Buying a Side of Beef: Everything You Need to Know

Are you a meat lover looking to stock up on beef? Consider buying a side of beef! Purchasing a side of beef, also known as a “half beef,” can be a cost-effective way to enjoy high-quality meat while saving money. In this article, we will explore what a side of beef entails, the different cuts you can expect, and the benefits of buying in bulk. Let’s dive in!

What Exactly is a Side of Beef?

A side of beef refers to the cuts of meat obtained from one side of a cow. This means you’ll be getting a significant amount of meat to satisfy your carnivorous cravings. But why do people opt for buying a side of beef instead of smaller portions? Let’s find out!

Understanding the Quantity and Cuts

When you purchase a side of beef, you can expect to receive approximately 220 pounds of meat. This includes cuts like steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket, soup bones, and ground beef. However, it’s important to note that these weights are approximations, as every animal is different.

Now, let’s explore the different cuts that come with a side of beef. You’ll enjoy mouthwatering options such as filet steak, ribeye steak, sirloin steak, strip steak, skirt steak, flank steak, brisket, chuck roast, sirloin roast, arm roast, ribs, stew meat, kabob meat, and even organ meat like liver and heart, if desired.

How Does the Cutting Process Work?

The number of steaks you receive with a side of beef depends on how the beef is cut. For instance, if the steaks are cut into 1-inch thickness, you can expect around 12-14 sirloin steaks. On the other hand, if the steaks are cut to 1 ½ -2 inches thick, you’ll receive about 6-7 sirloin steaks. Remember, the overall weight of the beef remains the same, but the quantity of steaks varies based on the cutting style.

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It’s worth mentioning that certain sections of beef can be cut in multiple ways, requiring you to choose how you want it cut. Take the T-bone steak, for instance. If you prefer T-bone steaks, you won’t receive tenderloin and strip steaks. Likewise, if you opt for tenderloin and strip steaks, T-bone steaks won’t be part of your selection. This is because these cuts come from the same beef but are prepared differently. It’s a delightful dilemma of choices!

Is It All About Steaks?

No, not all beef in a side is steak. It’s essential to remember that a steer has a limited amount of beef, and a significant portion of it is ground beef. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies a cow into eight primal cuts, including chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, short plate, brisket, and shank. These primal cuts further yield various cuts of beef that we find in grocery stores.

When you purchase a side of beef, you won’t receive all these cuts since there is a limited amount of beef per animal. But don’t worry, you’ll still have a delightful variety of cuts to indulge in.

The Value of Buying a Side of Beef

Now, here’s the juicy part: the benefits of buying a side of beef. First and foremost, purchasing a side of beef allows you to save money while enjoying superior quality meat. Comparing the price of beef from our farm to local St. Louis grocery stores, we found that buying in bulk can save you approximately $1,900 per year.

Imagine the satisfaction of having a well-stocked freezer, ready with premium beef for your favorite recipes whenever you need it. Plus, you have the added assurance of the beef’s source and quality, knowing exactly where it comes from.

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The Freezer Conundrum

Before delving further into the economics of buying a side of beef, let’s address the practical aspect of storage. If you decide to purchase a side of beef, you will need a freezer. The general rule of thumb is to have 1 cubic foot of freezer space for every 30-35 pounds of cut and wrapped meat.

The good news is that you can find affordable options at warehouse stores. Whether you choose a chest or upright freezer, investing in one is a worthwhile decision. A new 9 cubic foot freezer ranges from $400 to $450, with an annual running cost of approximately $38. It’s a small expense considering the convenience and long-term savings you’ll enjoy. Make sure your freezer has a lock and key or consider purchasing an aftermarket lock for safety measures.

The Cost of a Side of Beef

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: the cost of a side of beef. Farmers generally sell beef in two ways, and the pricing structure may vary depending on your location and the specific farm.

The first option is an all-inclusive pricing model. With this approach, farmers work directly with a USDA-approved beef processor to handle all aspects, including processing fees and delivery. This means that you’ll have a clear understanding of the total cost upfront, without any hidden fees or surprises.

The second option involves coordinating your own beef processing. In this case, you’ll need to work closely with the farmer to navigate the process. It’s essential to ask questions, understand the pricing structure, and familiarize yourself with some agriculture terminology.

How to Make Your Purchase

Ready to embark on your journey of buying a side of beef? The first step is to find a reputable farmer to purchase from. If you’re in the St. Louis area, we welcome you to reach out to us. For those outside the region, consider contacting your local Extension or USDA office for recommendations on farmers who sell beef directly.

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Once you find a farmer, it’s crucial to ask the right questions. Farming has its own lingo, so don’t hesitate to seek clarification. One helpful question is to ask the farmer, “If I were to buy your beef at the store, what would the label say?” This inquiry will shed light on important details like whether the beef is grass-fed, all-natural, organic, and the expected lean ratio.

When it comes to packaging, most beef processors offer options such as paper, shrink-wrapped, or vacuum-sealed packaging. While vacuum sealing may cost a little extra, it’s worth it to keep your beef fresh and free from freezer burn. Vacuum-sealed beef can last up to a year in the freezer, ensuring you have delicious meat at your fingertips whenever you crave it.

Understanding the Logistics

Before finalizing your purchase, it’s essential to understand the logistics of how you’ll pay for the beef and pick it up. Every farm has its own procedures. Some farms provide free delivery to specific locations, while others may require you to pick up your beef from the processor. Ensure you clarify these details with your farmer to avoid any confusion.

One More Thing…

If you’re eager to learn more about our farm and how we raise beef, we invite you to join our weekly e-newsletter. It’s packed with farm happenings, recipes, and updates on beef availability. Additionally, we have an informative ebook that provides an in-depth perspective on purchasing and preparing beef straight from a cattle farmer.

We hope this article has given you a comprehensive understanding of buying a side of beef. With the right knowledge and a trusted farmer, you can indulge in delectable cuts of meat and enjoy the many benefits of buying in bulk. So, get ready to fire up the grill and savor the incredible flavors that await you!

Beef Cuts

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