How to buy a side of beef

Kris and I grow our own berries. We harvest walnuts from a tree in the yard, and glean hazelnuts from a friend’s orchard. We keep fruit trees and a vegetable garden. For city folk, we try to grow as much of our own food as possible. But one thing we cannot grow is our own meat. We’ve discovered the next best thing, though: we buy beef in bulk from a local rancher. Every year, we pool our money with three other couples to purchase an animal when it’s ready to be slaughtered. In early December, we bring home about one hundred pounds of meat.

Buying beef in bulk can be an excellent deal, but not for everyone. Buying a side of beef is a good choice if you like to cook, you eat a lot of meat, you have storage space, and quality is important to you.

The advantages of buying in bulk include:

  • Superior quality meat — Grocery-store meat is aged 5-7 days. Meat purchased from a local source is generally aged 14-21 days. (Note that not everyone prefers the taste of aged meat.)
  • Uniformity of product — Commercial ground beef is often produced using meat from dozens of animals. When you buy a side, the ground beef is produced from a single animal, which minimizes the risk of contamination.
  • Support of local business — I like the fact that buying beef from a local rancher allows me to support him, and to support the meat packer that processes the animal.
  • Constant costing — Because you’re buying your meat all at once, it’s easy to budget your costs for an extended period.
  • Fewer trips to the grocery store — Plus you no longer have to plan your meals around what’s on sale.
  • Meat is packed for freezing — If you buy large quantities at the grocery store, you need to repack the meat to freeze it. When purchase a side of beef, this is done for you.
  • Excellent pricing — Buying a side of beef can save you money over regular grocery store prices. However, it is possible to save more at the grocery store by watching for sales.

The advantages of buying beef at the supermarket are:

  • Less storage space required — When you buy your meat in small quantities, as you need it, you don’t need a spare freezer.
  • You can obtain the best possible pricing — If you stock up on your favorite cuts during sales, you can obtain the best possible pricing.
  • You can pick your cuts of meat — If you only use certain cuts of meat, a grocery store is your best option because you can select the cuts you like. When you buy in bulk, you receive a variety of cuts, some of which you may not use.
  • Smaller investment — Purchasing even a quarter of an animal costs about $300. You can go to the grocery store and pick up a pound of hamburger for $2.50 on special.
  • Less work — To buy meat at your grocery store, you simply select it from the refrigerator case. To buy a side of beef, you need to find a source, perhaps find other beef-lovers to split the cost, transport the meat, and find storage space.

The advantages of purchasing a side of beef outweigh the disadvantages for me. You may disagree.

How do you find a source for bulk beef? Ask around. Mention to friends that you’re looking. Talk to your local butcher. Contact nearby cattle farms. It shouldn’t be difficult to find a good source.

Most places allow customers to purchase meat in a variety of ways. You can buy a whole cow. You can buy a side (which is half a cow). You can buy a quarter. Or you can simply purchase wholesale cuts. Around here, it is common for several families to pool resources to purchase a single animal. For example, we divide the costs with three other couples, and when the beef is ready, we each get a quarter of the meat.

This year, our cow was slaughtered on October 18th. It hung for two weeks, and then was cut and wrapped. The cow dressed out at 560 pounds, or 140 pounds per couple. The meat cost $1.65/lb. The cut and wrap charge was $0.40/lb, and there was a $40 kill fee. (All costs apply to hanging weight, which is different than the actual weight of the meat you take home.) Basically, we paid $300 for our share of the meat, which amounted to roughly 83 pounds divided as follows:

  • 21 packages of ground beef totaling 47 pounds, 14.3 ounces of meat
  • 5 roasts totaling 12 pounds, 4.1 ounces of meat
  • 15 packages of steak totaling 18 pounds, 14.8 ounces of meat
  • 2 miscellaneous cuts totaling 3 pounds, 15.3 ounces of meat

Our net cost was $3.61 per pound. Compare that to the prices listed in this week’s circulars:


  • London Broil $2.49/lb (regularly $4.59/lb)
  • Sirloin Steak $4.49/lb
  • Chuck Cross Rib Roast $3.99/lb
  • Tri-Tip Roast $5.99/lb
  • Extra Lean (7% fat) Ground Beef $3.49/lb (regularly $3.99/lb)
  • Boneless Rib Roast $8.99/lb (regularly $9.99/lb)


  • Sirloin Steak $2.99/lb (or $4.99/lb for the high-quality stuff)
  • Bone-In Rib Roast $5.99/lb (or $7.99/lb for the high-quality stuff)

In this case, shopping at the supermarket would be more expensive, but not by much. If you watch for sales, supermarket beef will cost even less. Buying in bulk gives you better quality meat, though. It also comforts me to believe that the beef I eat is not mass-produced feedlot stuff. For more information, consult these resources:

Finally, a short cautionary tale. Some friends bought a side of beef in late July. They loaded it into the upright freezer in their garage, but accidentally left the door ajar. When they returned to the garage, they were alarmed to find the beef thawing in the heat. I think they were able to salvage most of it. It’s a scary thing, though, to think you’ve just lost hundreds of dollars of meat!

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There are 103 comments to "How to buy a side of beef".

  1. Reasonable says 13 December 2006 at 06:21

    The math does not work out for a side of beef.
    Based on your numbers, you can buy ground beef for $2.49 (hint: ask the butcher to ground your London broil)or 47 pounds for 117, 12 pounds of roast for 48, 18 pound of steak for 6.99 for 126, and 3 misc pounds for, say, total of 9, resulting in exactly 300 cost.

    The grocery store meat will be fresher (unfrozen), you will not be committed to eating meat whether you like it or not, and will be able to take advantage of good sales . Also, you are paying for the freezer (would you buy the freezer if you didn’t store all the meat? would you buy a new one when this one breaks if you didn’t?) and electricity costs.

    • ND Dave says 25 June 2011 at 12:14

      In reality its all about the taste. I grew up on a farm in ND ate a lot of grass fed beef and then moved away at the age of 18. I can definitely taste the difference. If you have never had farm raised grass fed beef you are doing yourself an injustice. Yeah sure you get some sirloin steaks and some stew beef but when you get a 1/4 of a beef around 150 for $375 or $2.50 per pound cut and wrapped your taste buds will thank you for making the right choice. Oh and trust me the steroid fed ground beef that your getting from your grocery store has probably been mixed with at least three other cows (cross contamination). Choose your beef wisely.

      • REJ1969 says 20 February 2012 at 09:47

        I have to agree. I grew up on a ranch and the sheer fact that you have to drain fat off of store bought hamburger is disgusting to me. The meat that I get is lean, flavorful, grass fed, free range beef. I just got a half and it cost me $600 for 236# – processed and packaged. I got:
        12 strips of short ribs
        12 prime steaks (had the prime rib cut into steaks)
        6 sirloin tip steaks
        6 sirloin steak
        16 t-bones
        4 porters
        6 filets
        4 Chuck Roasts
        2 Arm Roasts
        1 rump roast
        1 Pikes Peak roast
        1 round bottom roast
        1 delmonico roast
        2 briskets
        46 lbs of burger
        In store cost for all of this averages about $6 per lb (filets, porters and prime roasts jack the price up dramatically not to mention the hamburger is probably 98/2 lean which is $5 per lb.). What I paid $600 for from the butcher, would cost me $1400 in the store! Look on Craigslist under farm and garden, avg price is $1.75-2 a lb. Sometimes its worth it to pay a little more than market price per lb from a butcher. Not to mention, you’re helping out someone who was “Green” and “sustainable” long before it was cool – your local farmer!

        • Amy says 13 March 2014 at 07:40

          Where do you buy your side of cow? I was going in with some friends but it seems like the two times i have done this the cuts i get are very inconsistent and this last time around i only got 6 small packages of ground beef. I didnt get a lot of steaks or roasts.. it was maybe 60 pounds of meat. i was expecting more i guess and similar cuts to what i received the first time. I feel like in order to get what i think is fair i would need to purchase the whole cow as it seems i am getting the left overs of what the other people dont want! I am looking for sources and live in southern california but will travel to pick it up obviously.

    • Mickey says 06 January 2013 at 20:32

      Yes, it can be cheaper to buy at the grocery store, especially if you buy nothing but hamburger on sale, but the cost depends on where you live.
      6.99 a lb for steak? Maybe. It depends on the cut, is it New York striploin cut, or T bone, or Porterhouse? Or is it all sirloin?

      One of the biggest reasons to buy it, is you might be able to check out the place where it’s cut up and ensure that you get all the meat from the same cow.

      These days many grocery stores get ground beef already ground from major suppliers. The suppliers may grind up meat from a dozen, two dozen, three dozen, maybe even hundreds of cows. Did they do a good job of cleaning the equipment? It doesn’t matter if they are putting that many cows through. Your almost bound to get fecal matter in it. Especially if it’s from a major supplier. Their grinders are the size of a small car. The collection container is the size of a pickup truck.

