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Buying Half a Cow

buying half a cow

Buying Half a Cow

One popular way to buy beef in bulk is to purchase a whole, half or quarter of a cow (technically, it's probably a steer) directly from a farmer. This is also called “freezer beef” because it will fill your freezer and you’ll always have high quality meat on hand!

Many of farmers selling beef on ChopLocal offer quarters, halves or whole beef animals for sale, but buying half a cow is different from buying individual cuts, and it can be a bit confusing.

Read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions about buying half a cow.


How much meat do you get when buying half a cow?

The short answer - it depends on the size of the animal! A good estimate is about 300 lbs of beef.

Now here's the long(er) answer:

Most fully grown beef animals are between 1200 and 1400 lbs (live weight).

After harvest, the carcass usually weighs around 800 - 900 lbs (hanging weight).

Then, the rest of the processing occurs, and since some bones and organs may be discarded, the final processed weight is approximately 600 lbs.

So when you are buying half a cow, you are bringing home around 300 lbs of beef.


How much freezer space do I need when buying half a cow?

When you buy half a cow (or steer) you'll need to have about 8 cubic feet of freezer space to store your beef. 

The freezer above or below your refrigerator will not be big enough to hold your beef, so you'll need to invest in a "deep freeze." A small chest freezer (about 3 feet wide, 3 feet high and 2 feet deep) or small upright freezer is approximately 7 cubic feet of freezer space, so check the product specs to make sure that your freezer is big enough.


How long can I store my beef in the freezer?

As long as your freezer stays frozen, your beef will be safe.

However, the meat quality may decrease over time. We recommend cooking and consuming your beef within 12 months, although we have stored beef in the bottom of a deep freeze for much longer than that without any quality issues.


What cuts of meat do you get when buying half a cow?

When you buy half a cow, you'll get approximately 75 -100 lbs of ground beef, and the rest will be roasts, steaks, and other cuts like brisket, ribs, stew meat, soup bones, and organ meats (liver, heart and tongue.)

If you don't like those cuts, you can have them turned into ground beef, which will obviously increase the amount of ground beef you receive.


Do you get to pick your own cuts when buying half a cow?

Yes! You get to pick what you want, to some extent.

Beef animal carcasses are divided into "primals" and each primal is cut down further for your freezer.

You get to choose how you want it cut, but unfortunately, you can't turn the whole carcass into steaks.

You also have to make some choices. For example, you can get T-bone steaks, but then you can't get filet and New York Strip, because a T-bone steak is really filet mignon and NY Strip that hasn't been cut off the bone.

Depending on the locker or butcher shop used, you may also be able to get hamburger patties, flavored brats, beef sticks, summer sausage and other products.


How does pricing work when buying half a cow?

Most farmers price their bulk beef based on the hanging weight. Hanging weight is the weight of the carcass after harvest, before being cut into individual steaks, roasts, etc.

Are you ready to do some math?

If the cow's hanging weight (total) is 800 lbs, then half is 400 lbs.

To estimate your final price, take 400 lbs times the price/lb charged by the farmer.

Let's say the farmer is charging $4/lb hanging weight.

That means your half will cost $1600.

You will also have processing charges from the butcher. They generally charge a standard price per pound, with added fees for specialty products like summer sausage. A safe estimate is about $1/lb for processing.

That brings your total up to $2000.

more math...

So, you're paying $2,000 and bringing home 300 lbs of beef.

That's an average price of $6.67/lb for your beef.

Considering that it's hard to find ground beef that inexpensively right now, and you're getting steaks at that same price, buying half a cow is a really economical way to fill your freezer!


What do all the beef marketing terms mean?

Grassfed... All Natural... Prime. These terms can be confusing. But if you're looking for beef you can feel good about, you need to know what they mean.

Click here to download our free Guide to Beef Marketing Terms.


How do I find a beef farmer near me?

We've made it as easy as possible by bringing together dozens of beef farmers on one site!

Check out our directory of farms here.

Don't see a beef farmer near you? Send us a message to let us know, and we'll track one down!


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