This post is to help those who are intimidated by the process of buying beef in bulk. If you have strong views about the ethics of beef consumption, this is not the forum for that discussion. Inflammatory comments will be deleted at our discretion. Home Ec 101 is a place for both omnivores and vegetarians, where neither choice is esteemed over the other.
Before buying a 1/4 cow or side of beef there are several points to consider.
Are you comfortable preparing or experimenting with different cuts of meat?
As nice as it would be, cows are not walking filet mignon. There are tougher parts (sirloin tip), there are tender parts (filet), there are parts that aren’t in every recipe book (sometimes organs are included).
Do you mind the taste or texture of frozen meat?
Personally, it doesn’t bother me in the least, but some insist on fresh only.
Do you have adequate storage space?
It really is a LOT of meat.
Do you eat out often?
If the answer is yes, it may be difficult to consume the quantity of meat in a reasonable length of time.
If you have a small family, consider asking others and divvy up the cost through a joint purchase. If you take that route, you will need to decide before hand how the cuts will be divided. Once the meat has been cut it needs to be frozen as soon as possible.
If you still believe a side of beef is the choice for you, first you will need to locate a source. Word of mouth, LocalHarvest.org, Eat Wild, and your state university’s agriculture extension offices are all great resources for finding high quality meat.
Most bulk beef sales are based on the hanging weight, this is the weight before it is cut into pieces. Some bone and some fat is included in this price that will go to waste. Also, before determining your final cost ask if there are any additional fees for butchering, cutting, and wrapping.
Call the ranch, farmer, or butcher and ask about how they handle beef orders.
- Do they need to be placed well ahead of time, perhaps only during a specific time of year?
- Where is the animal raised? If you aren’t squeamish, can you see the animal?
- Where is the animal butchered?
- How long is the meat aged?
- Is it processed on site or at a separate facility? Is the facility licensed?
- Will you as the customer need to be present when the meat is cut and wrapped?
- Will the butcher walk you through your options when choosing cuts?
We have just made our second bulk beef purchase. Our first was four years ago and it took us a while to work through the meat, but we found our last pound of ground beef as high quality as the first. Our family is much larger now and over the past few years we have had many conversations along the following lines: remember how nice it was to have our freezer full of beef? Do you miss red meat as much as I do?
It is possible to buy meat cheaper, but I enjoy knowing where my meat came from and do not mind preparing a wide variety of cuts. We have been fully satisfied with our investment. I found our first beef purchase intimidating, but we made a wise choice with our butcher who walked us through the process. I enjoyed choosing the thickness of our steaks, how much meat would remain in whole form, and how much would end up as hamburger. Remember, even if you opt for whole cuts of meat in every case possible, there is still a good bit of hamburger in a side of beef.
So Home Eccers, any questions?