taste of the meat esp. for grass fed.
We do it every year! We love being able to having it processed how we want & it is so much cheeper & more tasty. the hamber meat seems less greasy too 🙂
Definitely worth buying beef in bulk! Make sure you know where it’s coming from by trustworthy, reputable sources of recommendation. Don’t be afraid to “try it before you buy it”, buying a pound of hamburger first, either. There is significant difference in flavor of beef depending on what it’s fed, for example – grass fed vs. corn fed or whether it’s an angus cow or holstein cow.
Not only is the quality of meat superior than store, but it’s significantly CHEAPER than store bought. Where else are you going to get ALL your cuts of meat, including a prime rib and steaks for roughly $2.50 per pound – process and packaging included?! You get to pick what cuts you want and don’t want.
Needless to say, that’s the way we buy it and prefer it no other way. The store stuff will smell like something from the back side of the cow once you’ve had it fresh-from-the-farm!
I was wondering why I don’t like the taste of beef anymore. It seems that it all tastes and smells(both when its cooked and uncooked) like the barn smells!! But I have the same problem with pork and chicken. Maybe I just need to fine some reputable farmers and go with that. It’s not every time I eat meat, its hit or miss and I can’t pinpoint what it is. Maybe this is why. Thanks for the insight.
Definitely worth it! With the processing fee and cost of the actual meat, ours comes out to a little over $2/lb. For ground beef that’s not cheaper than what you can get on sale, but for all the steaks and roasts it’s unbeatable. Plus, it tastes SO MUCH better! We can pick how we want our meat cuts (how big we want our steaks and roasts, what kinds of cuts we prefer, how much of the ground beef we want as hamburger patties, etc. at no extra cost). We’ve done it for the past 2 years and ours lasts about a year. BUT we also feed a houseful of college kids on a weekly basis! It’s been well worth it for us and ours fits in a small chest freezer and a little in our regular freezer. We love it.
I split a half a cow with my parents last fall and I think it well worth it just for the convenience alone. We purchased it from my sister-in-law’s father and it good beef, mostly grass fed. I have since received some ground beef from a Jersey and it does taste different (not bad, just different). I haven’t hear about any other breeds, but Jersey’s have a different “flavor” to them. The lady that gave my the beef did it b/c she was trying to explain how much better it was! After processing I paid about $2.60/lbs which is more then I would spend at the store, but ultimately saved me money b/c I didn’t have to go to the store so much and it is MUCH better quality then store meat anyway. I would and will do it again.
Everyone for the most part seems to be saying that they pay around $2 – $2 per pound when they purchase a side or half a side of beef. Is this the cost based on hanging weight or is it the actual output of edible beef?
We purchased a 1/4 of a side last year and it ended up being about $5 a pound of edible meat. I don’t know if I just found an expensive farmer or if it is because of the area I live, outside of Washington, DC or if this is because we calculated the cost based on actual output of meat.
I would love to figure this out because we are just about out of our meat and have been talking about doing it again but want to know whether I should find another farmer.
I think price varies depending on the area you are in and I think you are in an expensive area. Someone else also mentioned they were in AZ and they best price they could find was $4-5. I paid $2.60/lb of edible beef…but I am in IA, right on the boarder with WI, and there are cows EVERYWHERE! : )
I would still check around though, it couldn’t hurt and would give you some peace of mind. I know you mentioned farmer, and I would stick with buying from the farmer (not the butcher) as I think you will get a better price that way.
We have bought 1/4 cow the last two years and have our order in for a 1/2 this year. We love the meat and think it tastes to much better than what you get at the store. I always worry about something happening to our freezer though too!
Everyone seems to be around the same ball park of saying they pay around $2 – $3 per pound when they buy a side or half a side of beef. I was wondering if this what they are paying based on hanging weight of the cow or the actual output of edible meat that comes off the cow?
When we bought a 1/4 of a side of beef last year it ended up being about $5 a pound of actual meat, not per pound based on hanging weight. It was grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free. I don’t know if this is because we live near Washington, DC that it was higher or if this is the same as what everyone else seems to be paying because that was the actual cost per pound of edible meat. Or, if we just found an expensive farmer! 🙂
@Kirstin, From my experience, the $2-$3/lb is usually hanging weight. I pay just under $5/lb for actual beef weight and around $3 for hanging weight. I think my $5/lb is actually cheaper.
@Kirstin, We live in NEPA and it did figure close to $5/lb this last time. That is quality vacuum packaged and flash frozen. But I think it is worth it. The meat tastes better and it’s local. I love not having to worry about finding a good deal for questionable meat every time I go to the store.
@Kirstin, We also live in the DC area. Can you let me know where you bought your beef? I have been looking around and have found several places, I am just not sure which one to pick!
@Natalie, I get my beef direct from a farmer in Stafford, VA. They also do produce during the growing season. If this is near you then I can get you their information.
@Kirstin, I’m not Natalie 🙂 but I live in the District and would be interested in the farmer’s info. Could you post it here? Thanks!
Clark Family Farm
103 Heflin Road
Stafford, VA 22556-5920
Melissa S. says
I’m not Kristin nor the other Melissa that responded! Just wanted to let you know about our family farm that sells organic pastured beef in Lancaster, PA, about two hours from DC. We (Danda Farms) do individual cuts, Quarter Beefs, and large quanity discounts on ground beef/patties. Check out our website for more info and to contact with questions. http://www.dandafarms.com
@Kirstin, I can tell you from personal experience since I am a farmers wife that buying half a cow is much cheaper buying it from a farmer than what you pay in the store. Normally what we do is take it too the butcher and the person that is buying the beef will than tell the butcher what cuts of beef etc. they want and if they want it packaged and frozen . They pay the butcher for cutting and packing and the farmer for the meat a lb.
I have not eaten beef or chicken for a few years, so I believe I have saved quite a bit. I would rather have a freezer full of fish!
I am sure someone else has said but I wanted to add that I think it would be worth it if you can customize your cuts. We have done it before and the meat was DELICIOUS! But we didn’t get to specifiy cuts so I couldn’t stretch it as far as we would have liked. We are cosidering it again and this time I will state upfront what I want if I can. Really though even if you don’t have the option to decide the meat is still so good, and so much cheaper than buying individually at a market (at least for us here in CA).
I bought half a pig once and wouldn’t do it again. Even though it seemed cheaper, I realized that a lot of the pig product was bacon and sausage (delicious, but not meat that I would normally purchase). So I don’t think that it was a good investment for me because I just wanted pork chops and ribs.
I guess it all depends on which half…
I personally think it is a great idea to stock a freezer with a side of beef. I have been thinking of doing this myself even though we are empty nesters. I would want to buy beef that is grass fed, hormone free beef from a local farmer. We did this when we were first married and were living in an apartment in Missouri. We rented a locker and it was well worth the money. Now we have a freezer and we would not have to buy meat for a year or more if we did this.
We have purchased 1/4 cow before.. a few times… both times were sorely wasteful. Sure the beef over all was cheaper… but we just don’t eat enough beef to have eaten it all in a year… so it all went to waste;( we had some in the freezer for 3 yrs.. then decided we ought not eat it. If you eat beef more than one or two times a week, it may be worth it.
I also agree to check exactly what cuts you’ll get – and make sure you would eat all of them. We had some T bone steak in ours.. should have been GREAT but it was HORRIBLE and really thin… we had a ZILLION pounds of ground beef;) and MOSTLY went thru that. The steaks, roasts and stew meat not so much and we DID eat it.. not that much.
I think buying the beef is a great idea. When my children were younger, we would buy a half a side and tell the butcher how much ground been in each package, the size of the roasts etc. If you are scared you won’t know all the cuts, ask the butcher. If he is any good, he will help you out greatly, ask lots of questions. My butcher asked if I used certain cuts and he really tailored it to our family. If you think a half a cow is too much, split it with someone, it can be cut the same way.
We never had any trouble with cons, our freezer never went out, etc. Good luck!!
Buying a side of beef is definitely not a good “investment. ” An investment is something that grows money- not something that you eat up. I think most people overuse that word to justify a purchase.
That said, buying beef in bulk can be inexpensive. Do not pay the full price that you find online. Here’s what I do. I ask some farmer friends and acquaintances if they know anyone selling pasture raised beef. Do not ask for “organic”. Organic regulation is responsible for the sometimes outrageous prices (ie $18/lb steaks). Bull burger, beefalo, and beef from older cows are MUCH less expensive than what you will pay for a certified organic pasture raised cow. In fact, I buy beef from a farmer who does everything organically, except that he has telephone poles on his property and therefore cannot gain organic certification. Anyway, he sells less than premium beef at $3/lb. That is more expensive than meat deals at the store, but not more expensive than other pasture raised meats. If you’re willing to eat a less “desireable” meat, you’ll get a really good price. The meat isn’t bad, and really, good beef would be wasted on my kids. Good luck.
PS something else to consider is storage costs. I do not have a freezer because they use too much electricity. I am an experience canner and pressure can much of our meat for storage.
Hmm, I’d say spending money on good food to live a healthy life can be an investment, eh? I believe that “investments” don’t just constitute a profit in income; they can also mean better health, longer life, more fulfilling job/marriage, etc. 🙂
I am starting to consider buying a part of a cow. Typically we get a buck from my father each year and we don’t have any trouble going through that-a doe or small buck doesn’t provide enough meat for us. Given that information, if we were to do beef instead of the venison would you recommend a quarter, half, or whole cow?
My family has been buying local pasture-raised beef for years now. I wouldn’t do it any other way. I also recommend finding a source for pasture raised chickens as well. I love knowing that we always have meat in the basement. It helps with meal planning. I know it’s healthy for us and tastes good too!
When buying such large quanities, know who you’re buying from and decide if grass only versus grain finished is important to you. Check to be sure the butcher is known for good cutting practices such as minimal loss in weight during cutting and keeping your meat your meat, not mixing it with other orders.