      If all your worried about is cost, then, yes, buy from the grocery store, cook that hamburger really, really well. And don’t eat rare or medium rare hamburgers.

  2. rich says 13 December 2006 at 06:31

    It’s worth mentioning that you don’t necessarily have to know a rancher to take advantage of this kind of thing. Growing up, my parents used to buy a side or hindquarter of beef from the butcher instead of from a farmer — same idea, same packaging, and from what I can tell similar prices.

    Looking around on the web, I see some butchers who are selling a side for just over $2/lb. You lose about 1/3 of it in preparation, so that comes in just under $3/lb for the packaged meat.

    The gotcha, of course, is that you get all the cuts in a side. On average the whole thing’s going to be cheaper than going to the grocery store, but if you find yourself wanting a lot of steak and not so much ground beef or stewing beef it probably isn’t an effective purchase, because you’d end up buying things you don’t want just because they’re on sale!

  3. Sarah says 13 December 2006 at 07:00

    I’ve been pondering trying this the last few years, and you’ve just about convinced me to give it a whirl as soon as we can find a cheap freezer (and own a house with a garage in which to put said freezer ).

    Also, I’m impressed that you guys grow most of your veggies–could you tell us more about how you’ve made that happen–how much yard you need, costs involved, time investment, etc.? I’m pondering getting into more of that once we get a house (we currently have an herb garden on the patio, but that’s about all we can fit in our apartment), but I’m trying to figure out if you really get your money’s/time’s worth from it.

  4. Lance Fisher says 13 December 2006 at 08:05

    Or you can go shoot an elk or a deer!

  5. William Wallets says 13 December 2006 at 08:06

    It’s not like I could ever pull this off, but I have to say this is pretty neat. Do you have any ideas about how much you’d save over a given period of time?

    A Financial Revolution

  6. J.D. says 13 December 2006 at 08:11

    William, I’m not sure there’s any actual cost savings. From what I can tell, it’s basically a wash financially. But by buying a side of beef, you’re generally getting better quality meat. There are other advantages, too, but I’m not going to rehash the list from above. 🙂

  7. jcjohn says 13 December 2006 at 08:18

    I think the most cost effective option is to go vegetarian. 😉

    • Alexis V says 30 October 2012 at 20:30

      True, sometimes going vegetarian could be cheaper, but the human body wasn’t made to be vegetarian. It can’t survive and be TRULY healthy on just vegetables and fruits. The human body NEEDS meats and fish and eggs to thrive. You can “survive” without eating animal products, but you won’t be very healthy for very long. Is meat bad for you? It can be, but not if you eat it in moderation (like everything else in this world). Do animals have feelings? yes. Do animals want to be killed? probably not. But they were put on this earth for us to take care of and use as necessary… Which also means eating them. I’m sorry if I’m upsetting someone, but it’s what they’re raised for and what they were put on this earth for… They just happen to taste pretty darn good! hahaha!

  8. Casey says 13 December 2006 at 08:30

    It’s also worth mentioning that if you buy directly from a rancher you KNOW what happened to that cow. My wife and I tend to buy only organic when it comes to meat/poultry/dairy products. We’ve discussed doing this (her parent’s live in NE Oregon and know serveral ranchers) and I forget what the cost would end up being for an hormone free cow and how that would break down per pound. In the case of someone buying only organic beef it might end up being a better deal to buy in bulk like this.

  9. MIchael Langford says 13 December 2006 at 08:52

    According to
    their chest freezer costs $8 a month to operate. That’s *easy* to recoup in reduced costs. While raw meat can be easily stored in the freezer, cooked food can too, saving money on nights you just don’t have it in your to cook. If having cooked food around in the freezer is sufficent motivation to avoid going to a resturant, then many people will be better off buying an additional freezer.


  10. betamax says 13 December 2006 at 09:42

    I’m not a vegetarian, but lots of red meat is a factor in colon cancer. Not to mention the excess of protein in meat that your body turns to fat; and obesity in turn is linked to cancer and a myriad of other health problems.

    Eat cheap, but eat healthy. The traditional North American is not healthy, which is why we have a slew of common health problems that are practically nonexistent in other (generally poorer) nations. Nobody needs to buy a whole side of beef every year.

  11. Mary says 13 December 2006 at 11:04

    We’ve started buying organic/traditionally raised meat and free-range eggs from supermarkets and butcher shops, and make up for the additional expense by eating vegetarian more often. I don’t think the two of us would come close to going through a side of beef a year.

    BTW, your picture shows Jersey (dairy) cattle instead of beef cattle. They’re pretty, but a milking cow at the end of her life doesn’t make very tender steaks. *g*

  12. Roger says 13 December 2006 at 12:18

    I think the biggest advantage is that you’re supporting a local farmer (generally–there are cattle within sight of my desk here that you can purchase a share in, this may not be true for an urban dweller) who, in general, probably raises his cattle in a more humane way than a commercial operation…and doesn’t pump it full of antibiotics and feed it ground-up other animals.

    I expect the cost is a wash, but you can help out your local farmer. Personally, I only eat beef when I have a burger these days, and that’s once a month if that. I should investigate local poultry, though.

  13. Allie says 13 December 2006 at 15:40

    Another vegetarian here. Look at those cute little cows in that picture!! Poor little cows. 🙁

    • Lisa says 14 April 2012 at 13:51

      Why the heck are you even reading an article on buying a side of beef if you are vegetarian?

    • CJ says 13 April 2015 at 20:12

      Meat is murder. Tasy, tasty murder…

  14. Roger says 13 December 2006 at 17:37

    Look at those cute little cows in that picture!

    Yes, they look delicious. 😉

    • Ray says 30 May 2011 at 11:38

      MMMMMM, Porterhouse, ribeye, tbone. MMMM

  15. Stephanie says 13 December 2006 at 18:02

    Buying meat like that didn’t work well for us for a couple of reasons. I rarely buy the more expensive cuts of meat so though I got better meat I ended up spending the same or more.

    The other problem was when I had a freezer full of meat we ended up eating more meat. I didn’t try to stretch the meat as far (in casseroles and the like) and didn’t make as many non meat meals.

    What has worked for us since we moved here is harvesting the deer from our land. Better for you than beef and practically free. (Sorry to all you vegetarians out there, Yes, we do eat Bambi!)

  16. Bryan E says 13 December 2006 at 18:13

    Another risk to whole-cow purchase is that the beef can end up with a very bad flavor depending on how the animal is killed (sorry).

    Family members ended up pitching a whole freezer full of beef because the meat tasted terrible due to the cow being killed in a way that scared the animal. Apparently, a calm cow results in better meat.

    Who’d have thought of that??

  17. Leo Babauta says 13 December 2006 at 18:35

    I became vegan about 4-5 months ago, and I’ve saved tons of money not buying meat. If you don’t do it for health or compassionate reasons, financial reasons are just as good.

    Also note: eggs and milk are just as cruel as meat. Read up on it … you might be surprised.

    And yes, meat is extremely unhealthy for you, so you’ll end up paying more in medical costs over the long run.

    Becoming vegan is actually very easy, and while you might think you’ll miss the meat, I assure you, after a few weeks, you really won’t.

  18. Charlie Park says 13 December 2006 at 18:55

    We do this, and the ranch we buy from just instituted “family packs” of 50 pounds, so we didn’t have to get a quarter of a cow (which is what we had done before). I don’t know how the “family pack” worked out, price-wise, but the quarter-of-a-cow was $3.33 / pound — for grass-fed, “free range” cattle from a local farmer.

    We also, as Lance Fisher (comment 4) commented above, eat deer from our land. A neighbor hunts on our land, and, in payment, gives us deer meat. It’s a sweet deal. Well, a “slightly gamey” deal, but it’s good on the wallet.

    I know our situation is different from what most people can do, but in response to Leo (comment 16), we buy our eggs from a teenage neighbor who has cage-free hens, and our milk from a two-family dairy. It’s not impossible to eat like this. You just have to choose your compromises.

    Back to the original topic. The one thing that we’re not careful enough about is accounting for the investment of the beef as the months go along. My gut agrees with JD, that it ends up being a wash, but I forget (way too often) to account for the beef we’ve already purchased in our monthly expenditures. I should add an “irregular” expense category for meat!

  19. cribcage says 13 December 2006 at 21:05

    Buying in bulk gives you better quality meat…

    You pointed out one reason why this is a matter of opinion (aging), but I’ll add another: freezing. Frozen meat isn’t as tasty as fresh meat. My family kept a freezer in our basement and ordered groceries in bulk for several years while I was a kid, and I’ve had the opportunity to go from fresh to frozen, and back to fresh – and in my opinion, frozen meat loses something.

