Get the Best Deal on Your Quarter Beef Purchase

Are you considering buying a quarter cow? In this article, I will share my personal experience of buying a half cow and splitting it with friends. Not only will I provide you with the cost and final weight, but I will also give you valuable tips on finding the right farmer and processor. Let’s dive in!

The Quest for the Perfect Farmer and Processor

Last summer, as beef prices soared at stores, I decided to take matters into my own hands and purchase a quarter beef directly from a farmer. Growing up on farm-fresh beef, I knew the taste was unmatched. However, the process of buying directly from a farmer seemed daunting. But fear not, I’ll guide you through it!

Finding the Right Farmer

To start, I reached out to my brother-in-law, who happened to know a reputable farmer. It was a stroke of luck to have someone I trusted vouch for the quality of the beef. While you can use the internet to find farmers and processors, I recommend starting with some networking to get the best prices. Ask around among friends, family, or even your neighborhood Facebook page. You’d be surprised by the connections people have!

The farmer we found offered beef in whole or half cow increments. His cattle were pastured but finished on corn, which provided a perfect combination. Of course, you might have different preferences. Generally, allowing the cattle to graze on grass increases the nutritional value and leads to leaner meat. On the other hand, incorporating corn feed adds richness of flavor.

Choosing the Right Processor

After finding the farmer, it’s essential to find a processor (butcher) who is available when the cow will be ready and at a suitable weight. Fortunately, our farmer had a recommended processor with reserved timeslots. Given the current difficulties in finding processors, we jumped at the opportunity.

Although the processor was three hours away, the quality of the meat made it worth the drive. Keep in mind that the distance to the farm and processor may be a factor to consider, especially if you live in a city center.

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Frozen Beef in a Cooler
We hauled our 1/4 cow home from the processor in coolers. It was frozen when we picked it up and remained frozen during the 3-hour drive.

Questions to Ensure the Best Beef

Now that you have found your farmer and processor, it’s time to ask the right questions to ensure the best experience. Here are some questions to ask both the farmer and the processor:

For the Farmer:

  • What is the average hanging weight of a quarter/half/whole beef from your farm?
  • Do I pay based on the live weight or hanging weight? What is the hanging weight cost per pound, and when should I pay?
  • What do you feed your cows? Is it grass-fed beef or are there other dietary requirements?
  • Do you have a preferred processor? If not, where do you typically deliver for processing?
  • Do I pay you or the processor for the processing fees?

For the Processor:

  • What are the processing costs? How much per pound?
  • Do you charge extra for adding fat to ground beef? Can I request specific package sizes?
  • Can you label the meat with my name or other details?
  • How long will it take from the butchering date until I can pick up the beef?
  • Should I bring coolers or ice? Will the meat be frozen?
  • What forms of payment do you accept? Are credit cards accepted?

Ground Beef in a Deep Freezer

Customizing Your Cuts

When it comes to the cuts of beef you prefer, communication with the processor is key. Take the opportunity to request custom cuts to best suit your needs. For example, you can ask to keep rib-eye steaks intact for a standing rib roast or choose to have certain cuts ground instead of kept whole.

Consider the following questions for the processor:

  • Would you like short ribs and stew meat, or would you prefer it all to be turned into ground beef?
  • Do you want soup bones for making homemade broth? If not, the meat can be shaved off and turned into ground beef.
  • Are you interested in less common steak cuts like flank steak and hanger steak?
  • How would you like your sirloin cut? As sirloin tip steaks, sirloin tips, or left as roasts?
  • Do you prefer T-Bone steaks, or would you like them divided into strip steaks and filet?
  • What thickness would you like for your steaks?
  • Would you like ribeye steaks cut into individual steaks or left together for a bone-in ribeye roast?
  • How much fat would you like added to your ground beef?
  • Do you want to keep any organ meats?
  • Would you like round steak or cube steak? If not, they can be turned into ground beef.
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Remember, any cuts you choose to opt out of can be converted into ground beef. Don’t hesitate to say no to cuts you won’t use and make the most of your ground beef.

Frozen Beef in the Freezer
Our freezer is well-stocked with roasts and steak cuts, perfect for delicious meals.

How Much Meat Should You Expect?

The weight of the meat you’ll receive may vary, but it’s crucial to have a general idea. Ask your farmer about the average live weight of their animals to help estimate the pounds of meat you can expect. Typically, the hanging weight is around 60-75% of the live weight.

For instance, our half of beef had a hanging weight of 259 pounds, resulting in approximately 129.5 pounds of hanging weight per quarter beef. Our smaller-sized cow suited our needs perfectly, considering our family’s size and the capacity of our deep freezer.

In the end, our quarter beef yielded just over 100 pounds of take-home meat. This included 34 pounds of ground beef in 1-pound packages, as well as roasts, sirloin, ribeye steak, T-bone, and approximately 10 pounds of short ribs and stew meat.

Calculating the Total Cost

To determine the final cost of your quarter beef, you’ll need to consider both what you pay to the farmer and the processor. It’s essential to do the math before committing to ensure that the price is lower or comparable to in-store prices.

We paid the farmer based on the hanging weight, while the processing fees were also calculated using the hanging weight and not the final weight of meat processed. Keep in mind that during butchering, you will lose 20-30% of the hanging weight due to bones and moisture loss.

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Here’s an example breakdown of our quarter beef cost:

  • Farmer Fees: 129.5 pounds hanging weight x $3 per pound = $388.50 (paid to the farmer)
  • Processing Fees: $90.63 (paid to the processor)
  • Total cost for a quarter of beef: $479.13

When calculating the average price per pound, it’s crucial to use the final weight of meat received, not the hanging weight. In our case, the average cost per pound of take-home meat was approximately $4.80.

Considering that grocery stores often sell lean ground beef for over $5 per pound, purchasing a quarter of beef saved us money while providing us with high-quality steaks and roasts at an average price.

How Much Freezer Space Do You Need?

If you’re wondering how much freezer space you’ll need for a quarter of beef, approximately 7 cubic feet should suffice. With our smaller cow, our quarter beef took up around 4-5 cubic feet of space, leaving plenty of room for other items in our 7 cubic feet chest freezer.

Ready for Another Round?

After enjoying the benefits of having beef readily available in our freezer, we are definitely planning to purchase another quarter beef this year. It has saved us a significant amount on meat costs, and the flavor is unbeatable.

Now that I have a better understanding of beef cuts, I will make two modifications for our next order. Firstly, I’ll have round steaks turned into ground beef since we don’t use them, but we do enjoy ground beef. Secondly, I’ll request T-Bones to be divided into strip steaks and filet mignon. This will stretch our steak nights and simplify the cooking process.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, feel free to leave a comment. Good luck with your beef purchase, and enjoy the benefits of having a well-stocked freezer!

For more delicious beef recipes, check out this Slow Cooker Pulled Beef recipe.

Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