We learned to have a leave-the-house check list which included checking the freezers to see that they were running and the doors were closed firmly whether leaving for a lengthy trip or for just a day. We did have a disaster once that I remember. Fortunately, it was mostly ground beef and chickens in that freezer and we caught it before they went bad. We cooked up the ground beef and froze it in meal size packages and boiled the chicken, deboned it and froze it again. Always check your freezers regularly and you will be able to salvage the meat even if something happens!
I think this is a great idea. If you want to do it, make it happen! Split the cost with a friend or a few friends.
My advice is to purchase from THE FARMER and NOT THE BUTCHER! You want to make sure your cow is a local cow! Some “local butchers” get boxed meat from other states to resell. Also, support your local economy as much as you can! 🙂
We personally raise our own beef. We have a cow slaughtered every year. In my opinion it is completely worth it. We know exactly what we are eating and I don’t feel bad about giving it to our two young daughters. Our beef is grass fed and it makes such a difference. We don’t eat a lot of steak, so we have it ground in to hamburger meat. I will be anxious to see what you decide!
A few things to add:
What we pay for a large amount of beef from my BIL is more than I would pay for meat in the store but…..
It is very low in fat and we loose VERY little of the meat in cooking.
If I still try stretch the meat I am feeding my family some very healthy food and the cost isn’t so much more.
Do you know what they are putting in most of the burger you buy at the store or get at fast food? You should look it up on Youtube. Burger Stretcher. Look it up and find out a little more about the process. Once you, do you might think the little extra you are paying is worth it.
blue j says
It is definitely worth it! We have purchased 1/2 and 1/4 sides of beef for the last 6 years or so. It is MUCH less expensive than trying to buy the grass-fed, hormone/antibiotic free stuff in the store – especially since the nearest place for our family is a bit of a drive. Not only that, but our entire family likes the taste of the “fresh” beef over the stuff from the store. Maybe it’s all in our heads, but it just seems to taste better.
My family raised beef, and split a steer with my Grandparents every year. In fact my parents also buy a hog each year to give another meat. The plus side is great quality beef and a much lower price. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized steak was supposed to be a special treat.
I would say the downside is being a good planner. My mom wasn’t great at spreading it out, so she would often run out before butcher time came. Then we were back to store bought beef. However, if you stretch it more you can eat full a full year.
My husband and I are hoping to do this soon. We are just saving so that we can afford the large lump sum.
We have done this in the past, and it is a great deal. You can get the beef for a great price and know where it is coming from.
You can find out exactly how much beef you will be getting, and if it seems like too much, you could always get 1/4 instead of 1/2 – especially if it is your first time purchasing this way. Then you will know what you are getting and can decide if you like it. Then, either stick with 1/4 or bump up to 1/2 the next time.
Just make sure you have a good freezer that will keep all the meat frozen really well. We bought a new full-size upright deep freeze when we moved into our house and it came with a built-in temperature alarm, so if the power goes out or the temp drops below a safe level, the alarm sounds. A great peace of mind, especially when you are doing all you can to save money!
We just actually bought a 1/2 side of beef…and its been awesome. Grass fed beef that worked out to be a little less than $2.00 a lb. my hubby is a steak fanatic, so it’s worked well so far, and I love having my f reezer stocked w/ not just chicken but beef too. we’ll definitely do this again, and again!
Do it! My dad’s family is in ranching & every year my parents would buy 1/2 a side of beef at a huge discount. it saved my parents so much money! I would do that if I knew where to buy from, I’ll have to research it 🙂
We mostly eat ground beef at our house due to cost. Buying 1/4 a cow was a great way for my husband to get steaks. If you’re like us and mostly eat ground, you might be able to find a family to split it with who eats mostly steaks and get a great deal on just ground beef that way. The other family would pay more per pound since steaks naturally cost more. You could probably end up at $.75-.99 a lb for ground with this option.
I grew up on a dairy farm. we had everything fresh from eggs, to milk to chickens to beef to venison. I got married and kept my diet the same. My husband was in the military so we moved. I found out a year after getting married that there is a huge difference in the meat. I gained 20 lbs in a course of a year and I did not change my diet. I know that the preserves and chemicals that they use attributed to it. I have since then made sure that we are buying fresh meat with the exception of chicken. (not found a local farmer for that yet) Also I now have a son who has sensory processing disorder and research suggests that the best thing that I can do for him is to buy the food I am already buying. To me that says alot!
@Melanie, I found out the same thing about our son. I was moving toward grass feed meat because of the omega 3 and some other things. Glad to hear I am not the only one in this boat. Some folks who know us seem to think I’m a little loony about all this.
Amanda Lewis says
After some health issues when I was younger, we have always had grass fed, organic beef. I could never switch back at this point. I love the taste and you get more meat in my opinion. The meat has less fat so a pound stays at about a pound even after it is cooked. Make sure you know the farmer, because you don’t want to go for it if it isn’t any better. I also agree with lower cost. Ours was about 2.25 a pound last time and if you look at the cost of things in the store, that is a steal!
Erin Rose says
So glad to see this posted. I will be getting my summer bonus at work and we decided to use it towards buying a 1/4 beef. We were talking about it last night, and ta-da, a post about it today confirmed that this is a wise way to spend my bonus.
We searched high and low to find a farmer to purchase our meat from. We finally gave up and went to a local meat market and fell in love with their meat. We have tried out their ground beef, bacon, steaks, etc and are ready to take the plunge.
The website for the butcher actually lists about how much per pound its going to cost and appox how much of everything you will be getting. For instance, we are looking at a hind quarter of beef which is approx 170lbs at $3.09/lb. Their front quarter is $2.79/lb.
We are headed there tomorrow to talk to them about it more. We have heard of others who use this place so we are feeling pretty comfortable about it. Kinda sad to see my bonus go to meat, but it will be definitely worth it I’m sure.
My inlaw’s friends raise cattle on my IL’s property. They raise the cows for them and take them off to be butchered whenever my ILs need more meat. Each time we visit (twice a year) we bring a huge empty cooler and fill it to the brim with ground beef and roasts. They just have to pay for the butchering of it and then actually gift it to us! I know the cows are treated well and are only fed the grass right outside my IL’s window. It’s lean, tastes great–and free for us. Can’t beat that!
We get a quarter of a cow each year, and that seems to give us plenty of good quality beef for all our needs.
YES! If you’re wanting to buy grass-fed, humanely-raised beef, it’s the most affordable way to do so. We buy a half each year, though this year we had an extra 1/4 cow made into ground beef in addition to our “normal” half. Check out http://www.localharvest.org and do a search with your zip code.
We get a buffalo every year and divide it up amongst my family.
I recommend getting an outlet wired specifically for the freezer, and making sure it is not the kind that can trip. I can’t remember what they’re called now- but we used to have our freezer plugged into a plug that would trip if there were any problems, and came home to a horrible smell after a week long vacation. We had to throw the whole freezer away- we couldn’t get the smell out.
A freezer alarm is a good idea, as well as putting it somewhere you’ll see it regularly so you can tell if it’s on or not. Ours is right by where I park my car now, so I see it nearly every day.
We raise feeder cattle, and my husband’s family always butchered their own meat until the last few years. YES! It is soooooo worth the purchase! I am not sure if every family of four needs a half a cow in the freezer, but certainly a quarter would serve you well for about a year.
I send out a message on Facebook when our cows (technically heifers and a few steers) are ready for market, and I end up selling about 4-6 cows.
If you have questions, send them my way!
Heather Marie says
We love buying meat in bulk for many reasons. Here are the ones that come to mind:
1. It’s always on hand. No last minute trips to the grocery store to waste gas, time and extra money on little unnecessaries!
2. We get our beef vacuum packed and it lasts up to three years!
3. The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid ration in grass-fed beef is the way God intended! When cows are fed what God intended…grass…then they do not develop in improper ways and their meat is valuable for our bodies and what we need. Grain fed animals are NOT good for us. This is why you hear so much bad press about red meat. It’s not really the red meat, it’s the GRAIN-FED red meat. In fact, grass-fed beef is lower in fat and better for you than CHICKEN!
4. It’s great to keep local farmers in business. You never know when times will get tough and it’s always good to have food connections close by.
5. In order to afford the purchase of grass-fed beef in bulk, we gathered together a group of families who wanted the same health benefits. We split a cow or two now instead of just getting our own 1/4 at a higher price. I can save more than $1 per pound just by doing a bit of “leg work” (really just emailing back and forth between friends and then splitting up the beef when it’s ready). With a cow weighing in between 400 and 800 lbs, $1 a pound is WORTH IT! I don’t get all that savings myself, as we split the cows in many directions, but it’s worth it to me still. It keeps people coming back again and again which makes it so I can afford to keep buying!
Weston A. Price website is a fantastic resource for nutritional information. Here’s a couple of articles from there regarding grassfed beef.
I would love to know how ya’ll find the farmers~especially the beefalo.
Loving all the responses on this thread. I have toyed with the idea of bulk meat for a while.
Also, maybe an idea of who to contact if we’re interested? I haven’t a clue, but after reading this i am interested. 🙂
Thanks for posting this, I’ve never really considered it, but it’s a lot of good info!
I’m from a very rural area where tons of people raise beef cows and are always looking for someone to purchase a portion of their cow. There are also lots of local butcher places. One day I stopped in at the butcher and discovered that they sell their own meat. They raise (or have people they know well) raise cows. Then they butcher them and sell them. So I asked them about what they were fed, etc. No antibiotics, I believe grass-fed, etc. The good part is that they will sell ground beef by the pound. I usually stop in there about once a month and buy what will last for the month. This way the meat is fresher, it actually costs less per pound (fewer middle people wanting money from the sale of the cow) and I don’t need near the freezer space. This works for us!!!! Also, they sell beef and pork, so I can the type and cuts that I want without have to get the entire half of the pig or cow. I love our method of buying meat. It seems to really work for us.