    I buy plenty of groceries in bulk; I’ve got a shelf stacked with paper towels and a cabinet filled with dishwasher detergent. But we’re fortunate to live near a good grocer with great meat (better quality than the organic alternative), so I take advantage and try not to buy meat more than two days in advance. In my opinion, fresh is best.

  20. donny says 13 December 2006 at 21:46

    Go vegetarian.
    A cheaper and more compassionate option. 🙂

  21. downercow says 14 December 2006 at 09:31

    The problem with going vegetarian is that vegetarians are even more expensive than $3.61/lb—and they taste gamey.

  22. Tim Deniston says 17 December 2006 at 15:00

    “Meat is packed for freezing – If you buy large quantities at the grocery store, you need to repack the meat to freeze it. When purchase a side of beef, this is done for you.”

    What’s wrong with leaving it in the store’s packaging? What supplies would I need to repack it and what are the proper techniques?

  23. Leo Babauta says 17 December 2006 at 18:08

    @Charlie Park: it’s good to hear that you are trying to reduce the cruelty of eating eggs and milk, although I doubt that it’s completely cruelty free.

    The other aspect of eggs and milk, tho, is that they are unhealthy for you. High in cholesterol and saturated fat when you can get the same nutrients they provide from plants, without the bad stuff.

  24. gotrootdude says 20 December 2006 at 09:42

    I disagree with buying meats in bulk, unless you’re planning to consume it within a week.

    Here’s why:

    1. Meats can generally be found marked down 1/3rd of the price or lower locally on the day of the expiration date.

    2. You pay an average of around $15 or more dollars a year for each square foot of storage of anything in your buildings just for the space. Then everything in the space has a temperature cost to heat and cool.

    3. The only real reasoning to buying meats in bulk, I can think of, is if you’re using it quick, or you have to go a long way out of your way to replace the part consumed.

  25. Beth says 20 December 2006 at 11:11

    Lance and Stephanie:

    Another venison fan here! Another thing that you can do if you don’t have the time/resources/etc. for going hunting yourself is to find a butcher who specializes in game animals. Hunters will drop off their kills and then never bother to come pick them up, and – especially toward the end of the hunting season, when their freezers are getting full – the butchers sell it at break-even just to get rid of it. I can routinely get venison, antelope, and elk for $2-$3/lb. (or less – I’ve paid 50 cents a pound in late February/March), and buy as little or as much as I need.

    And game is leaner and chemical-free.

  26. Jeff says 28 December 2006 at 03:10

    I have a few tips for additional savings preparing food in bulk. Check out

  27. Ed says 06 January 2007 at 10:45

    I have purchased several sides of beef. One was especially tasty, another just decent but better than any store bought. I like the juiciness of the meat, and if you have a hormone free source that certainly adds to the value. I would say that this type of purchase is not for the penny pincher, rather, for those who enjoy beef regularly, want to avoid the chain stores for the sake of quality, and aren’t afraid to spend some money on a product they will enjoy.
    One suggestion when freezing beef, or anything for that matter, is to not freeze for long periods in a refigerator freezer, for most freezers circulate air with the fridge, causing the odors to intermingle and be picked up by the food.

  28. John says 11 February 2007 at 13:57

    What’s with you know-it-all vegetarians. Shut up. Do I go to Vegetarian sites and make silly postings about the benefits of eating beef? No.

    Nobody cares what you think about eating meat. So how about this – get a life.

  29. Kara says 21 February 2007 at 20:22

    For general information, if you are going to freeze anything that you want to retain fresh flavor and texture use dry ice. Freeze it with that first and then put it in your deep freezer, it will keep that really fresh texture and flavor for months. Another good advantage to having a nice freezer full of meat is that when you want a nice steak dinner you dont have to run to the store. Handy.

    By the way, While I fully respect the choice not to eat meat. I find it disrespectful to try to make me do so as well, I have never chastised a vegetarian for their choice. But since it has been brought up, I feel no anger towards wolves for eating deer, the wolf is not a lesser animal because it eats other animals and neither are we. I am not ashamed of being an omnivore. I respect the animals I eat and do what I can to ensure that their lives are good and their deaths painless. This is not a place to come and preach.

  30. mapgirl says 21 February 2007 at 22:14

    Usually if you go to a farmer’s market, there is a rancher with butchered meats. Talk to them about it. If you can’t handle a share in a cow, try buying a spring lamb. I think a whole lamb is only 40lbs. I thought about doing this and splitting it with friends. The ranchers at the farmer’s markets around DC area are open to this sort of thing, so ask around. You might find organic meats, or at least something fresher than expected and perhaps even local pick up at the market instead of driving out to the slaughterhouse/meat packer.

  31. Paul says 25 March 2007 at 09:55

    We were discussing buying beef by the side last night around the camp fire. Someone brought up the term “tight side” of the beef. He was told that a cow always sits down on the same side and when it gets up, muscles and tendons get torn on that side, and that’s called the “loose side”, the other side of the animal is the tight side. The tight side is supposed to be better. No one ever heard of this and one of the guys worked in a packing house for 20 years.

    Is this an urban legend or does it have a modicum of truth? It sounds hoaky to me:-).

    • Bonnie Chandler says 19 May 2019 at 19:39

      Probably the only chance I’ll ever get to pass this on. My father, born 1913, made friends with the owner of a butcher shop in Tyler, TX in the 1960’s. He used to call us to let Dad know when either a tight side or loose side came in the shop. I never knew which was which or why, but my dad made the tastiest BBQ in the neighborhood, i.e. back when nobody knew what “grilling” was – LOL!

  32. John K says 29 March 2007 at 18:00

    Sometimes, the side of beef does make better sense. My employer also owns a ranch/farm and late in the year, separates the best of his cattle from the rest. He takes very special care of these cattle with special feeds. Then around May, he starts sending them to a good local butcher who kills, cuts and wraps the meat. We have to pay the kill and wrap fee, but our employer only charges us $1.35 /lb hanging weight for the side. Considering the time and special feeds, this is a bargain for the high quality meat I couldn’t even buy at any price.
    My employer is even nice enough to allow us to charge the meat cost and pay a little each payday via payroll deduction, so that we don’t have to pay a few hundred dollars all at once.

    When you have a deal like that, and get quality that you can’t get from any grocery store, then you can’t compare sale prices anymore.

  33. John K says 31 March 2007 at 12:05

    For the person that asked about the difference in wrapping for store sale and long term freezer storage, the difference is big!

    When you want to freeze, you want to get as much air out as possible. Most of your “tray packs” from the store are covered only with a very thin layer of cellophane. It traps air inside the package and fails to protect from ice crystals growing inside the package, as these are not vaccumed packed. They have also been exposed to warmer temperatures while waiting to be wrapped and might get contaminated by other meat cuts(your store opens a box of beef, that can contain cuts from several cattle. It is not uncommon for your grocery store to cut all one cut of t-bones, porterhouses, etc, from several boxes and several cows all at one time, then move on to the next primal cuts. A butcher, however, usually cuts one side at a time and cleans up in between, minimizing cross-contamination and bacterial growth).

    For all these reasons, you want to get as much air out as possible as soon as possible and freeze it, so that the bacteria living on the surface of the meat can’t live without air and extreme cold.

    My butcher, who cuts and wraps my entire half cow, uses a commercial vaccuum wrap to remove all the air from the package. Much of this meat is good for over a year after packaged, as long as it remains frozen.

    If you want to buy meat at the store and store it for long term, the price of materials and skill level is really low. You will need a roll of “freezer paper” and “freezer tape”. The freezer paper is usually waxed on the inside and the tape is similar to masking tape, but withstands cold temperatures better.

    If your meat has sharp bones, you will want to protect the meat with a small piece of freezer paper around the sharp points first. I also put a small sheet between each cut to stop color change and make it easier to thaw each cut seperately.

    To wrap, put the meat in the center of the paper with the ends up and long enough to roll several times. Take both ends and fold together about 1/2 inch. Continue to fold down until you reach the level of the meat in a flat layer. Then, roll over and seal each end of the package like a Christmas gift, but being careful to remove all of the air as you go. Seal the ends with pieces of freezer tape and use a “sharpie” to mark the cut of meat and date wrapped.

    This package should last more than 3-6 months in a deep freezer or up to 3 months in a normal refridgerator’s freezer section. (not as cold and opened way too often. Also, defrost cycles are not kind to long term storage).

    I have also tried the home “bag sealer” systems, and find they don’t work as well as good ole fashioned freezer papper. The bags are way too expensive and frequently don’t seal well enough, for some reason, especially with pork products….maybe has something to do with the pork fat touching the inside of the bag. I do use the sealer for things such as cut chicken parts, to include split chicken breasts, thighs and boneless/skinless chicken breasts. I put each piece in a sandwich bag and freeze on a cookie sheet. Then, I put as many pieces as will fit in a vaccuum freezer bag and seal. As I use them, I take out only the pieces I need and reseal the bag.

