I remember when we were kids my grandmother would buy our family a quarter of beef for our family Christmas gift. But only once do I remember my parents buying a quarter or a half cow because if you do the math… it’s not really saving you that much if any.
Was it fun and exciting to have a lot of beef in the freezer? Sure, but it’s not all that economical.
If you are thinking of buying a quarter of beef whether you are buying it from a beef rancher, local farmer, or from a butcher shop you want to make sure it’s worth the price right?
Let’s go over what you can expect to pay if you decide to buy a quarter cow but also how to tell if it is worth doing.
How Much Is Harvested Off Of One Cow
For most whole animal processing you tend to lose 3rd to as much as 1 half of the live weight.
How much meat you will end up with depends on the breed of cow and how well it was grown out but most larger beef cattle breeds can be harvested at a whole beef average hanging weight of 600 pounds give or take.
But you also have to plan for loss of water weight which can be a 50-pound loss of a 600-pound carcass as a rule of thumb.
How Many Pounds Of Meat Will You Get Off A Quarter Of Beef
This is where it can get confusing and ultimately when you have to really do some math. But I have done the “shopping” for you to help you figure out how much you would be paying for each beef cut and if it’s worth doing.
Here is where you get bit in the butt I think. You pay for the weight of the quarter of beef BEFORE the aging process has happened and lost weight due to moisture loss. You might be paying for 200 pounds of beef at this point. But you will end up with about 150-170 pounds of beef which will take up about 4 cubic feet of freezer space.
This will up the beef cost if you do the math by dividing the amount of meat you end up with not the amount at the first weight.
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How Much Do You End Up Paying After The Beef Has Aged
Let’s say that you are paying $5.75 a pound for beef at the 200-pound weight. That means your total will be about $1150.
Remember that is not what you will end up with in your freezer so you need to divide the total by how many pounds you ACTUALLY get to know the true cost.
So $1150 divided by 150 actually makes it over $7 a pound. It may not be saving you as much as you might think when buying bulk beef.
But before we decide let’s look into how much you would be paying for the total amount of each cut from the grocery store.
What Cuts Of Meat Can You Expect And How Much Of Each
When you purchase a quarter of beef, you are investing in a high-quality cut of meat that can provide your family with delicious meals.
A cow is typically divided up AFTER the whole cow is butchered. If have paid for a quarter share then you get 25% of the total of each cut of meat.
A typical quarter cow will include various cuts of steaks (including ribeye, sirloin, and flank steak), roasts (such as top round roast and bottom round roast), and ground beef.
Depending on the size of your family’s appetite, most quarters will also include short ribs, soup bones for stock or broth, stew meat cubes, and organ meats such as liver and heart. If eating those things grosses you out you could cut those up and feed them to your dog so they don’t go to waste.
All cuts are generally well-marbled with fat throughout the muscle tissue which adds flavor when cooked correctly.
The butcher doesn’t get to decide “ok you get the hind quarter and you get a front quarter” it’s all divided evenly for the most part. Ask the butcher for a cut sheet if you have questions about the cuts of beef you will get.
Ok so here is a list of slightly more specifics I am going to put lower quality meets together and do a range because a lot of stores don’t carry some of the lower quality beef cuts that you would get from a store.
These store prices are sourced in the fall of 2022 from the Kroger store app.
- Top sirloin steak – 6 pounds – Store cost $10.99lbs – Total – $65.94
- Ribeye steaks – 6 Pounds – Store cost $13.99lbs – Total – $83.94
- T-bone steaks – 7 pounds – Store cost $12.99 – Total – $90.93
- Tenderloin – 2 pounds – Store cost $36.50 (Sold in 7 oz packs for $15.99) – Total – $73
- Lower quality steak (sirloin tip steaks, strip steaks) – 20 pounds – Store cost $8.99lbs – Total – $179
- Round roast and chuck roasts – 10 pounds – Store cost $5.99lbs – Total – $60
- Rib roasts – 6 pounds – Store cost $9.99lbs – Total – $60
- Brisket – 2 pounds – Store cost $8.99lbs – Total – $18
- Cube steak – 5 pounds – Store cost $7.49lbs – Total – $37
- Pounds of ground beef – 60 pounds – Store cost $4.33 for 80/20 – Total – $259
The Grand Total Cost is $927
This is all an estimate of how much you would end up with as the final weight.
That does not include sales tax for 124 lbs of meat if you bought it in the store.
Here’s the thing yes you are getting higher-quality meat and you might be getting grass-fed beef for the same price as the lower-quality beef from the store.
But is it cheaper than buying it from the store? Not really.
The average price of a quarter of beef ranges but it should be around $1200 for a quarter of a cow. That should include the processing fee. With that said if you are looking to buy a quarter of beef to save money you likely aren’t going to.
If you normally buy your beef from a higher-priced store like whole foods or you buy organic or grass-fed beef sure this will defiantly bring down the price of beef.
How Long Does 1/4 Beef Last?
This is going to depend on your cooking habits and how many people you are trying to feed.
You would end up with about 125 pounds of beef and most families will use about a pound of beef for every two people if you are trying to be conservative.
If you are feeding two people you could have a pound for each meal twice a week and sometimes three times a week every so often. So not too bad.
How Big Of A Freezer Will You Need
If you are going to buy a quarter or half a beef on a regular basis then having a chest freezer would be worth the investment.
A quarter of beef will take up more than the freezer space you have in the standard house refrigerator and it doesn’t matter if you have a side by side or not.
Here are a few larger-sized freezers that will do the job. Personally, I recommend an upright freezer over a chest freezer. It’s much easier to get into and find out what kind of meat you have left when you can reach into all sides of it instead of having to dig and find what is in the bottom.
Check out this affordable upright freezer from home depo that has great reviews.
Be willing to experiment with lots of different meat cuts and recipes. You will get far more bang for your buck if you are willing to eat all of the meat cuts that come with your portion of the quarter beef package.
If you decide to buy a quarter of beef do a search for your local area to support your local farmer or rancher. You might also consider buying a local kid’s 4H project at your local fair.