We are picking up our first quarter of beef tonight! We are very excited to see how everything turns out. As I said this is the first time we have done this, so a ton of research has gone into the whole process. ( I know way too much about beef cows!) Our Wednesday night small group decided to go in on a cow together, and split the meat evenly amongst the four families. We were able to go to the farm, see the cows, and pick the one we wanted. It has been a great experience so far, and I am excited to taste some of our investment. After all was said and done…vacuum sealed and all…. the final price came out to $2.24/ lb!
We did it last year, and are buying 1/4 cow again this year. It’s organic, grass-fed beef for roughly $3 a pound… great deal for us. We also buy 1/2 an organic, pastured hog and some pastured, free-range chickens and turkey each year. A HUGE initial payout – but I almost NEVER buy meat the rest of the year. And that is awesome. Plus, I’m getting higher quality meat for my family than I could easily find in local supermarkets.
It is a great idea to purchase part of a cow. My family did this last year and I love knowing that the meat is healthy. And once you consider how many different kinds of meat we received vs. how much it cost it was definitely cheaper than purchasing it at the store. It seems like a no brainer to go this route.
I am a firm advocate of buying beef in bulk. I may be a bit biased because I have close connections with many cattlemen. By buying in bulk, you are knowingly getting a better grade of meat, which is cleaner, fresher, and gives you more bang for your buck. Although you do have to get the meat processed, it is still a better value than buying numerous packages of beef from who knows where.
I’m sure someone else has pointed this out, but it’s also possible to just buy a quarter of a cow. That’s what DH and I did since it’s just the two of us. That made humanely-raised, organic meat MUCH more affordable–probably comparable to the icky stuff at the stores–and we liked that we were able to support a local rancher.
Yes, you must buy it. Seriously not only does it taste better because it is grass fed, but you will save tons of money. We always get our meat in bulk and it saves us hundreds over the year.
We bought 3/4 of a cow and will do it again when we finish the meat. The price came out to about $3.14 a pound – and we got lots of different cuts. Delicious ground beef that we rarely season before making hamburgers. The only cons were not liking certain cuts (like the cubed steaks) and some cuts being too big (3-lb roasts when there are only 2 of us.) We’re in the process of selling off those unliked and too big cuts. Next time we hope to buy a 1/2 cow before Christmas and give away some of the meat as gifts.
We have purchased a 1/4 cow before kids, but am thinking with this post and all the responses it might be time to do it again. We purchased our large freezer just for that reason (and for deer meat), but would like to try it again…since I am trying to have the family eat better quality meat, but with out the large expense!
Thanks for the reminder!!! 🙂
I think it was worth it. We figured out the cost to be about $2.00 a pound for 1/4 cow. We loved the having meat on hand so we weren’t always running to the store or at the mercy of their sales.
It’s a great idea to buy beef in bulk! We buy a 1/4 of a cow every year, and have so reaped the benefits. Yes, it’s a lot to pay in one chunk, but it’s worth it to have the meat and not have to run to the store to pay, like another reader said, over $4.00 just for a lb. If you have the space, do it!
I grew up with my parents investing in high quality beef and have found that even though it is a big purchase it saves in the long run. The meat is so much leaner and if you happen to go back to grocery store meat you will then prove yourself the difference. We have gotten so spoiled by the good meat even when we run out we make due with other meat until we can get another beef in the freezer. I think it is totally worth it.
Not that anyone wants to hear this but I think buying cow in general probably isn’t the most healthful option. I am NOT a vegetarian but I am very aware of the amount of run off cattle put into our water supply as well as methane into the atmosphere. Not to mention red meat is really not very good for you.
On the other side of it though I know of a few places in my area that carry organic beef. They carry local meat which is great! It is not cheap though! That’s an area though that we are wiling to spend more!
Dee Wolters in TN says
BTW, the picture at the begnning of this post if a great picture of a Hostein cow. She is a milk cow. While some people do eat them, they are much better for raising new cows. Anyway, just thought I would share. When buying a side of beef, make sure it is a beef cow- Angus, limosein, charlais, etc. or you will be getting too much ground beef because milk cows do not fatten up the same way as milk cows.
Ag lesson for the day.
You mean we can’t eat a milk cow?? 😉 Actually, you can tell I know nothing about the difference in cows. A cow is a cow is a cow to me.
So much for my thinking it was a cute picture!
@Crystal, Our milking friends have turned their old cows into hamburger, not roasts or steaks.
Dee Wolters in TN says
Crystal, You can eat the meat from a milk cow (jersey, hostein, etc) but you don’t get as much and not the great cuts you are used too. God made milk cows to produce milk and they do, most over 10 pounds a day. Just wanted people to be aware that not all cows are equal for meat.
We are actually raising a jersey steer (castrated male) for meat. He could not have made milk anyway, ha/ha.
Thanks for your website! Love all the ideas and chatter. Great fun!
Dee Wolters in TN says
As a livestock producer it is great to see this discussion. We primarily raise sheep (lamb) and grow out a cow for ourselves every year. Incredibly easy way to feed our family. If we don’t have beef in the freezer we don’t have steaks, roast, etc. It is a big investment, but we eat so much better!!!
Please consider other meat options too: pork, lamb, etc. While lamb is much more expensive – retail or whole, it is a great source of meat and since the animal is so much younger (less than 1 year) the meat is incredibly tender.
We do not grow our animals organically as they need vacinations to be healthy, but do not give hormones. They recieve some commerical grain in addition to grass to help gain weight at the end. Nothing in the grain but corn, soybeans, wheat, etc. so no worries about additives.
Thanks for supporting your local farmers, we are often “in trouble” with the public for something and are just trying to feed you all.
My family purchases a quarter of a beef probably every two years and think it is well worth it. The cost is less than the grocery store and since the butcher is my husband’s cousin we know exactly what we are getting.
I went and talked with some local butchers but the cows they butcher are hormone fed. Where do you go to find cattle that is organic and hormone free?
Every year, we get 1/2 cow and a whole lamb. Making sure its plugged into a good outlet is vital. My husband is also working on trying to figure out a way to get our freezer and fridge to run on solar/wind power as well as electricity just in case we ever loose power.
As far as the cost, the first time we bought them, we used some of our “emergency” savings. Then, since then, we use the previous year’s cost and we divided that by 26 (the number of times we get paid in 1 year) and set that amount aside each paycheck.
I have a farm and we raise all natural steers for a company that sells to Whole Foods. It is cost beneficial to purchase a 1/4, 1/2 or whole steer. Be very careful what you purchase. You want an Angus steer. They are well marbled and taste great. Grass fed does have a very different taste than grain fed. My family and I prefer grain fed and they are still all natural without hormones, antibiotics etc. We have a wonderful butcher that allows use and his customers to chose their cuts – burger steak etc. Ask for that kind of butcher that will allow you some flexability. Your cost should be close to market price. Some farmers may want a bit more but most will charge what the going rate on the day of the “kill”.
It is a great opportunity just ask lots and lots of questions. It will be worth it.
You may also want to hook up with some hunters this fall- we get a deer almost every year (free!) from a hunter that hunts very frequently and processes everything himself- and then doesn’t have enough room to store it! I make italian “beef” with the deer roasts, and use the deer burger for chili, and stretching hamburger in other recipes. It is also much leaner.
Mai Lee says
My parents have always done this. As a child, I remember going to the freezer in the basement for meat. The whole cow will last us almost a year. Nowadays, with less people, my parents split the cost of the cow with their friends. The taste is unbelievably good. The color and the smell of the meat is still fresh after freezing and thawing. I highly recommend this.
We did this last year and plan to do it again this fall. Instead of searching for hormone-free ground beef on sale for $4 a pound, I got half the side including steaks for just $3 a pound. I felt very good being able to speak to the farmer on the phone and hearing him tell me about a day in his (pretty pampered) cattles’ life.
But Crystal’s experience with the freezer has certainly been in the back of my mind the whole time! My cousin told me a helpful hint in case of power outages:
He freezes half a dozen or more (depending on size of freezer) milk jugs of water in the freezer and leaves them there. Then in case the power goes out, you do have ice in there keeping the temp down if you don’t open the freezer. Also, good just to have an emergency water supply!
What an excellent idea!!!!
@Carrie, we also do this with gallon water jugs! it’s a lifesaver…and when we picnic we simply grab a jug and have cold water by time we get there!
This is our second. No Hormones, No Antibiotics! However, this year we bought a whole cow. Yes, I can’t believe that we did it. It came out to 1.50lb. The meat is unbelievable. I am so glad to have saved to do it.
YES! We just made our first grass-fed beef purchase and I feel great about it. Not only am I feeding our family quality beef that is higher in Omega-3s and a lot of other vitamins, we are skipping the antibiotics and hormones. It saved us a lot more than buying by the pound and it also cuts down on those trips to the grocery store when you are out of beef as a main ingredient. We are so happy to be buying this way. Good luck!
I love buying beef by the side-it makes it so easy to always have meat in the freezer. Don’t feel bad we had our freezer on a gfi outlet we didn’t realize it had triggered till it was too late. SO even with our freezer alarm it didn’t help because the electric was off to the alarm.
We split a 1/2 of a grass-fed cow with a friend’s family once. While the ground beef was fine, all of the other cuts were extremely tough. We tried several different ways to cook the roasts and steaks, and none of them had a good taste and were barely edible. The dogs, however, were quite happy!
I would get a sample of the beef and try it before committing to that much. We won’t do it again.
while we don’t invest in a side of beef, we do buy our ground beef in bulk. The price is a little easier to swallow! We get 50 pounds at a time for $3.75/lb for organic grass fed beef. This might be another option.
While it may not be the most cost effective, there is a big nutritional difference (especially if you have young girls in your home—I’m a firm believer that all of these horomones in our food supply are causing earlier puberty). Plus, supporting local farmers is always a plus!
The biggest expense is the freezer you will need to store it all.
I’ve blogged a bit about our experience buying a quarter beef at:
We’ve been doing it for years – the large cash upfront is hard to see, but we know that the price/# is definitely cheaper than stores.