    But for better protection of one-use items (such as a roast or 2-4 steaks), the paper protects at least as good and is many times cheaper.

    Finally, for those who think meat from the store is fresher than my high-quality, freshly killed cow that I get half at a time from my butcher, think again!!! My cow was walking less than 30 days ago from the time I picked it up. Many of the steaks you buy at your store are from cows that were killed last year, put in storage for as long as the law allows, and shipped in “cryovacs” (sealed bags) as large primals and shipped as your store orders it, and then cut into steaks. It is less fresh than 1/2 of the beef in my freezer!!!

  34. JohnK says 23 June 2007 at 09:52

    I just received my new 1/2 cow and I am excited!!!! The cow was killed sometime during the week of of May 27th, aged about 14 days, and then cut up. I picked it up on June 16th. The half hanging weight was 349 lbs. I figure the waste from this cow at 20%, leaving about 279 lbs of cut meat.

    I paid 12.50 kill fee for the 1/2 cow, and .45/lb for a cut and vaccuum wrap fee, plus $1.35/lb hanging weight meat cost. Before you continue reading, this is not Choice or Select meat. This is Prime or above. But even if it was lower quality, it is still a HUGE savings.

    This brings the grand total for 349 lbs of meat (279 lbs packaged) to $640.70 Divided by the 279 lbs meat equals $2.30 per pound.

    I am looking at a store ad right now that has 80% lean hamburger on sale for $$2.49/lb

    Just to add envy, I only had to pay the $12.50 kill fee and the $157.05 cut and wrap fee. The $471.15 meat cost will be taken out of my paycheck $50.00 every 2 weeks! I challenge any other employer to offer this as a benefit to their employees!!!

    Bottom line is, I am eating meat killed 2 weeks ago, safely vaccuumed packed and frozen to keep, fresher than the meat your store bought frozen in primals from a kill over 1 YEAR AGO and kept in cold storage.

    Example savings….My store has Rib steaks on sale at $6.99/lb, sometimes you can find $5.99/lb

    We had 4 great big steaks that weighed a total of 5.16 lbs. At the butcher price of $2.30/lb, these cost $11.87 If I could get this quality at a store (you can’t get prime at almost all stores), I would still pay at least that $5.99/lb on sale, which equals $30.91, a savings of $19.04 for 4 steaks, also a savings of 62%

    We won’t even get into the t-bones, sirlions, or other cuts, as you can see, even the hamburger cost more at the store than my half-cow cost.

    Of course, I did not add the few cents/day for electricity for my freezer, but I would have it anyway. No matter the source, I always buy large quantities at a low price to save money.

    Just because your Porterhouse is on sale, doesn’t mean it was fresh…..freshly cut from a year old primal?

    I know how fresh my meat is, have higher quality than the store can get, and pay less than hamburger cost for it.

    Do you need any more reason to not buy beef from your trusted butcher?

    Thanks again, JD, for your excellent posts.

  35. SavingDiva says 20 August 2007 at 10:50

    I think this a great post! Any time you can support a local business, I think it’s great. You save the environment from the fuel needed to transport this meat to a supermarket…anyway, this isn’t really an option for me right now (no space in an apartment), but I will definitely keep this in mind in the future.

  36. Dave says 26 September 2007 at 21:30

    Buy your beef in bulk directly from a farmer. Have the farmer transport the cow ( or hog) to a local butcher live(there are more out there than you think) pay the butcher separately. I worked for a national retail chain of stores. You get all the cuts from one animal with a farmer. Your hamburger isnt made of 45 animals that came in that day and yes, parts you didnt want. You get choice meat. It would be better to get a freezer full if you have a freezer or split it up. Filets, choice cut steaks which can go for 13.99 a pound are in direct ranchers cattle also.If you purchased the cuts of beef and hamburger separately wrapped in a retail store which equaled a whole 1000 pound steer it would cost 3 times as much. Do you think those large 24 hour grocery chains really operate for 0 profit? TRUST me, buy from a farmer if you have a choice.

  37. Tom says 15 October 2007 at 12:14

    Was a vegan for 5-6 years, switched back to full-on red meat after 9/11. Look, don’t let these vegetarians fool you…vegetarianism ain’t cheap. Once you consider that you shop at whole foods and other organic grocers (who just jack up the price) and then you have to eat like 5X at any sitting just to feel like you’ve eaten anything, it all evens out.

    Plus, I was raised on a farm, and only a city slicker would have compassion for a cow. They’re just about the dumbest animals that ever walked the face of the earth.

  38. Tom says 15 October 2007 at 12:17

    Here’s another thing….do you *really* think that what you’re buying at HEB or Randalls is fresh meat???? Come on, most of that stuff was killed months ago and frozen somewhere, then delivered to the stores. You’re just paying for the privilege of using the middle man.

  39. To betamax says 30 October 2007 at 13:00

    To betamax:
    in response to your comment about no one needing to buy a whole side of beef a year. I think you need to get out of the construct of thinking about the way you live.
    Personally I am a bigger person-weigh 260 and am about 8-10% body fat. I eat a lot, and need a lot of calories to keep my body running as good as it can.
    To your point about obesity does it have to do more with eating redmeat or not working out?
    You might want to rethink your point.

  40. Melanie says 26 December 2007 at 09:31

    I grew up on a ranch and we always had meat from our own cattle. We were also the only family I know of with two upright freezers in the house! (Dad usually brought home an elk every year too.) It has been hard to adjust to buying meat in a grocery store. If you are lucky, you might be able to buy frozen meat in bulk from your local butcher if you don’t have freezer space for purchasing a whole animal all at once. (we sure don’t)! Many butchers offer ‘package deals’ too, which depending on your tastes are a good deal or not. They will often swap out pieces you are unlikely to eat though, so don’t be afraid to ask. Overall, we probably spend more buying at the butcher. However, I am willing to pay a few extra cents a pound to have meat that is really good, and where I know the workers are treated decently. We stick to our grocery budget and just don’t eat expensive cuts of meat very often.

  41. Brian says 09 January 2008 at 13:52

    I provided sides and quarters from four steers last year. They were all satisfied and will be repeat customers this year. They all commented on the better taste of the meat than what they were used to getting at the store.

  42. Nonion says 12 January 2008 at 08:32

    For the poster who said noone needs to buy a side of beef at a time. I am a single parent of five growing children. If I didn’t buy meat in bulk, our budget would be even thinner than it is. I also put up about 700lbs. of fruit and veggies a year. Truth be told, I don’t think I could afford quality food for this crew if I didn’t do that. I also barter quite a bit, being fortunate enough to live near a coastal community. So the effort and time put in to doing things in bulk provides us with a huge variety of fresh fish, venison, beef, pork, chicken, veggies and fruit at about half the cost. (Honestly, the money saved on fruit in the dead of winter is right up there with the savings from the meat.)

  43. AsgardAcres says 12 January 2008 at 13:47

    Part of why my family bought a small farm was because I grew up near a national meat processing plant … and knew what happened there. This company has regular expose’s of their practices, and is still in business. Why? People like to eat meat, and it’s easy to get it from the store. And cheapness counts.

    Growing up in Ag country, we got the same farm supply catalogs as everyone else. I still get them — and elastrator is an elastrator. I am amazed at the pages of “implants” that are available for cattle. Anabolic steroids and hormone suppressants, so that the heifers in the feed lot don’t go into heat and lost that all important 1% of weight gain.

    It disgusted me, and I was a vegetarian for a while in college. Let’s be frank here — different people have different body types and ethnic heritages. Some bodies are designed for veggies. I am a nordic woman who just wastn’t healthy — I was so anemic, even with supplements, that my doctor told me to go and get a nice rare steak.

    My conscience led me to farming myself. Do we make money at it? Not a dime. 20 acres is not big enough to compete with the big guys, and we don’t even try. Do we love it — YES. My animals are well cared for from birth to passing. We ensure that they are butchered humanely — and that does make a big difference in the meat. We do not lock them into a feed lot — but we do give them extra grain prior to butchering to ensure that the animal is “on the gain” and therefore has a higher proportion of “new” muscle fibers. This makes it more tender.

    Do cows tend to get up and down only on one side, making a “tight” side and a “loose” side? No. Just a city folk assumption — if you raise cattle on a small place, you get to know what to look for. Both butt cheeks get dirty, because they lay on both sides. Do my animals experience pain and sickness — yes. And I tend to them just as I would myself, with as much care and dignity as possible. We try to save every calf, even it means Christmas eve in freezing rain, and getting my arm pulled out of the socket by a cows contractions as I am trying to reposition the calf. And when they are too old to reproduce anymore, I give them a big flake of alfalfa to chew on while the are stunned before butchering (this meat I donate to the local homeless shelter and program for troubled kids — Have the whole animal made into hamburger, which tastes better than what they kids get otherwise.)