We “knew” that the beef source we used was a healthier choice than store bought, but we got our ultimate proof via our niece. She has multiple health issue and over the past couple of years began having allergic reactions when she ate beef – from the store, from a restaurant etc… She was visiting an we had some of our “cow” for dinner (DH is a paramedic, just in case…). Guess what – not one single symptom of her allergies. Now her family also buys a cow.
I have a GREAT tip that my mother-in-law gave me! It is a big investment all at once and so she suggested everytime I use coupons, total up how much I saved and stick that money into a ‘meat’ envelope and save up for the meat…it cuts our grocery bill way down because then all I am buying is side dishes and drinks! I have done this and it was great to stock our deep freeze on just money I had saved using coupons!
Jenn Riale says
Go for it! We get 1/4 of one each year. It’s SOOO nice to have all that organic meat in my freezer. Sometimes I cook some of it ahead of time and then refreeze it…makes dinner prep even easier. The meat tastes SOOO good. We actually had our freezer door left open one time…that’s when (and why) we cooked all of it. Fortunately, it wasn’t open long enough for it to spoil…but, yeh, we had a lot of blood to clean up. So, I understand where you’re coming from…but the chances of that happening again are remote! I think you’d really enjoy having that meat!
We are in the process of waiting for our half of a half (in my mind a quarter side of beed but up here in northwest MN, it’s half of a half) and I am totally excited. We invested in a large stand up freezer to store all of our meat (we are also expecting to get venison and bear). A lot of meat it might seem, but we are a family of 6, so every little bit helps.
That being said, the investment in our half of half will be around between $300 and $400 dollars. The cow was 792 pounds so we will get about 198 pounds and we will lose about 35% in processing which will bring it down to 129 lbs of beef. Grass fed, free range, no pesticides or hormones good ol beef! Plus, we are getting a whole range of cuts including 2lb ground, 4lb roasts, and steaks! Oh my! I have not had a good steak in a while and I cannot wait to grill one up!
What I like about this whole process is that I know that I am feeding my family the best there is out there! And our butcher, actually asked us how many the beef would be feeding, how many members are in our family and what are we looking for. I cannot wait!
So, all in all, I think investing in a half side or as in our case, a half of half, makes a lot of sense. You know what you are getting and if you can go in it with several people, again as in our case, it is very economical!
Now, if I could just find someone who would go in with us for a pig! We would be golden!
we buy 1/4 or 1/2 a side of beef every year depending on how much we have left over from the previous year. We buy our beef from my in-laws. It usually works out to be .99 a lbs. Which is a fantastic deal to me. We are still looking for a pig to purchase this way! Also Crystal that much blood was a butcher issue. Find a better butcher and make sure they han the side of beef longer before butchering it to drain the blood.
Keiva Harrington says
We’ve been thinking about purchasing one too but aren’t sure where to start. We would like organic also, but living in a small town in VT I am unsure where to begin. We definitly think that its a great idea. We eat a lot of beef and chicken and would love to have our freezer stocked with it. We get the best meat prices from BJs about an hour away from us.
Alison Armstrong says
we raise cows and pigs so we obviously eat our own meat. We often have friends get meat from us and w/ the price of processing and the price of the cow it is cheaper then hamburger at the grocery store. But w/ a cow you get all the roasts, steaks, and other cuts too. Out steaks are better than ANY you can get from a very expensive restaurant. I never get steak out b/c I know I will not like it as much! So not only is it a better value, but it is also a much better quality!
I have been very interested in purchasing meat this way, but I have so many questions about it, that it has held me back from doing it. I always try to buy organic and grass fed beef, I also buy a lot of buffalo meat because it is healthier. My questions are…
1.) Right now, we have a family of 3 so I would have no idea how much to buy…1/4, 1/3, 1/2??? And if I go with the smaller amounts, will I get as good of a meat selection so that we are not eating the same thing all year long? We do also eat a lot of chicken and turkey…I substitute a lot of ground turkey in beef recipes, etc…
2.) Can anyone give me examples of the cuts they choose? Every place I look states you can choose your own cuts, but I’m no meat expert by any means, and probably am not good at estimating how much we should get of what. So, sizes, cuts, all the different parts…I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to tell them. I also wouldn’t want to leave it to them and risk us getting too much of something we won’t eat.
3.) Does the meat really last you all year long? I worry about meat that I leave in the freezer for too long (some things not more than 3-4 months) because it is not recommended to keep it after that…each type of meat has it’s own time period. So, what makes this beef different in that regard? Can you safely eat the meat that has been frozen for 12 months?
Any help and answers would be greatly appreciated! Like I said before, I would love to purchase my meat this way…I literally cringe whenever I have to buy meat at the grocery store and feed it to my family. Thanks in advance!!
@Cathy, If you use a deep freezer which drops to 0 degrees or lower you can use that meat for an entire year. My mother in law randomly gives me meat from 2008 and it taste the same. As far as cuts, that is a preference. I like to get a few good steaks (delmonico, etc) and then at least half of our order is ground beef, a roast or too, stew meat, chip steaks, round steaks are good for using in things like stir fry.
@Cathy, We buy 1/4 (this will be our 3rd year buying) and it is perfect for our family. This serves 4 of us but that includes a rather finicky 3 year old who doesn’t eat all that much especially of meat. You can give the butcher sort of an idea of the things you want, for example we usually get a couple of roasts, a few steaks, some stew meat and the rest as ground beef (since we use that the most). The butcher will only give you the cuts you request, so if you don’t eat steak and don’t ask for any, you won’t get it. Ours also double wraps ours and we’ve never had a problem with using meat approaching the one year mark, no freezer burn problems or changes in taste.
Give it a try for sure! Its the only way we buy beef anymore!
I would love to buy half a cow but not sure where the heck I could do that living in Miami, FL. If anyone knows of a place in South Florida where I can look into it that would be great. I dont have space for the entire half a cow but I would totally have friends join in and we could split it up.
Shannon O says
We like to buy half a cow, as well as a pig, etc. for the freezer. I’m not convinced that this is a better deal strictly economically, if you usually only buy meat at rock bottom prices. If you just buy meat at whatever price the store has it at that week, then we think it is a better.
However, quality-wise, it is much much better. And I’m not particular about meat. It really is noticeably better.
One caveat though: if you don’t usually eat grass-fed or pasture only or whatever the cow you’re thinking about buying may be, make sure you like the meat before you commit to so much meat. Our purchases are usually “normal” everyday cows from local families, and the taste is not anything unusual.
Jaycie Tallon says
I was so lucky to find a farmer that actually calls me and asks me exactly how I want my 1/4 of a cow to be cut. I could opt for more roasts or turn them into hamburger, etc. The meat is amazing. Well worth every penny! I love helping out a local farmer and it’s great knowing what I’m feeding my family.
I have a friend whose parents invests in bulk meat and then splits it with all their kids as their Christmas gift. I love that idea!
Kelli S. says
We are blessed to be able to raise our own beef. We just recently butchered a barren heifer cow and split it with three other families. We would have kept more for ourselves, but we still had some left over from the previous cow. We sold the 1/4’s for $2/lb. hanging weight (after butchering, but before cutting), and the butcher (Silvana Meats) charged $.49 to $.59/lb for cutting and wrapping. They cut and wrap to our specs, and we love having the natural, fresh meat. We also bought a Guernsey cow last month. She had her calf in late Aug., so now we have fresh milk and cream daily, too. If you have the money and space, I would defintately recommend buying 1/4, 1/2, or even a whole cow.
I loved reading all of these comments. I just passed a local farmer’s sign a few days ago advertising this and have been considering it. It is a little more expensive than what I typically pay, but quality, convenience and not scouring and stressing over a sale on meat sounds like it is well worth it. Thanks again for the helpful and uplifting posts and comments!
Marie M says
We bought a quarter of a beef from a friend last fall. Since I am only cooking for two adults (our 17 month old is not really fond of any meat), we still have quite a bit of it left a year later. We paid $1.92 per pound, which is a great deal when you factor in the steaks and pricier cuts of meat that you get along with with ground beef. The ground beef is the leanest I’ve ever cooked with – I usually have to add oil on the bottom of the pan to be able to stir it as it cooks. The roasts, steaks, and stew meat are all great as well. I know my friend only raises 4-6 cattle at a time, and they are out in the pasture, but I think they still get grain fed too. Still, I feel it is healthier than mass-produced beef even if it doesn’t qualify as grass-fed/organic, and I can help her family make a small amount of money too. We will definitely be doing it again next fall!
It’s a great idea, and totally worth it.
This year we don’t have to buy a beef because our freezer still has 100lbs of last year’s moose in it, but if we didn’t have that we’d be for sure buying another side of beef.
It’s important to our family to know where the animals come from and how they’re treated, so we don’t buy meat at the grocery store. Who knows where it came from? Actually…we do know. From a feed lot.
The only caveat is to not end up eating more red meat than you normally would.
We buy almost all of our meat in bulk now, directly from a farmer. Not only is it less expensive for us, but I like that I’m supporting someone who is now a friend and whom I know to be practicing sustainable farming practices. We wouldn’t be able to eat a whole side of beef, though – so we split it 3 ways with other families.
If anyone is looking for local farmers, a good place to start is localharvest.org
Tammy (wewinnow) says
We buy a whole beef and whole hog every year. We love it! And no worries about where my meat came from – I just saw it running around!
We live on a cattle farm and raise our own beef. I absolutely love it! The freezer is always full of meat and steaks are available on a regular basis without breaking the bank. The meat is leaner and has almost no grease at all. We also know exactly where the beef came from. A recent study showed that a pound of ground beef from the grocery store might have the DNA of over 30 different cows in it.
Our family of 6 splits a steer with my in-laws and sister-in-law’s family. So, about 12 people eat off of the steer for about a year. I hardly ever buy meat at the grocery store, which really helps keep my grocery bill down. In my opinion, the upfront cost is worth the quality of beef and convenience of always having beef available.