    Does my beef cost less than store bought? Probably not. Do you get more hamburger than you would otherwise eat — Yes. And it’s delicious. And you can choose — I had a family who wanted me to butcher a cow smaller, so that it was leaner and had smaller steaks. They talked to me ahead of time, put down a small deposit, and they got what they wanted.

    Most hamburger in the stores is from old dairy cows (they are called breakers, because they are sick and/or lame and on their last legs). They added food coloring, because Holstein (the dominant dairy cow) meat has very little color or flavor. Now they can’t add food coloring without telling you (recent lawsuit) so they add australian bull meat. Does tired old bull meat from australia sound tasty and fresh? When you buy hamburger in the store, you are getting old dairy cow and tired stringy (but deep red and rankly flavored) bull meat. They mix it together to make something that the American consumer will buy, because low cost is all that most care about. If an animal is still walking (even with a crane holding up part of its weight) it’s legal to kill and consume. That’s storebought hamburger. I can’t eat it in good conscience, knowing where and how it got to the plate. And it just doesn’t taste right.

    My meat is from an animal who is between 12 and 16 months old. It is cared for properly and respectfully. I have been a vegetarian, and it didn’t work for me. I am a pragmatist, and this is what I came up with.

    I know vegetarians will write in telling me how sick and wrong I am — and I welcome it. I have them come to my door, on occasion — they are almost like Jehovah’s Witnesses in this area. And I talk to them. I walk them out to the cattle, if they actually want to educate instead of prosthelatize. We don’t agree, we probably will never convince one another, but that’s OK. I respect the choices they have made with their lives, and only ask that they respect my choices and leave me to enjoy this rural life that I love.

  44. brad says 13 February 2008 at 04:37

    Mary, from a few lines up, you have just revealed your ignorance on the subject as most of the beef consumed in the US comes from Holsteins (a dairy cow). You don’t get the milk cow at the end of her life you get a fattened steer. And Jersey is excellent meat, when fed properly.

  45. JohnK says 17 February 2008 at 11:28

    Hey Guys, don’t forget the theme was saving money, not attacking others. My rancher knows what cows are good for meat…so does my butcher. I don’t depend on pictures for that.

    On that same note, ask your butcher who kills and cleans the animials if he or she knows a good source of other meats. If your butcher can also smoke meats, he or she can be a good source of other meats, such as pork. Fresh, and smoked cuts work great together to fill out that freezer when beef is not always plentiful.

  46. Anne says 24 July 2008 at 10:10

    What no one seems to know, is when you buy beef from the grocery store, the age is not really known, mostly we go by the color and the date on the package. I read recently that the FDA allows butchers to subject the meat to carbon monoxide to make the “red” color stand out more in beef. Also, most meat from the grocery store is previously frozen, it is not fresh. So the argument about “frozen meat lacks something in taste” isn’t a guaranteed sell either. I just talked to a farmer whom I will be buying a quarter of a cow from, who feeds strictly corn, no hormones, and no chemicals, selling Angus beef at 2.25 a pound, then to butcher and wrap the cuts you want (exactly size, shape and type you want) is another .47 cents a pound. When you hold all this next to buying meat from the store, which is only a good deal when it’s old and they are trying to get rid of it, buying bulk is definately the way to go.

  47. William B says 25 July 2008 at 09:43

    Buying a side of beef is not only economic but more healthy.
    The economics of it are clear. You cut out the middle man – store. Even though you need to have your beef butchered and packaged, this is still a small price. If you have a freezer, the cost is still small. With the freezer packed the electricity used is very small. No need to run the compressor to cool air. When your freezer runs empty you can store water in the freezer for a variety of uses.
    Buying your beef allows you to pick how the beef was raised and what drugs if any are used.
    The main downside is the size of the family. A single person or couple do not make it very economical. Also, if you only like certain types of beef then you have a problem.

  48. xx says 18 August 2008 at 14:33

    Oh dear. While I am completely in favor of buying meat from local farmers and ranchers, as a Nebraska farm girl, I must point out that the photo you posted is of a dairy cow, not a beef cow. If you bought a Jersey or Brown Swiss steer, it certainly won’t taste as good as a Hereferd-Angus mix.

  49. Dawn says 28 September 2008 at 12:36

    Hi all I grew up butchering on a farm in Louisiana. We recently bought a small place in SC. Between the economy and food scares both here and from China we have recently started raising our own free range organic chickens, goat, lamb and hogs. I will also return to my roots as a hunter which will provide venison, turkey, duck and rabbit. We are debating adding a cow for slaughter as well. We also grown our own organic fruits and veggies. My husband is “city folk” so for the cow I am looking for a local rancher that slaughters. I can buy a cow on the hoof(live) from my hay guy but he does not butcher anymore. There is nothing like “home grown” be it from your local rancher/farmer or on your own place. As with anything there are start up costs, but over time they pay for themselves and you have the piece of mind knowing that you are not ingesting preservatives, steriods, antibiotics or any other additives.


  50. Shannon says 13 October 2008 at 19:08

    My neighbor is a cattle farmer who has offered to sell me a steer for $900. The local butcher says it will cost .29/lb for processing. Is this a good deal? I have never done this before, but it sounds like a good idea. I have my husband, myself, and 6 kids to feed. Also, the butcher says that I can’t make the processing appointment, the farmer has to. Why is that? It would be easier if I paid the farmer for the cow and then took the cow to the butcher and paid them. Is there some sort of regulation about this? Thanks for any info!

  51. Josh says 28 October 2008 at 07:36

    It’s probably because the farmer will be the one to bring the cow to the butcher, not you, so it’s easier to work it out with the farmer instead of going through a middle person, such as yourself

  52. Barb says 15 December 2008 at 09:49

    What great reading material. I just arranged with a friend for her to finish a steer up for me. My daughter and I have a number of food and antibiotic allergies, and this allows us to know what the animal was fed before it was slaughtered. I’ll get him in late February. It should be enough time for anything we don’t want to work its way out of his system. Now I just need to know how to give the butcher instructions on how to pack it. The last time I purchased beef, they butcher had already packed it, and the customer had backed out, so I got it right away.

  53. T.K. says 01 January 2009 at 10:57

    I’ve been considering splitting a cow with someone. But I’d be in it more for the quality steaks. The prices you quoted for safeway and albertsons are for usda select grade beef. I just bought usda choice grade steak on sale for $6.99 a pound regular $11.99 a pound. I’m going to do some research on what grade non feedlot cows would grade out at.

  54. Dawn says 01 January 2009 at 12:05

    What most of the posters are NOT understanding that if we are buying grass fed, free ranged beef, they are free of antibiotics and growth hormones, so even if slightly more expensive than feed lot, loaded with additive beef it’s worth it for me. The rest of our meat including goat, lamb, pork and chicken we raise here on our little farm and of course we grow all our own veggies also. So short of beef we are pretty self sufficent food wise and as a result we eat all organic, free ranged. The difference in taste right down to the brown eggs would amaze you. I would NOT have it any other way.

  55. Jimmy says 29 January 2009 at 07:29

    Dang vegitarians, stop eating all our cows food!

  56. Tricia says 30 January 2009 at 19:48

    I would really like to do this. I have been considering it. But I don’t have a freezer yet and I am in the process of moving to NY from Ga, so it wouldn’t be in my best interest at this time. However, it may not be “less expensive” but, I’d take the quality of free range grain fed fresh beef over mistreated malnourished hormone filled cows any day. We used to eat organic beef from a restaurant in NY and the beef was unbelievably superior! Cant wait for the opportunity to buy some for my own freezer. For a family of 5 what would one suggest as the best amount to buy? I try to stick to 4-6 ounces per serving for myself to be healthy. My husband is 6’6 220 pounds of lean muscle but he can eat like a horse. I have three sons (12,6,and 3 years)Growing boys can eat! So, if I were thinking of getting beef and other meats, like goat and pork for example.. just how much meat would I need. And is it supposed to last approximately a year in a good deep freezer?
    Thanks for any help!!

  57. P McCann says 31 January 2009 at 11:01

    Cost wise, you may or may not save money. Yet cost shouldn’t be your only consideration. Before purchasing bulk meats ask questions. Ask what the animals are being fed. Ask about antibiotics, hormones and any other chemicals that may be used. What goes in the animals goes into the meat and goes into you. Local (North Florida) all natural bulk beef sells for approximately $2.78 a pound ready for the freezer. This includes custom cuts. A good webpage to help find local farms is

  58. Sarah says 11 February 2009 at 13:34

    P McCann–I live in Tallahassee and am interested in purchasing bulk beef. I have friends going to Atlanta to purchase a quarter cow, but was interested in finding something closer. Local Harvest has a list of farms and none include beef. Do you know of any place in the panhandle I can look up?