My husband and I own a beef cattle farm, and we sell exclusively to people interested in buying freezer beef, so I think buying half a cow is a GREAT idea! It’s wonderful to support local agriculture, and I can tell you from experience, the majority put a lot of love and effort into their products. We are a family of 5, and half a cow lasts us a year.
We have recently purchased a side of beef and found it to be very economical and tasty! We found a family farm in northern Missouri that will deliver to both St. Louis and Kansas City. It worked out to around $2.70 a pound. It is not organic per say, but it is hormone free antibiotic free and mostly grass fed. Their site is beefbytheside.com.
Gotta love supporting a family business and feeding my family well!
Cassie From The Thrifty Couple says
We have purchased a 1/4 cow which was actually quite a lot of beef! We loved the fact that is was grass, hormone free, and antibiotic free as this was important.
After the purchase and the cost of butchering, it ended up around $2.75 a lb. (from the hamburger to the T-Bones) and averaging this out with the different cuts, we really thought it was a great value.
This lasted us for 7-8 months in addition to Laura’s lean beef or other more natural beef alternatives and sales that we hit through out the year, we were pleased with it!
We actually needed to eat the beef for a couple of weeks straight in the end to finish it off as we really didn’t want to use it after 6-8 months for quality and safety. I think 1/2 cow would be way too much for our family of 6 (4 kids that are 6 and under so they don’t eat that much beef).
It’s definitely worth it! The cost may or may not be less overall because you can find some pretty cheap meat at Wal-mart, but I would never put that stuff in my family’s bodies. The health benefits WAY outweigh buying meat that is pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Not all meat is created equal. And if you can truly find a farmer that you trust, who raises grass-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, it is worth every cent. Having sai that, it usually is definitely cheaper overall when you buy it in bulk – well worth the investment. We only eat grass-fed beef, chicken, lamb, and pork that we raise ourselves. There is nothing like it! 🙂
I think it’s a good investment. We do it every year and it definetly saves me time and money. I feel very good about the beef I am feeding my family and the man who sells me the beef also throws in “soup bones”.
We have a freezer in our laundry room with an alarm if the temperature isn’t right or such.
In whole a freezer is a wonderful investment. We buy shredded cheese ann such at the lowest price and stock up. I have like 10 packages of cheese in my freezer, I hardly have to make a “run” to the store (usually only to buy milk, fruit, eggs….but that will soon come to a stop).
You know what I would like? To have a share in a milch cow, to get my milk….that would be nice!
I just used my last 2 lbs of hamburger from the 1/4 that we shared with our in-laws. Cost came out to 2.89 a pound but we had tons of steak,roast and hamburger that got us through the winter. The initial investment seems alot but it cut my grocery spending in the winter by 1/2 since we always had some type of meat if pork/chicken were too expensive.
Worth it! I can’t, because we don’t have a deep-freeze (nor do we have room for one), but my friends who buy bulk beef swear by it. It’s cheaper, healthier, and tastier. I actually visit a local farm and buy their frozen ground beef; they sell it to me in 1-pound packages for $3/pound. Not quite as cheap as a good sale at the grocery store, but worth every cent to me, considering how lean and healthy and delicious it is. If you buy a year’s supply, you could divide your final cost by 52, deduct that amount from your weekly grocery budget and then just save that little bit extra each week so that next year, you have exactly the right amount of cash up-front for a fresh supply. That’s what I do for the frozen beef; I buy about 20 pounds every two or three months, and since we use about two pounds a week, I just subtract $6 per week from our weekly budget and save it for the next trip.
How do you go about finding someone who is selling portions of cows?
@Charity, a good place to start your search would be http://www.localharvest.org
Take a look around at the farms in your area. Use google, and ask friends. You could even try localharvest.org. It’s mostly veggies, but there’s some meat info there too.
I’ve never even thought about this, but it sounds like a good idea!
We don’t have a local butcher shop and I’m not really sure how to even approach finding out where to locally find half a cow! Anyone have any thoughts?
@Heidi, I’d consider checking with the butcher in your regular grocery store. He may have leads for ya 🙂
I think it is very much worth it. You don’t have to worry about shopping for meat or finding the best deals, it’s already in the freezer! My siblings, my parents and I all go in together and buy a full cow. I love never having to worry about whether or not I have ground beef.
I have often considered doing this but have no idea where to start. Could you please give me your suggestions on what cuts in what amounts are best?
Amy @ Gospel Homemaking says
I’ve been thinking about this as well! This is a good reminder to sit down and do some research. I’m wondering if some of you would be willing to share how you got it cut? I know that every family is different, but I’m intimidated by trying to figure out how many and what kinds of steaks, roasts, ground beef, etc. Thanks!!
Rachel Haugaard says
My parents have been buying half a cow every year for probably the last 5-8 years. I’m not sure how it stacks up against store prices pound for pound, but their meat is MUCH better quality, lasts longer, and isn’t full of all the hormones and junk store beef is. I would really recommend it if you have the space!! 🙂
My husband is a hunter, so we eat deer meat. We are able to tell the processor what we want the meat to be… ground beef, sausage, etc. We usually get 1 deer in hamburger and another one in a variety of cuts. It saves us SOOOOO much money!
I love having meat stocked in the freezer!!! We haven’t purchased a side of beef – but my husband hunts for venison! Now, that’s GRASS-FED! 😀 We stayed at an Elk-hunting ranch in Colorado for our honeymoon (been married just over a year) and the folks there blessed us with LOTS of elk meat (I’m guess 150 lbs or so of ground elk). I have barely bought red meat since we got married – with all the elk and venison we have! Maybe bought it twice?? Anyhoo – hunting season starts up here soon! We are ready to restock our freezer!!! I think it’s about $70 to process a deer.
Courtney Holcomb says
We have a 1/2 to p/u in two weeks: organic range-fed, this one is even part highland! And he’s selling it for cheap, we’ll pay total $2.03/# after cut and wrap. What makes it worth it is planning: plan the menu! If you’re going to forget about your meat and not use it, of course that isn’t worth it.
I was just discussing this with a good friend, so thanks for the timely post! We’re interested in splitting a 1/2 side. Does anyone in the Chicago area have a recommendation on where to purchase from?
We had a freezer full of deer meat and fish (we are in a Louisiana which is a hunting and fishing paradise) and my tip would be to plug it in and cover the plug. My dad’s new puppy played in the room the freezer was in and, unknown to us, somehow pulled the plug. We found out a few days later when it was too late!
We have just thankfully stocked up our freezer with a whole cow from our neighbors farm. No regrets whatsoever!! We were able to talk with the butcher and get packages that work well for our family. Last year, we only bought half a cow and I soon ran out before he had another one ready. I had to resort to buying meat from the grocery store. It cost about $1.00 more per pound, was full of fat and tasted nasty. I would definitely recommend buying a half or a whole cow from a farmer that you either know or that you can tour the farm and see how they are raised. One side note is to make sure you have a freezer big enough to hold all the meat. Our chest freezer is packed to the top, but thankfully we have an upright for all my other items.
Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker says
We bought a 1/4 cow. It’s SOOOOOOOO much tastier than store bought and I always have something to cook for dinner :). We just ordered a 1/2 a cow, as well. I can’t wait for fresh pork, too. I’m drooling just thinking about it!
We recently purchased 1/4 beef that was grass-fed, organic, etc. It wasn’t until we had our first steaks that we realized that grass-fed beef tastes different. My hubby couldn’t handle it and we ended up selling it at a loss. We thought it would be great- and it would have if we had actually liked it. So I guess my suggestion would be to go buy some and see if it’s what you’re wanting. Because you’ll have a lot of it!
We get a quarter beef every year or so, from a farmer we know personally. Grass-fed, no hormones, $1/lb live weight plus processing, which is done at a smallish local place instead of a factory.
I had a freezer burn out once. We didn’t lose anything, but we had to give away or cook and refreeze everything that was around the motor or at the top. Lots and lots of our friends had steak for supper that night. . .
My insurance policy now is to can all the stew meat, roasts, and ground beef as quickly as I can. It also means I only need a small cheat freezer, which is nice.
Don’t forget buying meat this way supports local agriculture. You can save money, help another family support themselves, feed your family healthier meat, and be kind to the environment by minimizing the distance your meat travels! It is a winning scenario all around. I just wish I didn’t live in an apartment with no place for an extra freezer!
We are truly blessed that my retired father-in-law still raises beef, primarily for him and family. We just pay for the processing. Which on average comes to about $1 (sometimes a little less) per pound! He grass feeds, and it is hormone free! It is pretty close to organic, and it tatstes SO MUCH better than store bought. You can tell the difference by smell when cooking it! It is nice to already have it in 1lb packages of ground beef, and steaks and roasts perfectly fit into our crock pot!
We have bought a half of a cow in the past. We figured out that it is not worth it. If you divided up the pounds of meat on the receipt by what you paid it seems like a great deal. However, we figured out this last time that is “live” weight. When you take the actual meat that you receive and figure it out per pound you are better off hitting the sales each week in the stores.
@Renee, The more I read, the more I am convinced you are right. Between losing ALL my freezer space to get a year’s worth of meat for my 4 person family who already doesn’t eat a great ton of beef(or having to buy a whole new deep freeze-OUCH!) and the cost of the meat it’s just not a financially sound decision for our family. No matter how “great” the quality is, if you cannot afford it, then you can’t. Doesn’t make you less of a mom/dad for it, just makes you a little more broke than some others.
We also have been splitting a cow with three friends for several years. So many advantages:
1) It is healthy, free-range, no hormone meat
2) It supports a local food producer
3) It supports a local meat-packing firm who are very good and very happy to cut and wrap it to our specs
4) The price is reasonable and I love the variety of cuts
We bought 1/2 a cow several years ago for $2.40 a pound. We found that for our family make up at the time it was too much meat. We didn’t use it before it began to taste funny. (2 adults, 1 teen and a baby). About 9 months ago we got a screaming deal on organic grass fed beef for $2.00 a pound and we bought a 1/4 of a cow and split that with my brother. It wasn’t enough beef for our family (which is now 2 adults a preschooler and a toddler – the teen is an adult and out on her own now). The way the 2nd cow was cut and wrapped was much better than the 1st. There are apparently 2 ways to cut up a cow and now I have a preference. All and all I think it was a good deal but I would split 1/2 a cow with another family as I think that 1/4 is just about the right size for us.
We bought those cows in Washington state where we lived until 8 weeks ago. I’m in the market to by another 1/4 now but here in Arizona I’m not finding prices any lower than $4-5 a pound and for that I’m not sure that it’s such a deal anymore.
Dana-what was the farm? We’re in the Seattle area.
I haven’t been able to read the other comments so I might just be repeating what everyone else says, but we bought a fourth of a cow last year and it was most definitely worth it. Even on sale, some of those cuts of meat would have been $4.99 lb (sirloin, tenderloin, etc), but buying it in bulk makes it less per pound. Ours turned out to be about $2.40 per pound for everything; ground beef on up to those expensive cuts. And the taste is most certainly better! Very, very little fat, and nice and tender cooked in the broiler!
Oh, and is there a particular time of year that’s better (or cheaper) to purchase?
Ok, it seems like most people on here have already purchased sides of beef before, so can you explain how you got started? Where did you go to get the beef (butcher, farmer, etc.) and how did you figure out the price (I saw someone posted you pay for hanging vs. finished total), and how did you decide how to have it cut? We love beef, but I wouldn’t even know where to start on where to get it and how to have it cut.
@Pam, Try localharvest.org.
I’m assuming you don’t live in a rural area so this is my suggestion: look in your local paper and and Craig’s List and search for fresh beef and you should come up with a farmer near your area that routinely takes cattle to the locker for butchering. You would then ask the farmer any pertinate questions about the food and living conditions of his cattle and when he typically takes them to the locker. The farmer would also be able to give you a really good idea of the cost and how much meat you would get. (Some take their cattle in after 1 year’s growth, some wait longer, which means more meat per side). Hope that helps!
Jen@Frugal,Freebies and Deals says
I have not bought mine yet but I recently found a guy on craigslist in my area.
They have open ranch every saturday so you can go check it out.
Buying beef is a bit strange of CL- but I would be OK with it as long as I can check it all out.
This is our first year, and it was a little daunting doing all the research. I just googled farms and our zipcode. The farm uses their own slaughterhouse, so i didn’t have to find one. The availability depends on your area, but once I’d found and bought our cow, everyone said “oh yah, we’ve done that before!” why hadn’t they told me?!
Jen@Frugal,Freebies and Deals says
I have not bought mine yet but I recently found a guy on craigslist in my area.
They have open ranch every saturday so you can go check it out.
Buying beef is a bit strange of CL- but I would be OK with it as long as I can check it all out.
Jen@Frugal,Freebies and Deals says
@Jen@Frugal,Freebies and Deals,
Sorry Alissa- I replied to the worng post 🙂
Lisa Milyard says
It is the best and healthiest meat on planet earth! We wouldnt do it any other way! Next year we hope to raise our own beef/pork/chicken, so excited!!
(I would recommend watching Food Inc if you’re still not sure, that sealed the deal for us)
Amy J says
My husband and I received a quarter of beef from my grandparents as a wedding gift, and we were actually surprised at how quickly we went through it. This spring, we purchased a half, and we still think it was a really good investment. If we had not gotten the “family discount” from grandpa, it still would wind up being about half the price of the beef that you would get from the grocery. Price aside, I’ve noticed how LEAN the meat is. We brown a pound of hamburger, and there’s almost NO fat to drain off at the end.
The only thing to take into consideration is that you wind up with one large lump sum all at once, rather than spreading it out over multiple grocery trips. On the other hand, we buy very little chicken (mainly small fryers that get cooked and shredded for recipe use) or pork (only if the chops are on “manager’s special”), and our meal plans have adapted. The trade off is that Steak Night becomes very inexpensive when your meat comes “by the pound” and not based on the cut, and we probably eat Hamburger Helper and pot roast a little more than the average American family.
When you go through the ordering process, you can usually select how you would want your cuts made. I opted for more roasts over ground beef, and still wound up with a lot of ground beef in the end. You can pretty well personalize your portion of beef based on your cooking/menu habits. And to be honest, I somewhat like the notion that I have met almost all of the cows that have crossed my plate :-). Add to the fact that I’m providing extra income to a small business, and I’m more than happy to give that little bit back to a grandfather that has done so much over the years!
How much does this normally cost up front? I see the price per pound listed in some of the posts, but how many pounds do you get in a 1/4 or 1/2 side?
How do you find where to purchase this kind of stuff? I’m in Dallas and wonder if it is available fairly easily.
@Maricela, My 1/4 cow was 85 pounds after processing. It took up most of my chest freezer.
@Maricela, I’m in Denton. I’ve found a farmer who will sell a quarter side (1/8 of a cow). I love that size because I don’t have to empty out my freezer for a delivery. He charges $4.99/pound for the processed weight. In other words, if he delivers 80 pounds of meat, I pay 80 X $4.99. The beef is all grass-fed and mostly organic. It’s not certified organic, but it’s close. The price is a bit high for ground beef, but when you consider that we also gets steaks and roasts, it works out well.
@Amy, We are in Denton too! can you tell us who you use?
Oh yes, we’ve done this for YEARS….also, a whole pig in the fall too.
One suggestion: if you are not big on roasts….ask them to make the roasts into stew meat – it comes in sooo handy!!
Also, keep in mind that you can request your ground beef to be packaged in whatever sizes you wish – we have 7 in our family and find that we prefer to package it into 2 pounds!
I appreciate the input from you all!! We don’t have a deep freeze but I’ve been keeping my eye out for a good deal because I’d love to buy a 1/4 cow. Thanks to those of you who quoted prices/lb! Are those all after paying for the cow/butcher fees/etc? Would those of you who didn’t cite prices say that you stayed around $2-3/lb?
@Rebekah, when we did a 1/4 beef, I ended up doing the math myself in the end to see what I ended up paying per pound that was actually in my freezer. There’s the “hanging weight” which included the bones (and perhaps some organs??) after he’s been slaughtered. That’s usually what you pay per pound to the farmer. You will also pay a certain amount per pound based on this weight to the butcher for a cutting fee. Then if you want special cuts above and beyond the basics (we had chipped beef and dried beef), you’ll pay something per pound of that. Lastly, you’ll pay pay a packaging fee per pound based on what all is actually packaged up. It sounds complicated, but once you do it once, you get the hang of it.
@Rebekah, For us it depends upon the weight of the cow and current market value plus processing fees. Whoever you find, they should be happy to tell you about how they figure this (if they don’t have a flat rate per pound and also check to see if that is hanging weight or not) and give an estimate. My dad is pretty darned good at being able to tell you what each cow will probably weigh (he gets really close just by looking at it) and thus able to give a good estimate. He usually gives a range estimate (i.e. probably btn $200-300). He enjoys informing others of how this is figured and letting them know what they are or are not buying so there are no misunderstandings.
We just bought a 1/4 for the first time. I paid 1.75/lb for the hanging weight + .49/lb for processing. I’ll end up w/ 150lbs of beef, and it cost $440 ($3.15/lb). I was really happy with the farm we went with….
Thanks Alissa…your response was very helpful!!@Alissa,
heather harris says
I think it’s worth it if you have access to a meat grinder ($40 on Amazon) simply because the more tougher cuts of meat (arm roasts for example) can be hard to fix, and if you can grind it up into hamburger, it stretches those “don’t know what to do with it” cuts…
We raise our own, so I would definitely say go for it!!! It’s worth the peace of mind, not having to buy meat in the store when it’s full price because you are out…
Just one note of caution. When you figure how many pounds you get, that is the hanging weight not the process weight. So you loose about 30%. You pay for the hanging weight. You get about 30% less in meat when all said and done. So we found that it was cheaper to buy meat on sale and we get what we want. It still may be worth it for you, but I didn’t know this about the weight until we bought a side of beef a year ago. FYI
Excellent point Julie, this is one of the reasons, we’ve held off on buying a split side. But, after hearing all the comments about taste, and the convenience we might do it!
@Julie, It depends on the butcher. We do not pay for hanging weight. Ours is 2.39 a pound, whether its ground beef, brisket or t-bones. We added it all up last year to figure if it was hanging weight, and it was actual weight in what we were given. I’ve never seen Tbones for that cheap anywhere
We bought a 1/3 last year. The thing that made it easy for us was that we are friends with the guy that raised the angus cattle and we had two friends buy the other thirds. I think one of the best peices of advice I can give is talk to the butcher about the cuts that you want out the beef. If you don’t do this well, you’ll get a lot of hamburger. Think about flank steaks, shaved meat (for Philly steaks) and make sure you tell them to cut it lean.
Now when I taste grocery store beef of any sort, it tastes so old even though our has been in the freezer for months and the meat I buy has likely been processed much more recently. It just lacks a freshness that you get from a local butcher.
I am looking forward to purchasing my first 1/4 cow this year. My sister in laws family raises cows and gives each child meat at Christmas time. So I am very excited to be getting some real meat and freezing it and not have to worry about going to the grocery store for meat!
We raise our own beef, so we’re used to having a stocked (most of the time) freezer full. When we do not process it ourselves, the butcher cuts it to how we want it. I would definitely find a farmer (and know how he farms) and buy a portion of a beef if we weren’t doing it ourselves. Knowing what’s in or not in the beef is priceless and it usually figures out less per pound anyway. It’ll be healthier for you. It’s nice to have different cuts of meat and adds variety. If you are not used to grassfed only beef, I’d try a little bit before investing in a bunch. I hear you need to cook it differently or something and some people just don’t care for it. And another thing I have heard is depending upon the time of year, it may taste different (it depends upon what the cow is eating).
Growing up my parents had friends with a farm and every year our families would go in on the animals (chickens, pigs and cows) and we would help care for the animals and get fresh eggs and the best meat. My husband isn’t ready to go in on livestock yet but he is warming to the idea. It tastes so much better and is so much healthier. Go for it.