  59. Stephanie SHoten says 24 February 2009 at 11:38

    We have purchased a whole cow from a friend who has a connection to a family owned cattle farm. This has been the BEST, HIGH quality meat ever. It is also much easier to purchase all at once and never have to worry about purchasing beef in the stores. We are close to running out of our meat and have moved to another state. Do you have any suggestions on more details to find private cattle farms that raise FRESH meat?
    Thank you

  60. Kevin Kruschwitz says 25 February 2009 at 19:02

    If you are looking for local ranches, one good way to find them is to use a search engine to find a ranch nearby using the location, beef, and ranch.

    There are also many listings of ranches like at and If you click on ranch listings you can contact the ranchers by email or phone.
    Ranchers, including myself, love to sell and promote their beef because we all have something in common. We all have the best beef (in our humble opinions). I myself am proud of the taste, tenderness, and greaseless packages of hamburger meat from our cattle and the local butcher. At the grocery store you pay for grease!

    Even if you just need a side of beef, most ranchers will work with you and find other people to go in with you.

    If any of you need any more help finding a local ranch, just go to my site and email me, and I will do my best to find you a local ranch.

    You can even order some beef from our ranch if you’re out of the area….as long as you are willing to pay for the shipping from North Dakota.

  61. Kristina says 04 April 2009 at 18:20

    I recently baught 2 baby jersey bull calves for $25 a piece. I will raise them til they are old enought to butcher.I believe it is better this way and cheeper because they will be feeding off my land. I heard that jersey meat is the most tender, flavorful, and sweetest meet to eat.

  62. Stephanie says 03 May 2009 at 05:23

    My husband and I just bought half a cow. The butcher gave us a paper to choose the cuts, thickness, pounds, # in pack, etc. Our problem is that we’ve never done this before and don’t know what to select!
    We know we want T-bone steaks, sirloins, ribeyes, and ground beef. I think we want short ribs – aren’t those just the ribs?
    We don’t know about an arm roast vs. a chuck roast. As far as the hind quarter goes… what’s a round steak vs. top round and bottom round? Do we want that stuff? Should we get it cubed? If we don’t select those cuts does it become ground beef?
    I guess we don’t want the liver, heart and tongue… I have no idea what I’d do with them!

  63. J.D. says 03 May 2009 at 06:45

    @Stephanie (#71)
    One book that has helped us is Confessions of a Butcher (which I reviewed here). It contains a lot of info on the different cuts of beef.

  64. Veganism says 17 June 2009 at 10:46

    Do all of you vegans out there realize that there is simply not enough land to sustain a vegan/organic lifestyle for the general population? Im not saying its a bad idea, but im saying that its not sustainable as a solution to feed the world.

  65. Kristen Paulson says 18 June 2009 at 07:17

    An advantage we have of raising our own beef is the quality control. I tell the butcher that I want it to be hung for 28 days, which yields fresher meat. It comes to be hard frozen, wrapped in white paper. I then bag up a week or two worth of meat in vaccuum sealer bags. Cheaper to make a few really big bags than to bag everything separately.

    We harvest a hog at the same time we harvest beef, and lamb, so I make mixed bags which hold a variety of cuts. This forces me to use all of the meat effectively — keeps me from “cherry picking” the steaks and being left with a lot of round steak.

    If you don’t know what to do with all of the “odd” cuts, get an antique cook book. I have found some wonderful ways to make brisket, round steaks, etc.

    As for the heart, tongue and liver — I love liver. Heart and tongue get cooked slowly in the oven and sliced for my dogs. They have their own bags of bits in the fridge.

    I raise the animals myself, and want to make sure that I don’t waste any of it. I care for my animals respectfully and with great care, but I also understand what they are here for. My sheep wouldn’t get 7 – 9 months of playing around on clover-filled pasture if they weren’t intended for the freezer.

    The animals are born to be harvested for meat. I give them a good quality of life while they are here, ensure that they are harvested in as humane a way as possiblle, and use everything I can from the animal.

  66. Elena says 29 June 2009 at 18:37

    Kristen, that thing you have about cooking the tongue and giving it to the dogs — that just made me smile. Tip tongue is just about the best meat in a cow. There is a reason why a pack of wolves that chances to hunt down several buffalo or deer at once (by driving them off a cliff or whatever), usually eats the liver and the tongue first — because those are the most delicious. 🙂

  67. confused carl says 07 July 2009 at 23:00

    I need a little help with pricing. is it cheaper to pay $1 a pound on the hoof or $1.50 a pound hanging weight? I know the difference between the two, but picked up a cow today that we paid $1.50 for 875 pounds hanging weight, but it seems like we paid an awful lot with .45 a pound processing, $40 kill, and .50 a pound for getting hamburger patties made. any help clearing up the confusion would be appreciated. it filled our 18 cu ft upright freezer, but it just seemed to be over priced per pound. there’s another farmer who sells his for $1.50 on the hoof weight, but that includes processing and delivery.

  68. Robert says 06 August 2009 at 10:45

    Another thing no one seems to be mentioning is that if you already have a freezer, you’re already paying for the electricity. But, if your freezer is half full of meat, a very dense item, your freezer’s compressor will run less, making your freezer more energy efficient due to the mass of frozen meat in it. Also helps if you live in an area prone to power outages, the more frozen stuff in the freezer the longer it will stay frozen without power.

    So, buying the meat as a side or quarter saves you money, then your freezer costs less to operate, plus you don’t have to run to the store just because you have a need to have a steak for dinner tonight.

    I have bought a quarter several times, the price does flucuate due to the current market value of the cow, but I have always ended up paying a bit less then the price of hamburger at my grocery store, and for that price I get ground meat, steaks, roasts, ribs, stew meat, etc. Ends up saving me quite a bit on my grocery cost annually.

  69. Sam says 10 August 2009 at 12:31

    I agree with Tom’s (October 15th, 2007 at 12:14 pm) comment on cows – I’ve had multiple broken bones from them, just being dim – not violent, when I was a kid. I’ve only known 2 cows that I truly liked. The rest were as dumb as a post & then some. They are not pleasant creatures to be around even if you raise them nicely.

    My brother got me a deep freeze @ an auction. As soon as we get rid of some furniture the freezer is taking it’s place & will be filled with half a organic cow from my Dad’s home town. What I’ve noticed in the 5+ years I’ve been occasionally buying organic meat is that it tends to last longer in the fridge. The vet tech in me thinks it’s might be the lack of drugs but who knows??
    I like it when I can make a big batch of something yummy for lunch for the week & have it taste as good on Friday as it did on Monday (unless I eat it all by Wednesday like last week).

    I can respect a persons decision to go veggie but, I think the human body does need meat on occasion. That said, I do think the American diet is too meat heavy but that’s another topic. I can rack up the veggie protein till it comes out my ears & I’ll still go anemic if I don’t have a burger every week or so.

    BTW – if anyone wants to share some recipes out of antique cook books let me know. Those cook books are hard to find – probably because they fell apart from use. The best one I’ve found is a green one from 1934. “Joy of Housekeeping” I think is the title.

  70. Brent Shetley says 30 September 2009 at 05:16

    We raise pastured beef and my customers rave about all of the advantages of having beef in the freezer, cost and convienence both. For you vegans that responded on here, try pastured beef. Less fat than chicken when tested!!!

    Raising cattle is not the safest thing a person can do, but I disagree with cattle being dumb. Cattle are no different than any other animal. You treat them kindly and with respect for their size, they will follow you anywhere and fear you just enough so as not to hurt you. I can walk amongst my herd with no reservations…I guess you can say I know the rules and so do my cattle.

    Great article!!! Wish I would have saw it when it first came out.

  71. K says 11 November 2009 at 12:56

    I really enjoyed reading your post about buying beef. The only thing I would have liked to see if where you live. We pay about $.90 per pound for cut up here in California.

    I sell beef. It is so much better than what you can buy in the store. I’ve purchased store bought, and it is nothing at all like the Angus we harvest for ourselves and others. The flavor, tenderness and quality is so much better.

    Buying from the store means you might get beef grown in Chile or any other country that the US buys from. I don’t like that thought. I want to buy US.

    Buying from the store means that you have no control over what your animal has been fed or how it has been raised. And yes, it makes a huge difference if the animal is scared.

    I prefer as close to organic as I can, and we raise Angus. Angus produce far better meat than just buying from the store. There is absolutely NO comparison. I will never go back to the store if I can avoid it. Did you know that most of the meat you get from the store is Holstein steers? Those are the black and white spotted cows that produce all the milk. The bulls don’t produce milk, so they are sent as steers to feedlots. I can’t seem to find the quality of steak in the stores that I can raise.

    This last summer, we ran out of beef for a few weeks. I purchased some beef from a well known store tha advertises how great their beef is. When I cooked it, my husband said, “This is store bought isn’t it?” I told him it was. He said, “Sure makes a difference doesn’t it?” The steaks were frankly tough, and they did not have the flavor that our home raised calves do. The last one we sold, the buyers told us, “I can cut it with a fork.” You can’t beat that!