We have actually purchased 1/4 of a cow and WE LOVE IT!! We could actually taste the difference between store bought meet and the cow we bought. We will never got back to store bought meet again. I would highly recommend it. You could always try a pound of hamburger and see if you like it. We bought a deep freeze a Lowes, it had a dent in the side so we got a percentage off of it.
I think you would really find this a good buy, and it would help you out in the times of your big freeze and bakes! 🙂
It is quite funny, I had no idea that you could buy beef at the grocery store until I went to college! I thought everyone got their beef with their name stamped on the paper!
My family has always purchased cattle and split with 2 other families. Now I am married and have a family. We buy a cow once a year and split with my parents. BEST decision and very low cost. You will have to have a deep freezer as it is a lot of beef!
Yes, yes, yes! This is the only way be buy beef. I typically costs us less per pound than buying it at the store (since the total per pound is less than $3 and that includes some amazing steak cuts). We use the soup bones to make beef broth and soup, we have whatever we don’t want to eat as a cut ground into ground beef, which we then cook with carrots, celery and onions and bag up and freeze for quick, easy, mess free ground beef for dishes (with the veggies, it goes a lot further and we can drain all the fat at once, making it leaner for us). You might want to consider a surge protector/battery back up for your freezer, especially if you are prone to power outages because it is a hefty investment. Our cows come from the farm across the street from us – a century old farm whose farmer we happen to be good friends with. We see our cows munching in the pastures every day and we go over to help feed them and round them up when they get loose.
There is a farm down the road from us that is offering a 1/2 or a whole cow – hormone free. I haven’t had the guts to call to see how much the 1/2 is and how it would be butchered. Can anyone give me an idea of how much is too much to spend? I typically try not to spend more than $2/lb for any meat, but that means we almost NEVER have steaks. I think they’re too expensive and won’t buy them. We love steak, but well…we (or at least I and since I do all the grocery shopping…) want to be debt free more. That said, I’m just not sure how much would be reasonable given that at least part of the meat would be cut into steaks and/or roasts.
@Jen, When we sell part of a beef, we just go by the current market value (price per pound which includes the whole cow). Then whatever it costs to process it. So if you wanted 1/2 a beef, you would essentially be buying 1/2 a cow (hide and all but you don’t have to the hide or other parts) plus the processing fees for getting it cut up and packaged. This also means you’d be cutting out the middle man and be getting better beef. Don’t know how other farmers do it but that’s how we do it.
Yes, but think of the kind of meat you’re getting for $2/lb. It may not be that great for you, or have things in it that are harmful, if it’s from the grocery store. I’d rather pay a bit more, eat a bit less, and know what I’m putting in my mouth!
We get at least a half every year (sometime we take a whole beef if we can’t find anyone to split it with). I wouldn’t do it any other way. You can have it cut and processed to your exact specifications. It tastes so much better than store bought. You can request a certain number of days to age the meat, which makes it so much more tender….and your freezer is always full……I see no drawbacks!
We make this purchase a regular investment every year. The farmer came recommended, a friend of a friend, and we know what our children are eating! We love it! This year, we also purchased a hog. We now are going to go this route every year when we receive our tax return!!
As soon as we save up the $$ we are doing that but with Buffalo meat- it costs a little more but health wise is better for you than cow. its almost completely fat free and tastes the same (IMO) .
A half cow is a ton of beef- we actually split a quarter cow with another family because I really only wanted the ground beef and the roasts- we really don’t eat steak much. I loved it! We have never had a problem with our freezer knock on wood! A lot of times now I just buy bulk ground beef from the grass-fed farmer to me it’s more practical.
Penny G says
One thing you might want to keep in mind is to request the bones…they can be used to make beef stock.
We did this for the first time last fall and LOVED it. We actually split 1/2 a cow with my in-laws.We will definitely do it again soon…we are down to 1 lb of ground beef and a few steaks so need to get stocked up. I can’t imagine buying at the grocery store again.
We also bought a quarter cow and split it among friends. My friend’s father is a farmer. It’s not totally “grass fed,” but they do graze from time to time. I’m not sure if he does any injections either, but taste-wise, it is way better than what I’ve had the grocery store. I think a quarter cost us about $300, so a lot up front, but I think it will last us a while. He even threw in liver, tongue, and the heart, YUM!
YES!!!! We had to buy a freezer for a 1/4 side of beef 2 years ago and last year, we purchased a larger freezer for a 1/2 side. So glad we did this! We’re looking forward to continuing to purchase the 1/2’s and absolutely LOVE the meat! It’s the absolute BEST!
The beef we purchase is not completely grass feed and/or organic. My friend’s dad raises them and allows us to purchase the beef for the cost of grain and the packer’s fee. We are blessed! I think our average is less than $2 per pound, considering all the meat we get for the cost.
I bought a quarter and though (financially) it was definitely worth it, I found it made us eat more red meat (we don’t eat it that often) and that a good cut of steak always taste better fresh. WIth that being said having the roasts and stewing meats were really handy.
Do it! We have being buying beef for a long time. We get to customize what we want. It took us a few times to get the order tweeked to exactly what we wanted. Now all I have to do is call and say we are ready for some beef and they call me when it is ready. Our local locker plant is very good about making adjustments. I can call today and say will you put a note on my file that next time we would rather have… than… The next time I order I don’t have to worry about remembering all the things I want different. Where we buy from we are quarenteed that the cow was raised in our county. We love that, support the local community. Also I pay per pound what it costs in my area to buy hamburger on a good deal in the grocery. SO we look at it as getting roasts and lots of steaks for the cost of hamburger. I was also told by the people we get our done from that usually people say that you need to eat it in a year, but it will last up to two if you have it in a deep freezer. That is good for us since there have been years where we go through it in a year and there have been years where it has taken us 18 months to get it all eaten. The meat is so much better than the grocery store meat. I have never had a bone in my hamburger, but have had it multiple times in the hamburger from the grocery stores. One last benefit is that we love to entertain. Having all this beef at very reasonable prices means that we often have friends and family over for a dinner of hamburgers or steak on the grill. We could not afford to do that as often if we were paying grocery store prices. I also recommend to people that they buy meat this way. You can always start small and go in with someone the first time, but I think you will see the benefits of this way of having meat for your family.
Definitely worth it. We split 1/2 a cow 2 yrs ago, and then go 1/2 cow to ourselves last year. I’ve LOVED having beef in the freezer and not having to worry about forgetting to get it at the store. It is a great food storage. It tastes better. It has less fat. It is cheaper.
Both my family and my husband’s raised dairy steers when we were growing up. His parents have continued to do so and we are eagerly awaiting the next round of steers to be ready this fall as the freezer is getting fairly empty. I have rarely purchased beef in the grocery store. We prefer the taste of home grown meat and appreciate that it has way less fat. I have been having to purchase hamburger for the past three weeks and I can’t believe how expensive it is these days. I highly recommend purchasing a side of beef.
One of the things I like the most is being able to pick what cuts we want and in what sizes we want them packaged. We can also choose whether or not we want some cuts tenderized. It is nice having all of our beef just the way we want it, right in the freezer.
Absolutely worth it. Which reminds me, I am supposed to call our butcher and let him know if we want anything different this year. He even keeps records for us! I love having it all in the freezer and also that we get the soup bones. We use those throughout the winter. Yum!
Mrs. Mordecai says
My friend lost hers to an automatic outlet shut-off in the garage. We actually don’t eat much beef, so I don’t think this is something we’d do in the near future.
Katie W. says
Thank you all for posting , I was debating with my husband if this was worth it or not. Hearing all of your experiences I think we may dive in and do it. We are trying to save on healthy meat and this just seemed like a great thing to do! thank you agian I know it helped me! 🙂
I definitely think it’s worth it! I love having meat on hand. The butcher we use let’s you decide how you want everything packaged: how thick you want the steaks, how many burgers you want per package (plus how big of patties you want), how you want your ground beef packages (in 1 lb, 1.5 lb, or 2 lb packages). Overall, including all processing, we paid $2.55/lb. That includes steaks and everything! At our grocery store, ground beef goes for about $4.50/lb. Plus, the ground beef from our cow tastes so much better and is so much leaner than stuff we get from the store.
Katie S says
My brother raises beef cows. My parents bought a whole steer from him this year for $1.90/lb, then they paid the butcher an additional $0.44/lb cut and wrap fee. So the end price was $2.34/lb. This was for organic, grass-fed, lean cuts. Everything from ground beef up to the finest cuts of steak and roast were all the same price, and it was cut to their specifications. Sure you can find ground beef cheaper than that when it is on sale (although the quality doesn’t even begin to compare!), but what about T-bone-steak, brisket, tenderloin, rump roast, and sirloin?
Assuming you have saved up the cash to afford the lump sum (and it’s no small sum, this particular steer yielded over 550 lbs of meat), it will fill your freezer with a year’s worth of high quality meat and you can feed your family gourmet meals on a peasant’s budget!
I read a lot of advice from frugal cooks about stretching the meat and having meatless meals. With an abundance of high-quality meat cuts that don’t cost you more than $2.50/lb, you don’t have to skimp on the meat. You can afford to feed your meat-and-potatoes loving men the type of meals they love!
My Boaz's Ruth says
Assuming your budget stretches to paying over $2/lb for meat.
Ours does not. Right now, our budget is generally meats that are $1/lb or less. $2.50/pound would be a special meal indeed
@My Boaz’s Ruth,
The Prudent Homemaker says
@My Boaz’s Ruth, I know how you feel. Most of our meals for our family right now are around $2. Our income has been cut by more than 80% of what it used to be. Right now, we’re down to our cheapest meals. Beans are an inexpensive protein at .56 a pound. I cook up a large pot at once and fill my freezer with different varieties of beans to have ready for quick meals.