    We advertise regularly on in Sacramento. We eat meat because we like it. I can’t go vegan. First my husband would leave me, and second I wouldn’t know how to make the food taste good. Besides, the vegan sell fake hamburger–I never do! I love beef! It’s what’s for dinner!

  72. Bill V. says 03 December 2009 at 22:23

    Ok, the opportunity came for me to buy a side of beef for the first time. I was lucky that the other side was being bought by a friend who knows what to look for in beef, what order at the butcher, etc., so the whole process was very painless…except the check for $650.00! Hang weight was 343 pounds for my side, of which half was made into burger (150 lbs.) and the rest was T-bones(Porterhouse), Ribeyes, Sirloins, Shortribs and a couple of Sirloin roasts. Cube steaks as well. Checked retail prices at our local grocery (Festival) and the botom line is that we’ll save almost half of what we would’ve paid. Although there may be something to the arguement about long term frozen storage, this sure makes sense for my family as we go through a lot of beef!

  73. EatMeat says 26 March 2010 at 03:41

    Absolutely buy from a proven source and understand that the grading system today isn’t the same as back in the 70’s. Choice today wouldn’t have made select back then, and even the Certified Angus Beef brand at your grocer isn’t breed specific- it’s hide color specific of 51% or greater- meaning the 20+ breeds of animal allowed into the CAB program aren’t angus specific genotype. The standards have been lowered so as long as they meet 51% or greater black hide are less than 30mos old and grade at the right level they qualify for the CAB program.

    Breed, region specific and Non-distressed animals make a huge diference. There’s a new standard that’s been developed called “Certified Humane”. If you buy from a grocer take a look at Meyer Natural Angus for the best national angus program that’s both natural and certified humane. Their anmals and primals are smaller because they don’t use steroids or antibiotics. A typical Meyer animal is 300lbs lighter than comparable animals that are “pumped”.

    No one mentioned bone weight of their take home side of beef? If 40-50% of your total is ground beef and it costs you $3/lb blended, you’re really paying over $4/lb for ground beef. I agree with the comment on “family packs”. Buy what you want in moderate quatities, freeze what you don’t use and temper it through your refrgerator several days in advance.

    It’s a game and almost any type of animal can be graded prime if fed the right way. Cows can be 20+ years old when processed so don’t fall for some of the tricks out there.

    One last thought: The previous post stating $650 cost for 150 lbs of ground beef- plus approx. 50lbs of steaks and cubed beef- can be broken down. You can probably buy 150lbs of gr 80/20 ground beef from a reputable wholesaler for abour $2/lb.. This leaves $350 for the 50lbs of steaks/cube for a $7/lb. average cost. Keep in mind that the source selling you that animal needs to process the whole animal. You can probably knock $.30-$.40 off the hanging weight price if you negotiate some more. Poor trim standards and bone weight will raise your price per lb in a hurry, so beware of what sounds like a low price per pound. The weighted average price of WHAT you’re buying is more important than a low price per pound figure. I recommend paying more for the right animal instead of whatever sounds cheap and comes in bulk.

  74. marty cawthon says 12 April 2010 at 23:28

    I looking to either buy a half cow or a whole considereing what works ouy the better del. I see that by your we site it will be wrapped and ready to put in the freexer. Thanks Marty

  75. K says 14 April 2010 at 01:40

    Marty: What website are you looking at? I would like to see it also.

    Where are you located? I am in CA.

  76. Daniel Wells says 05 May 2010 at 09:41

    I bought into a side of beef with a friend from a farmer that I found on Craigslist. The farmer told me that he would buy cattle that were problem steers (meaning fence kickers) and other mean animals.

    We burned through that quarter so quickly and the net price was about $3.20/lb finished. I knew I needed to find a better deal. So I found a farmer who wanted to get rid of a steer that kept knocking down his fences but he was pasture raised and grass fed. I found him on Craigslist.

    Here is the trick, if you can find a live animal and do all of the coordinating yourself then you bypass the food brokers. Anyhow, I bought a nearly 1,100 pound (live weight) angus cross hereford steer for $700 plus $75 for the kill fee plus $0.55/lb processing. In all, I will spend $1,229.85 for nearly 620 pounds of finished weight, or about $1.98 per pound (end product).

    Point being, spend the time to investigate live animals and run the project yourself. if someone is selling it, they are making money off of you. So if you can go around them and do it yourself then what was there profit stays in your pocket and I believe that is the spirit of this website. How to save money, right?

    So here is my challenge to you. Can you put a whole steer in your freezer and do better than $1.98 per pound (finished weight)? everyone here is saying they are paying nearly $3.25/lb (like I did). Regardless of what the savings is compared to the restaurants and grocery stores, what is the savings compared to other beef buys?

    $3.25-1.98 = $1.30/lb savings
    X 620 weight = $806 savings
    40% Savings

    There is your challenge!!!

  77. Doc says 05 May 2010 at 10:30

    I enjoyed your discussion here.

    We raise cattle specifically to sell as freezer beef’s. We raise and market our cattle as hormone free and antibiotic free. We take pride in knowing that our product is high quality and a good safe food source. We eat it as well. Our cattle are essentially raised organically, I just have not gone through the formal paper work to be designated as such.

    It was curious to me how most of the above discussions seemed to view grocery store beef as comparable to buying a whole half or quarter from a farm. My customers and my family simply detest eating store bought meat. The store bought meat doesn’t taste as good, you do not know where it came from, you do not know how long it has been laying around, repackaged, etc.

    Seriously think about the ground beef that you buy from a grocery. What is in it? Not only is it meat from potentially hundreds of different animals many imported from Mexico, Central and South America, but they also add fat. When we brown our ground beef (like for tacos or spaghetti sauce, etc.) there is virtually no fat to drain off.

    We all know that the large feedlots use hormones and antibiotics. That is fine, it is legal, we just don’t really want it in our food. Our customers are the same way.

    Our customers know they are paying more to buy from us. They also know that they are getting a much better product.

    We thought those might be some valid and interesting points to consider in your discussion.

    Beef, it whats for dinner.

    Have a good one.

  78. K says 05 May 2010 at 18:27

    Daniel: I very much appreciate what you’ve said about doing it yourself. Your idea, IMHO, would be great if you are able to raise the calf on grain for a while–6-8 weeks at least. But if you cannot, at least for me, I do not like straight pasture grass fed beef. It has a strong, off taste to me, and I won’t ever buy another (having purchased three–each time being convinced that the beef “will be good this time.”) I don’t like grass fed beef.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have had “grass” fed beef that was great. But there are a few ideas that many folks don’t understand about the term “grass” fed.

    Corn is a grass. Barley is a grass. Rice is a grass. Whether or not I feed my animals “grass” or grass with the grain–it all means it is grass fed. Many folks do not understand this. So if you feed it pasture, it is also grass. And to me, pasture fed beef has an off taste while the other three feeds give the meat a wonderful taste.

    If a bovine gets only grass (as in pasture grass) it has a very off flavor. If you like that kind of taste (and some don’t mind it), then you can save money buying this way. But if you buy $1300 worth of meat and it tastes off, then you have a year to eat it. That’s been too much for me.

    Another caveat emptor: If you buy a beef by yourself, do you know enough about a healthy or sick one? Can you tell when a beef is not healthy, has not been fed right, is thin or too fat? Do you know if the animal just came off antibiotics and just recovered from being sick? If you cannot tell these things (or if your seller isn’t honest), then you could be wasting your money or getting a lesser quality product. I doubt you’d buy a sick animal that could infect your family–mostly I have not heard private farms doing that. But you do want to know the animal is either healthy or raised with other animals so you can see if they are healthy or just this one is sick (it doesn’t look or act like the rest).

    Some animals are so thin or old that you get meat that doesn’t eat well. Those animals, raised by professionals, are ground entirely into hamburger, mixed with hamburger or fat from animals that were mostly steak type animals, and sold as hamburger entirely. Do you know how to judge the age of a beef animal? Some animals are so fat that they have 60 pounds of fat cut off and thrown away. Those animals cost you a lot more because so much is waste.

    I am not trying to discourage you or anyone else from purchasing your own beef. I am saying Buyer Beware. If you don’t know animals and cannot judge their health, you might want to trust a professional that cares about his/her reputation. I’d ask you: Do you want to pay $1300 for a beef that you have to eat and eat and eat over the next year that tastes off, or would it make more sense to buy from a professional for $1800 and get beef that you look forward to eating every time you eat it? Sometimes you get what you pay for–and I would rather pay 1/3 more and get quality.

    I will be curious to know how your meat tastes. It is interesting to me to see how folks do when they head out on their own to save money.