Turkey will be going on sale in November. Many stores sell 20 lb turkeys for $7-$8 in November, when you spend $25 with them. I’ll buy pototoes on sale for .20 a pound to get my $25 worth, and then I’ll buy a turkey. I also have my mom and grandma pick up turkeys while they are shopping. They buy their normal $25 worth of food, and I’ll pay them bck for the turkey. These turkeys work out to be around .33/lb. I use turkey in place of chicken in many recipes.
Ham also goes on sale in the fall and winter for .79 to .97/lb for bone-in ham.
We try to stock up on both of these. With the rising prices of meat, I expect that these prices will be higher this year as well.
Your area may have other cuts that are less than $1 a pound; many places do, but these are the only ones I see here.
@Katie S, Thanks Katie! I am a farmer’s daughter and a farmer’s wife now. You have put it very well. We have both bought and sold freezer beef so I know!
From the daughter of a farmer….it’s totally worth it! Tastes better, less fat, no hormones, I could go on and on. If you think that 1/2 a cow is too much, consider splitting it with another family or 2. Then if you like it, you can always purchase more! Just make sure that freezer stays on…..I can’t imagine that smell….ick! 🙂
rebecca huebsch says
You won’t regret it. The taste alone is worth it. Our butcher let us decide on how much ground beef we wanted, how thick we wanted steaks, how big we wanted our roasts etc. Another great buy for us was half a pig. That was exceptionally cheap, and the bacon was amazing.
@rebecca huebsch, I have always wondered about buying half a pig. Do you have any idea how much meat that is and can you choose ham, bacon, etc…?
We have bought a 1/2 pig several times and it always seems to be between 95 and 110 lbs of actually packaged meat. We get it butchered to our specs and get smoked hams and hocks and bacon. We also get sausage and a large bag of unrendered lard.
Anyway, I’d recommend half a pig before I would half a beef if you haven’t bought meat in bulk before. A half of beef is a lot bigger and would last my family (obviously omnivores, but light on the meat omnis a very long time). Personally,I have found that there is more savings between what the meat from a half a pig costs and if you bought the same pork at the supermarket than what the same beef from a quarter of beef cost and what it would cost me in the grocery store. Both are good ideas. DH always says about the pork that we buy the sausage and bacon and get the chops/roasts for free.
Every summer we buy a quarter cow from a butcher in a small nearby town. We know that the meat is butchered in a clean environment. We’re able to custom order how we want it packaged and cut, which is great. We also bought a half hog this summer, so we’ll see how that turns out. Last year the quarter cow lasted our family of 3 exactly one year. We used our last package of steaks the day before we went to pick up this June’s order.
We did find out that the farmer who raised the cow does use hormones, so I may look into a different option next summer. But the beef is still farm superior to anything we used to get at the grocery store. If you have the room to store it, it’s well worth the upfront investment!
You may want to sample the beef before you actually buy 1/2 a cow since it will taste different. I tried some from my farmer’s market, organic, grass fed beef and it had a very strong taste. It was interesting because the gentleman said it taste different but you have to get use to it.
Lisa Milyard says
If it has such a strong taste, it’s from a bull! Bull meat is stronger that the other.
@Lisa Milyard, If it was strictly grass fed, it will have a different taste. Many people feed a cow with organically grown corn instead of just grass for a few weeks just before butchering to avoid the “game-y” taste. I don’t know this by experience yet. We have some family members who raised their own beef and have been advising us as we consider doing the same on our farm.
@Melodie, We’ve been eating strictly grass-fed beef for years, and I will freely admit that it does taste different from grocery store meat. But the difference is 100% improvement, not a gamey flavor.
I would say that the gamey flavor comes from either it being a bull, or improper butchering techniques.
I think that riding in a back of a truck for a few hours before butchering is what gives venison, etc. the ‘gamey’ flavor too.
@Cheryl, I will agree! We got part of a bull from my BIL and now we have eaten some from one of his cows. It is no where near the same.
Yes, tasting it first is a great idea! As a kid, my family bought a whole cow one year, and it ended being an older cow. The meat was terrible. We choked joked the whole year about how the meat was “getting bigger in our mouths” as we swallowed it down. We did eat it all, waste not want not… Make sure NOT to buy an old cow.
Our butcher shop lets us buy a “split side” of beef, which means we get a quarter of a cow, but not just the front or back quarter. They split the meat from half a cow evenly, so you (and another person) get an equal amount of roasts, steaks, burger, ribs, or whatever else you choose to have it done up in. For our small family of four, it’s perfect! I love being able to go to my freezer and pull out the meat I want. And our cost per pound averages to somewhere between $2-$3, which is terrific considering the fact that we’re getting delicious steaks, hormone-free burger, etc. I love it!
This is our 2nd year of purchasing bulk meat. We buy 1/4 of an organic, grass-fed Beefalo. The meat is super lean & healthy & it feeds our family of 4 for an entire year. (We still have toddlers, so we may need to up the amount in years to come!) We are extremely happy with purchasing this way. We also buy 1/2 a pig & several whole chickens. Currently we are looking into buying some turkeys as well.
We normally buy half a cow and spilt it between both sets of our parents… it works out great!
On a side note – we had our freezer do that as well… except I lost 8 grocery bags full of the little bags of breastmilk. I wouldnt even let myself figure out how much had been in there. I had been pumping for months and just kept building my stock-pile up. The door got left open and it all thawed and had to be dumped…. liquid gold right down the drain. I cried off and on for an entire day. I am pretty much OCD in checking our freezer doors now.
I just got a cold chill thinking about losing that much breastmilk. Wow.
oh that comment makes me want to cry too. one of those things that you do not understand until you pump yourself.
Wow! I am so sorry about the breast milk. Every drop is like gold. 🙁
How horrible! I had to throw away about that much too because my daughter refused to drink it!
@Danielle, Oh that would have been awful – too bad you couldn’t have donated it to someone!
@Jessica, BLESS YOUR HEART!!!! God must have given you MUCH GRACE for that disappointment!!!!
@Sarah, Yes He did – it was a pretty tense weekend in our house… hubby just didnt understand what it meant to through that much away…. but he eventually did!
I would still be upset. My baby is 13 months old and done nursing so why do I have 4 baggies in the freezer? Cause if your like me it is so hard to get that much that it is hard to pour it down the drain…LOL I think I will go throw it out now!
@Angie, that’s ok. My youngest is 8 years old and I still have one small baggie of milk in the freezer. I can’t bear to throw it away. LOL. And I am not normally a packrat.
@Angie, I did not pour it down the drain – I couldnt. I made my hubby do it. And I couldn’t stand to watch… had to go outside till he was finished. I was sick the entire time – we were leaving for a 13 hour trip that evening… NOT a good way to start a vacation.
The exact same thing happened to me a few weeks ago. I had spent weeks pumping, hoping for a weekend away, but the breaker inadvertently got cut off and the WHOLE fridge/freezer thawed. Not only did I lose the breastmilk, but every thing else in the fridge AND the freezer. Like Crystal said, now I am OCD about checking it!!
I feel for you girl!!
@JennyManley, Ours was a big upright freezer… so yes we lost all of the food in there too – we had just went grocery shopping and stock-piled up on some things. It truly was not a good day in our household!
@Jessica, that happened to my mother in law too when she was feeding her premie twin girls. They were at two different hospitals an hour apart to begin with because the one she delived at didnt have a NICU, so she was pumping like crazy and had a whole freezer worth and one day she went out to the shed to get some out and the whole freezer was warm. Her girls are 20 now and she’s still bothered by it!
@Jessica, I purchased a quarter organic grass fed cow, but we left our freezer door open. We now have a lock on it, but my new concern is having a power outage.
The nutritive value you in your breast milk is ever changing as your baby/child grows. So, the older stuff is no great loss unless you had an emergency. It might have even been more of a blessing in disguise. I pumped while raising four alone and going to college. I understand how losing your milk can be disheartening. Blessings to you and yours
Carrie Hurst says
Ironic you ask this-we just stocked our freezer with half a side of beef for the third fall in a row! We have a local farmer who is a friend, and two years ago we considered getting a steer. So, we went in with four other families and did it. It was awesome! Here are my pros:
*My freezer is always stocked with good, fresh meat, and I know where it came from.
*We have steaks (which used to be a treat for us) on a semi-regular basis
*In the winter, pot roasts and chili are staples, and I always have the mean on hand
*It lasts our family of 4 for almost exactly a year-and we eat chicken about 3xs a week, so we aren’t just eating red meat every night.
I haven’t encountered any cons to make us not do it anymore. It came out this time to about $1.35/lb, which is a steal as far as I’m concerned. I haevn’t bought beef at the grocery for three years now.
Mrs S says
We have purchased half of a beef before because the price of purchasing half of a grass fed organic beef was less than the cost of purchasing it individually over a year.
The plus side was that is was cost effective if you looked at it by the pound, and I knew exactly what I was feeding my family. Also having the beef in the freezer reduced store trips (I am an impulse shopper, I admit!) so that saved us some cash too.
The downside for use was that the beef was cut by the butcher with no custom orders… we we got wuite a few large steaks, which are not something we eat often, since hanburger and roast can be stretched further.
If you can, find out exactly what cuts you will get and aproximately how many. Will they all be something you can use? If you can use them and can afford the money upfront, I say go for it!
I think buying half a side of beef is way worth it! We have bought a half a side for the past 2 years & are very happy that we did it! The meat has much less fat in it. It is cheaper in the long run & you know what you are serving your family! I can’t imagine ever going back to not getting half a side of beef. We are able to tell our butcher exactly how we want everything cut & wrapped. The meat tastes so much better than store bought meat. We have actually been throwing around the idea of buying a whole cow next year. Just don’t know that we could eat it all. Buying a half a cow is a great cost cutter!!! I would definitely recommend it! No regrets here!!!
Absolutely!!! Last spring we split half a cow with a friend because of cost..now we are out of T-Bones (which we love!) Meat is very lean and tender….our thought now is to purchase a full half for ourselves to have meat for 1 full year..it’s just my husband and myself….we, too, eat chicken and pork 3-4 times a week…