  79. Nic says 18 October 2010 at 08:33

    These comparisons should really include pricing of ORGANIC beef… we’re talking $5.99/lb just for ground beef here! So is this a deal? Um, yeah, that’s a no-brainer! And you know what you’re getting. Love that the contamination factor is so much lower coming from just one animal. Have any of you watched FOOD, Inc.? Just saw that and I don’t think I’ll ever buy anything other than organic & local meat ever again.

  80. brittney says 06 November 2010 at 17:26

    Nic- I just watched Food Inc…. its the reason I’m on this site. I feel the same way about buying organic and local.

  81. Manaarei says 19 December 2010 at 00:17

    So I am one of those butchers that does local Whole beef sides and split sides, so to be honest I am only reading this to get an idea of what people think. I work in a plant where the owner works side by side with his 2 employees. So to clarify with one point it is highly unlikely that a butcher is going to wash up between each beef. The processing order is usually cooked(ham bacon sausage) then Beef lamb pork then custom not for sale(Venison wild hog or other animals not killed under inspection) On another point the photo no breed of bovine is going to taste “bad” based just on breed, age and condition is really the question. Some breeds just produce more in certain areas maximizing profits… Jersey Holstein in milk Hereford and Angus in meat. That’s not to say that breeds don’t taste different.

    So about frozen and fresh…to be honest your not gonna notice if you go to a restaurant and your steak or burger was frozen as long as it isn’t old or freezer burnt what’s the issue, if it was my shop i would Vac seal, but my boss first wraps in plastic then paper which does well at preventing freezer burn. Our freezer is -20 degrees and does a great job preventing ice crystals from piercing cell walls.

    There are three things that you should consider when buying beef. The past-the treatment of the animal(nobody likes a farmer that treats his animals like pigs, even pigs) Present-Slaughter and butchery(I know of a butcher who has mold on his carcasses and is too lazy to get caught up with the count he is slaughtering) and last but not least the future how is it going to affect you is the beef tainted by chemicals hormones or bacteria.

    If your just going to eat ground beef you can do so on a whole beef and get a distinct flavor instead of the McDonald beef that is being spit out by the one world order in the beef world, granted your local butcher probably made his retail stock from these factory farm beef.

    On another note, hogs… don’t trust them. To be honest they all need to be caged up and fed through a tube. Little bastards bite each others tails and just make for bad hams, I’m sure there are great hog farmers out there that have great colonies and low “trauma” I just haven’t seen any do it on a natural, organic and free range platform. I have killed skinned and gutted alot of pigs and have been seriously turned off of porcine meat.

    So to sum it all up yes walmart is going to be more consistent feeding you the same beef day after day but if you shop around with your local or at least regional ranchers and find one that is humane and puts out a good animal and a good knowledgeable butcher that cuts it how you want, you wil have a voyage of a great rural tradition.

  82. Kelly says 03 January 2011 at 19:13

    about 2years or so ago we brought how our first side of beef it was so much beef we filled our garage freezer. We have 3 kids and the meat lasted over a year. We got our meat from Dunbar Meats in Milan Mi. ….I am telling you that was the best meat we ever had this year as soon as we get our income tax check we will be getting a side I regret not doing so last year…. I have tried all the places I could think of to try to get the same kind of beef…but with no luck… I cant wait just a few more weeks. If you live close to mi it would be well worth the drive there is nothing like aged beef..we got to see inside Dunbar and it is a class act….my 2 cents.

  83. Nakesha Rothwell says 26 September 2011 at 13:24

    There is no question you need boat insurance for a boat, I’ve seen too many terrible things happen to boats

  84. Gary says 10 December 2011 at 07:38

    My wife and I live in Vermont on a small 10 acre farm and raise all our personal beef as well as hogs and chickens. We slaughter and cut it all up ourselves so there is a big savings. What we enjoy over store bought meat is a far superior taste and we don’t end up with a pan full of water when cooking.

  85. Tim says 20 January 2012 at 22:50

    Our family ranch has been raising cattle since 1852. We raise only all natural, 100% grass fed beef that is humanely treated. We sell whole beefs, and recommend that it be split with four of your friends for a 1/4 each. Because we also believe that local is important, we only sell in a 75 mile radius of Austin, TX and we will deliver to your door in that area.

  86. Pete says 09 February 2012 at 04:29

    Just curious if you could write a follow-up on the prices? I lot has changed since 2006 and I was wondering if it’s still worth it.


  87. PaulM says 07 March 2012 at 11:05

    I am running a small meat wholesaler in Leicester. We buy beef from our farms in New Zealand and Australia.

    The beef is entirely grass fed and free range 365 days a year.

    Because the beef comes from our own farms, we are able to show transparency throughout the process, I am even able to supply a photograph of the cow before slaughter should you want.

    If anyone would like to discuss the purchase of whole carcasses, quarters or even half sides, please feel free to contact me: [email protected]

    I am also able to supply Halal Certified beef as the abattoir used has the facilities in which to do so.

    Please let me know if you are interested.

    Paul Martin

  88. Mickey says 06 January 2013 at 20:53

    J. D. Roth, if your growing that much food for yourself, you could probably grow rabbits or chickens if they are allowed. Rabbits usually are. And you can feed them left over produce, green branches, leaves, use ‘trailers’ to let them cut your lawn and eat weeds.

    You do need to feed them rabbit food, which can be purchased cheaply from feed stores, and hay. The rabbit pellets make excellent fertilizer, the dirty hay makes good ground mulch for the garden to keep weeds down.

    I made a 4×8 foot raised bed, used two rabbits leavings and leafs which I composted on the bed over winter. Spring and summer I grew half tomatoes, halve basil. I had enough fresh basil for three years, plus I gave away a lot, plus enough dried basil for three years. And I use a LOT of basil.

    I fill a large commercial food processor with basil and chop it fine, adding either butter or olive oil. Then I pack it into muffin tins and freeze it. I had about thirty pounds of basil total. I feed the stems to the rabbits.
    I usually get about six crops, cutting the top half of the plant off. Half way through the season I add more rabbit manure and a small mount of composted soil.

    The tomatoes did well too, they grew so well that I had to seriously thin them out to prevent mold.

  89. mark says 27 September 2013 at 20:35

    A couple points i have not seen to consider. If you buy from the producer you know what breed you get, At the grocer you don’t. Holsteins are the backbone of the US dairy industry and all cattle make beef. Most unwanted calves from dairy herds are now finished to make beef. Usable but the bone to meat ratio is a bit higher in Holstein and the beef probably won’t compete with an Angus or Herford beef animal. Do you really want hamburger that has had inedible trimmings washed in ammonia and chlorine then processed bask into your food? If prices are even remotely completive and you know anything at all about the breed of animal and how it was handled fed and produced I would have to say buying from the producer wins. Grocer beef is faceless. it comes from a box and has no identity. It could have been produced with hormones fed animal by products or subjected to any number of practices which are just not natural for beef cattle. I have worked in assembly line packing houses and over the years they have lowered the wages and accepted a lower class worker. Don’t expect the hygiene from the big houses to be stellar. You have to judge the little guy for yourself. One caveat I have seen a lot of accusations of theft from small operators. I even had it happen to me at a poultry processor. Out of about 40 birds one was supposedly cancerous so disposed of yet no carcass was available to substantiate the story. Never used him again.

  90. Shelly says 04 January 2015 at 12:04

    If the beef is wrapped properly it will be a quality piece of meat for quite a long time. We are 100% sure what our beef was fed and it wasn’t given any growth steroids. The average cost for every cut is usually less than what a one pound of burger is in the store.

  91. Ruth says 01 August 2015 at 16:05

    If I wanted to purchase beef what is the price per pound.

    • sam12587 says 03 August 2015 at 10:41

      It depends on how much you paid for the animal, how much the animal weighs & then the butcher’s processing fee.

      You can shop around by calling the butchers and asking what they charge, what their procedure is, etc.

  92. Michelle says 09 August 2015 at 07:29

    Where are you all coming up with your side of beef prices? I’ve been quoted $1600.00 for a side of beef. I need to know if this is a very high price? My beef cow hasn’t actually went to the slaughter house yet for weighing but this is how much the farmer said she was charging me for the beef. I’m just wondering if that includes the processing or if I’ll have to pay even extra for that.

    • Sam12587 says 10 August 2015 at 10:52

      It depends on how many pounds the cow is. Different butchers charge different fees too.

      Also meat prices canvary by state/region. Personally I wouldn’t pay above $5 a pound however beef goes on sale here for 4.99 a lb so that is my measure. When I go back east to visit family I’ve seen it go for 3 times as much so if I lived back there I might pay a butcher more.

      The best way to figure is to ask other people in your area who have had a private butchering. Different butchers charge different fees too – the last one I used had a kill fee and then a processing fee that was by the pound. If we didn’t pick up within a certain amount of time there was a storage fee that was charged by the pound too.

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